My next door neighbor is Dave Thomas. (No, not related to the famous Wendy’s founder.) Dave, Karen, and their family have been great neighbors over the years and, while we may go weeks sometimes not seeing much of each other, due to being involved in our separate professional and personal pursuits, we always know they have our back, just as we have theirs.
Which leads me to the subject of this month’s FreshTech post, because if there’s anyone that would know something about “having your back,” it would be my neighbor Dave Thomas. You see, in addition to being a fine example of a veteran software engineering leader, my neighbor Dave Thomas is also one of the top trainers in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (or BJJ) that you will find anywhere.
Through the years, while Dave has developed his credentials in his day job as a software manager at some of the more notable Austin-based, venture-backed software startups – Vignette, VTEL, NovusEdge, and TrustWave (formerly Mirage) where he is now – he has also pursued his passion as a teacher of a branch of martial arts that has experienced explosive growth in the U.S.
This explosive growth has in no small part been due to the popularity of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (or UFC) league, brought to the forefront in the past decade through the entertaining, if testosterone-heavy, Ultimate Fighter reality program on the Spike cable TV channel. In fact, for the semi-curious as well as die-hard fans of UFC, you’ll get your first opportunity to attend an Austin-local event on September 15, with a full program beginning at 8 pm, central, at the Frank Erwin center.
But, while the pay-per-view title fight might be what gets all of the attention, the thing that Dave loves is the preparation and training…the jiu-jitsu teaching. And, naturally, he has found a way to combine his interests in technology and teaching in a couple of ways. One is through an outstanding teaching tool that he developed called the BJJ Technique Catalog, or BJJ Tech. It’s among the highest trafficked sites in its category, providing training videos, tips and techniques.
But, the other way Dave has found to add a dimension of his software product development and startup experience into the mix is through the development of the web service, 1TeamWeb. 1TeamWeb is a cloud-based application suite for managing any type of team-oriented membership, including sports teams, clubs, groups and paid memberships – literally everything from neighborhood little league programs to the book-lovers-who-ride-Segways club.
Not surprisingly, given his background, Dave built the technology on an open source stack for the infrastructure and incorporated from the very beginning the framework for a robust administrative component that would allow the service to scale as large as needed. It also incorporates nifty features like barcode scan check-in so that team members can carry a little swipe-able card (attached to key ring, whatever…just like the grocery store) to record attendance. And, there is a secure, members-only component that allows team or group members to manage their accounts.
In obvious keeping with the rule of “necessity as the mother of invention,” Dave first felt compelled to build 1TeamWeb because he couldn’t find anything else on the market that met his functionality needs and price range. The competitive software alternatives run in the hundreds and thousands, just to get started, and lack the ability to add-on features that an open-stack product provides.
Fortunately, as a software guy, he was able to do something about it by building his own. But, as the founder and owner of a gym, Dave began to see that the application had broader applicability, well beyond the jiu-jitsu niche.
Granted, 1TeamWeb is a second entrepreneurial priority at best, behind his first love and commitment to teach. And, of course, there are the professional, career responsibilities to his employer and software team he manages, which as well all know requires a focus and commitment well beyond a baseline of 40 hours per week. Throw in an active family life and you quickly find that a venture like 1TeamWeb is a burning-the-midnight-oil-venture, labor of love.
But, for me, this labor of love is just another great example of the FreshTech ventures that pop up in Austin all of the time. It’s one of the things I love about Austin, where the chances are good that your neighbor, or the guy sitting next to you in the cafe, or the gal sitting in front of you at church is in the process of putting their sweat-equity into a new software or services venture. Meanwhile, speaking of sweat, if your son or daughter is the type who you think would find the sweat-ethic of “better living through agony” appealing, then check out Austin Jiu-Jitsu.