With Midwest mindset, Miller builds on passion for communication
Jeremie Miller at South by Southwest Interactive 2011 in Austin. Photo by Doc Searls via Flickr.
For Singly creator Jeremie Miller, a typical weekday may consist of a 7 a.m. jog through downtown San Francisco before meeting with a Silicon Valley CEO, researching the latest social media tools on the web, brainstorming with business partners at the Singly headquarters and cranking out several hours of computer code. Pretty impressive for a big-city commuter who still calls eastern Iowa home.
In a way, it makes perfect sense that the early seeds of Singly were planted and nurtured among the rural scape of the Midwest. Iowa is a place where people remain genuinely interested in people and "stay in touch with hard-working and familial, community values," according to Miller.
"Jeremie has projected that onto the internet, and made it a space that makes us more connected to people," said Jason Cavnar, co-founder of Singly.
Singly functions like a personal data conduit that can directly communicate with all your favorite social media outlets on the web. The startup combines two open-source projects – The Locker Project (for users) and TeleHash Protocol (for programmers) – straight from the mind of the Cascade, Iowa native and resident.
Cascade is a town of about 2,000 people just south of Dubuque, where Miller's passion for open-source protocols and internet communication began.
It only took three semesters of college for Miller to realize the first step toward his entrepreneurial career: Drop out of college. That's when he really started learning and found a place for himself in the young, developing world of the internet.
"All the stuff I wanted to do, I wasn't learning about," said Miller, who enrolled at Marquette University after one year at Iowa State in 1993. "I lasted a semester, then realized it wasn't the specific college, it was college itself."
So he took a job at a new internet service provider in Dubuque, MWCI West Communications, and cultivated tools that would later determine his career. He stayed busy at West Communications hosting a shareware directory site, Windows95.com (not Microsoft).
"I learned a lot about the underbelly of how this plumbing works," he said, also noting he understood the internet better than most people at the time.
The latter half of the decade marked the genesis and vast expanse of instant messaging, with AOL, MSN, ICQ and Yahoo leading the charge. The four companies provided the same service with four proprietary protocols. Miller saw a solution to this problem.
"XML (coding) existed, but no one used it," he said.
This led to many late nights, mostly spent coding and emailing. Within a short time, a large community formed around his XML efforts and he got a ticket to Denver, where he helped launch Jabber in 1999. After four years with Jabber, which was bought out by Cisco three years ago, Miller moved on to contract work and consulting.
"It's not a clear story," he said. "But a highlight was working with Jimmy Wales on Wikia Search for two years."
The birth of Singly
The idea for Singly was planted during one of his long-term contract gigs in New York. Miller was working with KnowMore on a newsfeed aggregator project that never launched due to a corporate conflict of interest.
"A lot of that motivated me to start these projects," he said, referring to the Locker Project and TeleHash, which now fall under the umbrella of Singly Integral.
Singly now consists of a seven-person team working full-time at the Singly headquarters in San Francisco, plus two other remote employees and Miller, who commutes to the Bay Area weekly. Sometimes he travels to both coasts during the week. (Miller, far left, with co-founders Jason Cavnar and Simon Murtha-Smith. Photo courtesy of Singly.)
Considering his circumstance and history, it's no wonder Miller's coworkers say has a unique passion and connection with internet communications.
"The internet is sort of like sacred space to him," said Cavnar. "All the work he is doing with it is coming from a much deeper place."
Cavnar also noted Miller's impressive balance between business, health and fitness and family, which may explain why he still lives in Iowa.
Miller values the "normal distortion field" of Iowa, which helps him focus, compared to the "reality distortion fields" that can form within large population densities in places like San Francisco. And he uses open-source protocols to merge these cultures.
"He wants to see people connect with each other and share with each other," Cavnar said.
Singly is taking one more step toward that goal. Currently an "alpha" version of the project is circulating between friends and family of the Singly team, which plans to showcase its product at a web expo in mid October.