Prairie Portrait: Sam Bao of Cerner
Name: Sam Bao
Bio: Shanghai born, Midwest raised, coder, entrepreneur, K-State fan, writer, #1 husband, Z-Man sandwich lover, and I just really enjoy building the web.
Residence: Olathe, Kan.
Intro music: "Save the World," by Swedish House Mafia
Silicon Prairie News: In recent months you've added three side projects to your plate to complement your full-time gig at Cerner. How do you manage your time as you juggle so many projects?
Sam Bao: Well, Backly is a new development, so it hasn't taken up too much time yet, but I've had to change up my routine to fit everything in. During the week, I try to get up around 5 a.m. every day and put in two hours either working on Linkminded/Backly or go to the gym. Then I go to my day job at Cerner. After work, either I hit up the gym or have dinner with my wife before coding a little bit more. On the weekends, I usually spend a couple hours each day on Linkminded/Backly. Throughout the week, I monitor Twitter, email and other sources on events for each week's Silicon Prairie Startup Digest and assemble everything on Sunday. Also, I enjoy attending a few meetups here and there. So yeah, I stay really busy, but I love it. Oh yeah, I also try and have a date night each week with my wife and hang out with friends/family on the weekends, but I bring my laptop along to their chagrin. If you see a guy on his Macbook Pro at a softball game, it's me. :)
SPN: What's the latest with Linkminded? What have you found to be the biggest challenges and greatest benefits to building a company that has its roots in a Startup Weekend?
SB: Linkminded has been coming along slowly, but surely. We've been working on a lot of the detail functionalities that we didn't have for Startup Weekend. We actually have had a big redesign on one of the primary features, which I need to finish up soon. :) I think one of the toughest challenges that we're facing right now is the fact that all four of the founders have full-time jobs and are busy with other projects or personal lives, and that makes progress seem to crawl at a snail's pace. Having said that, I think everyone is fine with that model right now.
The biggest benefit coming out of Startup Weekend is it literally was a key inspiration for Linkminded. Startup Weekend is easily one of the best places to find co-founders and get a lot of work done in a very short amount of time. It changed my life (just like Bo Fishback told me it would) because I met a bunch of wonderful people and found a great team. So for us, we wanted the discovery and networking experience Startup Weekend offered to be available all the time for like-minded developers and designers, and that's what we're aiming for with Linkminded.
SPN: As the curator of Startup Digest, how do you see the events you promote impacting the entrepreneurial landscape of the region?
SB: I've only started curating the Silicon Prairie Startup Digest, having taken over the reins from Willis Jackson, but it's a very important role that I take very seriously. I think the events in the Digest are integral to the startup community in the respective cities. These events are where people come together and a community forms. Without them, there is no community. And I try to make sure the Digest is one of the best and easiest ways for people to know what's going on for the coming week. It won't have every event under the sun, but I try to make sure that what gets included is worth people's time and attention.
SPN: What surprised you most about the experience of launching Backly while live streaming the proceedings?
SB: The real-time feedback from the "super fans," as I call them, was an awesome surprise. Never did I expect people to actually care enough to watch three dudes sitting in a room staring at computers for a whole weekend. But they cared a lot and participated with us for hours. They helped us, in real time, on everything from product definition to site design and offered themselves up as potential leads. It felt like more than just the three of us were working together that weekend, and it was magical.
I was also very surprised at NBC Action News coming and interviewing us because one of the "super fans" tipped them off. I don't think it ever aired though. :(
SPN: I assume given your professed love for the Z-Man sandwich that you're an Oklahoma Joe's guy, but enlighten me anyway: What are your top three KC barbecue joints, and why?
SB: 1. Ok Joes - Get a Z-Man and fries, and you'll know why. It's been unanimously rated the "The World's Best Sandwich" by me for the past seven years.
2. Jack Stack - Everything is pretty good, but I'm a big fan of sides with my meals and their beans and cheesy corn are worth it by themselves.
3. Gates - Burnt End Sandwich. Someone wise once told me that fat is the surest indicator of good eating, and the burnt ends has some good fat.
Credits: Photo courtesy of Bao.
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