- Initialized Capital’s Brett Gibson quit his job as a pizza maker to learn to code.
- He became a serial startup founder, then met his future colleague Garry Tan at Y Combinator.
- Tan then brought Gibson to work with him in his startup, Posterous, then Initialized.
After earning a philosophy degree from the University of Santa Barbara, Brett Gibson was serving pizza and trying to figure out what to do next.
Gibson enjoyed being creative, but also solving puzzle-type problems. He had taken a coding course in college and realized that writing code was a perfect marriage of the two. He decided to start learning to code on his own by reading articles online and first learned to write ActionScript, the programming language for website development.
His accidental new found love for code changed the course of his career. And learning what was niche code at the time paid off.
“I was able to get into the industry without a degree,” Gibson said.
In 2004, he landed a job as a software engineer at Grand Central Communications, a startup that helped people manage voicemails and phone numbers, which was later acquired by Alphabet. He left the startup with a few colleagues to co-found DrawHere in 2005, a browser-based drawing startup, then DeviantArt bought the company a year later.
After the deal, Gibson and a friend co-founded Slinkset, an online tool that allows users to create message board sites and integrate them into their websites. The duo were accepted into Y Combinator’s 2008 summer cohort, and it was there that Gibson met Garry Tan, who was also there for his blogging startup, Posterous.
Slinkset eventually closed, but Tan asked Gibson to join Posterous in 2009, making him co-founder.
“It made sense,” Tan told Insider as he reflected on why he asked Gibson to join his startup. “We just worked very transparently.”
Three years later, Posterous was acquired by Twitter and then shut down. Tan then started investing as a partner at YC and then asked Gibson to join him as well, this time as a software engineer to rewrite the application system and his backend system that tracked potential startups to invest in. .
“In his code, you kind of see the major philosophy in him,” Tan said. “He definitely has that kind of obsession with the Platonic ideal of perfection. There’s something very elegant about that.”
Within a year, Tan and Gibson were off the accelerator. Tan was raising money for his new company Initialized Capital, and Gibson took a year off to research crypto and continue learning code, with the intention of continuing to work as a software engineer at a large corporation. technology like Alphabet.
But her career trajectory changed again after having lunch with Tan one day. Gibson opined how hard it was to get a job as a software engineer and Tan responded by saying he should work at Initialized.
“Who better than someone I’ve sat in the trenches with and spent 10,000 hours learning to do things with,” Tan said.
Gibson knew he didn’t want to go through the coding interview process, so he jumped into venture capital and was hired as the company’s operating partner.
The work proved to be suitable for his skills. He’s written software, advised companies on best engineering practices, and helped invest.
Gibson was first tasked with creating the company’s internal software to make smarter investments. Initialized now uses the Folio software on a daily basis for tasks of finding potential startups, tracking investment data, and setting up alerts to respond to founders, which sets Initialized apart from other companies.
Folio keeps the team on the same page and facilitates blind voting on startups, helping the team make decisions and ultimately close them. Once a partner is ready to invest in a startup, Folio sends a questionnaire to the partner team to decide if it is worth investing.
Tan and Gibson said the philosophy behind blind voting is to help partners stay out of venture capital politics by removing institutional hierarchy and bias.
“We really want everyone on the team to think independently,” Gibson said. “Without caring what else is going on or playing politics.”
Gibson has now moved into full-time investing after being promoted to general partner last August.
Using his technical and startup knowledge, he led investments for the company in crypto companies like Bison Trails, a blockchain infrastructure platform; TRM Labs, a blockchain intelligence company to help crypto-related fraud; and Talos Trading, a crypto trading platform, and earned a spot on Insider’s list of rising stars in crypto investing.
Tan says Gibson’s mix of experiences has been its greatest asset, generating massive returns for new funds.
“It was so cool to see someone who I have such a long history with blossom,” Tan said.