Ray Gilbert – CTO of My Tribal Totem

[quote style=”boxed”]The barrier to start your own business has become incredibly low. If you look at the frameworks and freely available resources,  you find an incredible wealth of work that is already done for you making it a light lift to get your idea off the ground.[/quote]

Ray Gilbert is a versatlist having worn many hats over the years. He has written software, built hardware, produced marketing campaigns, written copy, pitched to more people than he can count, lead teams, built organizations, earned a MBA, ran wires, loaded trucks, and made coffee. His technology experience covers wearable embedded devices like smart jewelry up to cloud systems that support national infrastructures. He shares the belief that making software is a craft practiced by professionals and strongly advocates the continuing development of engineers in every organization he has lead.

One of his passions is Philadelphia’s growth as a startup-friendly city and helps wherever he can. A strong believer in the local tech community, he regularly encourages people he works with to get involved and help the community thrive.

Most recently Ray, through SeaChange International, was nominated for a 2012 Communication Technology Magazine Platinum Award in the mobile category.

Ray is blessed with a wonderful family, a keen appreciate of British humor, and a love of tinkering. The latter has lead to some impressive creations that resemble the work of Norm Abrams if he had no carpentry skills whatsoever.

He can be reached at [email protected].

What are you working on right now?

I have a couple of ideas I am working out and getting feedback on. Once I have my validation done, I will focus in on one.

Where did the idea for My Tribal Totem come from?

There is an apparent anti-social impact from social media that we wanted to change. When you have people communicating through a device, they end up tethered to the device. Our goal is to break that tether and have people connect in reality with technology helping, not filtering.

What does your typical day look like?

Balancing being a husband, father, employee, and entrepreneur. I am lucky to have all these rolls so life is never dull. The Buddhist concept of mindfulness is very helpful – I try to focus on what I am doing at the moment and give it my full attention.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Putting pencil or pen to paper helps me the most. There is a wonderful tactile sense of creating words and pictures on a page that seems to induce a flow of ideas. Once I have it on a piece of paper, I have something tangible I can start executing against.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The barrier to start your own business has become incredibly low. If you look at the frameworks and freely available resources (e.g. open hardware), you find an incredible wealth of work that is already done for you making it a light lift to get your idea off the ground.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I have never had a worst job, but I have had bad spells at jobs. I have learned that there is a time to quit, a time to simply refuse to be miserable anymore. If one is success oriented, quitting seems too much like failure to entertain. However, sometimes you have to realize that you can no longer affect a situation and you need to get out of it.

Of you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Not file for intellectual property protection. The return was not worth it given that it siphoned off resources that could have been better used elsewhere.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Get away from technology and into the nature. Go camping, go for a hike, walk on the beach, whatever. Connecting with nature is a great way to recharge and to give you mind a chance to rest and renew. I get great ideas and solve a surprising number of problems tromping through the woods.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Not stepping off fast enough. It is easy to get caught up in the “how” and never get moving. I limit myself to how much time I will engage in researching and digging into the “how.” After that time is done, I start moving and give myself permission to get it completely wrong. Throw out that fear of being wrong and it is easy to move.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Parenting is tough as any parent will tell you. Parents also are willing to invest in tools that help them and their children. Take a look at the popularity of Babies-R-Us for an example. There is a real opportunity here to make products and services that will make parent’s lives easier.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

Tackling tougher problems in the Startup community would be great. The challenge is that tough problems can take a lot of time and resources to solve and not all investors are willing to wait. I would try outsize rewards for those who solve the tough problems – like never paying taxes again.

Tell us a secret.

I want to live in Walt Disney World.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

1 – Google Huddle is a fantastic tool that allows my partners and those we work with to connect. Having a multi-person video conference for free (we are all bootstrapping) makes it easier to work together no matter where we are.
2 – Trello is something I use to organize my efforts. I use Agile a lot and Trello makes it simple.
3 – Evernote is the eletronic equivalent of my notebook. I have lots of information captured there an available to me on any of my machines or my phone.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I don’t think there is any one book that would do it. Most of the successful people I know are voracious readers. My ideas tend to come from the intersection of disparate concepts and disciplines so reading a lot is essential for my creativity.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

@adafruit to see the amazing things they create and offer.
@thecleancoders to help advance the profession of software. Solving some of the big problems will require us to produce software better than we have before, so we all better get learning.
@GoogleVentures to get great nuggets of knowledge for Startups.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

I always laugh out loud at British humor, especially Top Gear. It is a fine comedy masquerading as a car show.

Who is your hero?

My parents. They gave me a wonderful life and sacrificed to do it.

What is your favorite framework or tool?

I am a big believer in the right tool for the job. Trying to shove everything into a single framework limits what once can create.

What is your favorite time of year

I have always loved fall – the contract of cool nights and warm days, explosion of colors, and wood fires. I love to sit by the fire, indoors or outside, and work.


Ray Gilbert on Twitter: @rgilbert2
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My Tribal Totem on Git Hub:
My Tribal Totem on Open Hardware Hub: