On Deck is how I met Sam, who is now my co-founder at Levels.
Andrew is the Co-Founder and Head of Engineering at Levels, a dashboard for your body’s metabolism, giving you personalized insights into how different foods affect your body and your health.
Previously, he led engineering for Google Voice for G Suite, helped build a startup, designed risk models, and played with mathematics. He also advises companies on scaling and solving engineering problems. Andrew graduated from Mercer University with a B.S. in mathematics. He is currently based in Mountain View, CA.
Andrew's first On Deck experience was a four-day founders retreat:
My first real experience with On Deck was at a four-day founders retreat in Tahoe (back when in-person gatherings were a thing!). They rented a huge mansion with like 17 bedrooms and invited 55 people. The goal was to bring a lot of really smart people together, and have a participant-driven experience. Genuinely, it was an amazing time. I met a ton of people I'm still in contact with.
People naturally found their groups within the On Deck group. We went hard– from 7 AM to midnight every day. It was action-packed—we cooked for each other, carpooled, and had great conversations throughout the day.
One of the problems with networking groups is that they tend to favor super extroverted people who can perform very well in groups of big people, but that first On Deck event provided just the right environment for many different types of people to flourish.
I can’t imagine how many great ideas never came to fruition because the right co-founders didn’t meet in the right environment. At the On Deck event, the average person knew no one else and that was super helpful because it forced people to get out of their comfort zones. That’s where I met Sam, who is now my co-founder at Levels. We discussed politics, philosophy, and a lot more for hours.
Next, Andrew joined our On Deck Fellowship:
When On Deck started, I was in the process of leaving Google, so I missed the first fellowship but did the second one (ODF2), and it was fantastic.
I’ve been an eager beta tester for several of the projects created by other people I met at that On Deck event. A couple of people I met that weekend have since invested in each other's companies. Several people at On Deck have invested in Levels. It’s been a cool connective experience.
How he describes On Deck:
On Deck isn’t like a typical networking event. You get to know people pretty well. Everyone who joins On Deck isn’t there to mess around. They’re taking it seriously, which makes the experience even more valuable.
On Deck does a really good job of keeping the bar high. By keeping a high threshold of quality members, serendipity is much easier to engineer.
What sets On Deck apart:
On Deck is very prescriptive about its themes. One is to help others before trying to get help yourself. It’s about lifting other people up. It creates a positive-sum game where you want to help others around you succeed, and that ends up helping you in the long-run, too.
We mutually help each other as we build our companies from the ground up. They’ve created this very positive low ego kind of environment. A kid fresh out of college, someone who just left a big consulting firm, and someone who just sold their company for $50 million all seem like equals here. Everyone treats each other as equal and seeks to learn from mutual unique perspectives.
In life, there is no central authority for telling people they're allowed to build companies. And because of that, there's also a lot of noise. Many people are out there promoting get-rich-quick schemes, some are trying to build meaningful long-term companies, and then there is everything in between. On Deck does a really good job of keeping the bar high. By keeping a high threshold of quality members, serendipity is much easier to engineer.
On Deck is also a kick in the pants.
There’s a degree of accountability to use what you gained in your experience to take some sort of action. The nice thing about a fellowship like On Deck is that since everyone there is genuinely talented, many of them have alternatives. Many people haven’t fully committed to whatever they’re working on.
It’s important to fight the complacency, option paralysis, and fear of leaving a stable job—all of the things that come along with having alternatives. On Deck ignites the spark to get you moving. Having a support group ready to catch you as you're leaving the safety net of the Googles and Facebooks of the world and venturing to your next move is super valuable.
Who On Deck is perfect for:
The value is hard for me to overstate. I think a lot of people who join On Deck are on the fringe of leaping into their next big thing, and being part of the community provides them the confidence to jump.
Advice for incoming fellows:
Go to the sessions that are interesting to you, but make sure you set time aside to spend with people. On Deck is structured in a way that makes meeting interesting new people super easy. The bulk of the value comes from the structured environment—and the people you meet in it. It’s a very intentional program, so take time to get clear on your intentions before you start.
"By just putting yourself in an environment with a lot of other interesting people, good things tend to happen."
"They understand that organic and iterative connection is where the magic happens."
"The level of helpfulness from founders who are further along than you and lived through the challenges you’re facing was above and beyond 99% of what I’ve found in other places."