"By just putting yourself in an environment with a lot of other interesting people, good things tend to happen."
Sam is Co-Founder and CEO at Levels (levelshealth.com). Levels is the dashboard for your body’s metabolism, giving you personalized insights into how different foods affect your body and your health. He is also a founder at CarDash (cardash.com), a Y Combinator company that makes automotive repair and maintenance as convenient and transparent as possible.
His previous venture, Sightline Maps, provides an intuitive platform for 3D printing and visualizing topographical maps, marketed primarily towards the U.S. military. Sam graduated from Claremont McKenna with a BA in Economics. He is currently based in New York City.
Why Sam joined On Deck:
I was fortunate to have taken a year off work during the time I went to On Deck. I don’t think I had fully decided that I was going to do with Levels at the time. I had 16 or so active projects I was working on, any of which seemed like plausible companies to start or to join. When it came time to figure it out, I felt really good about my decision.
I didn’t go into On Deck looking for a co-founder or looking for an idea or anything particular. I used the experience mostly to understand what’s out there and meet some awesome people.
How Sam describes On Deck:
On Deck is sort of a pre-filtered group of people who are all interested in starting companies. They have a high bar for the people who get in. Almost every person I met at that first On Deck fellowship was a genuinely interesting person.
ODF is more than just meeting other like minded entrepreneurial people– everyone is sort of opting in to be in a stage in their life where they’re considering a major entrepreneurial leap. I think a lot of people seriously underestimate the amount of time that it takes. Starting a company is a really big ask, especially when you basically make no money in terms of cash for a long time. You’re betting everything on your idea. So you have to be a particular type of person, and that’s pretty hard to find.
On Deck exposes you to a group of people with a lot of highly valuable skill sets that far exceed any single role they can be placed in.
His favorite part of the ODF experience:
I go to a lot of conferences where there are speakers whose books I've already read, and I just have to listen to them summarize their book for an hour. I tend not to get very much value from events like that. The primary reason I go to these conferences is to meet the other people who share a common interest.
I was very impressed with the On Deck format, which is something akin to an unconference. It's very focused on the people who are present, which is something that I really like.
On Deck has a lot of breakouts on interesting topics. They’ll also force you to host breakouts and get out of your comfort zone. I hosted a breakout on how to find a good CTO.
What Sam walked away with:
Coincidentally, I met one of our Levels co-founders, Andrew Conner, at OnDeck. He’s now our Head of Engineering. He was one of the other people in the cohort with a technical background. I remember we randomly ran into each other in a hallway and started chatting. The banter rapidly turned into deeper conversation about philosophy and world policy. We spent three hours just talking about some really interesting topics in that hallway.
I liked Andrew off the bat. I could tell he was similarly minded, low ego, and very interested in solving problems rather than pushing some sort of dogma. We stayed in touch after On Deck and when we reconnected a few months later, I told him about Levels and said I wanted him to join.
Advice for incoming fellows:
When I look at all of the good things that have happened to me, almost all of them have happened because of people I knew, and almost never directly because of something I actually did. This was a weird realization I had during my year off. I spent a lot of time thinking about the things I like and how I can optimize for them. So, by just putting yourself in an environment with a lot of other interesting people, good things tend to happen.
“On Deck helped me raise $750k for my startup, 1v1Me, but then we raised an additional $1.25M a month or two later. Now, my foot is on the gas scaling 1v1Me 24/7. However, what I will say is I always make time for On Deck.”
Joe Albanese and Kushal Byatnal
“What’s most impressive to us is how On Deck has grown without diluting the brand at all. They’ve kept the bar extremely high, and people love the program (including us). They’ve also fully democratized the network, which is extremely important for tech access.”