The first time Girish pitched me the idea for Thrively, I was in the middle of working with Bill Gross at Idealab to get a company called UberMedia off the ground, and we desperately needed a CTO. Although I loved Girish’s vision, I also knew I couldn’t abandon my other project, so I turned the tables on him and recruited him to be our CTO. Girish and I worked together for over two years at Ubermedia, but ultimately the pull of Thrively became too much, and we set out to build it.
The “pull” for me was both emotional and intellectual. I come from the world of multidimensional analysis, slicing and dicing data, and breaking things down into their component parts so that they can be better understood. I helped to build several companies based on these principles, most notably Pandora where we created the Music Genome Project. The idea of understanding children’s activities and opportunities at a more fundamental level in terms of the underlying strengths that they build and support, and connecting them with the kids for whom they can have the greatest impact was fascinating.
On the emotional side, I have spent most of my adult life working with kids in different capacities. When I went to college, the fall quarter at Stanford – as incredible as it was – ultimately felt like a trap. It was as if I were a gerbil in a giant, utopian habitat, but unable to get out. It was both a completely new and intimidating social experience and a high-stress, high-intensity academic experience, and the campus was so huge and all-encompassing that you really never left. At least, I had no concept of how to do it. By winter quarter I knew I had to find a way off campus, and by spring, I found my outlet and my sanity coaching little league in Palo Alto. I continued to do that for five years for the Palo Alto Little League, and I added coaching at the Stanford Area Youth Basketball League my sophomore year onward. I never felt trapped on campus again – I was connected to the community in a fundamental way, through the kids I coached.
I have since coached more than 25 community sports teams, and served on the board of directors of Beverly Hills Basketball League for seven years. As the father of three incredible children, I am constantly amazed by the energy with which they throw themselves into their activities, and I find myself fascinated by what appeals to them in each one they love, and what makes them want to stop going to other ones. There is nothing more exciting than a child who has discovered something they’re passionate about. But it’s not always easy!
Girish’s idea for Thrively turned me on to strength-based education, and the idea that, if we built this right, we would democratize a very important element of education and personal development – that which occurs outside of school. No longer do you have to be a superhuman parent scouring the nooks and crannies of the Internet for unique opportunities that you think will inspire passion in your kids. You can simply engage with a platform that will understand your children’s strengths, connect them to the vast world of opportunity, and allow our engine – the same kind of seemingly magical and omniscient engine that allows Pandora to construct the perfect radio station – to direct you and your family to incredible opportunities you may never have discovered.
About Jon Kraft
Jon's passions in life are working with kids and building companies. As stated above, he has been a community sports coach working with 5-to-15 year-old kids since 1984. Almost a decade later, in 1993, he started his first company, Stanford Technology Group, and he has been actively and continuously pursuing both passions ever since.
Jon has over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur in software and consumer digital media. In addition to his current role as CEO and co-founder of Thrively, Jon is also a co-founder of the early stage business accelerator, LiftOff, based in Los Angeles, CA. LiftOff helps early stage companies develop product roadmaps, architect and build products, and plan and execute company launches. Immediately prior to Thrively and Liftoff, Jon was Chief Operating Officer and a member of the founding team at UberMedia, Idealab’s prominent Internet start-up and currently the world’s leading independent developer of mobile social apps. Before that, he was Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer for Big Stage Entertainment, Inc., an advanced avatar platform company recognized by Forbes in 2009 as one of America’s 20 Most Promising Companies, and sold to Image Metrix (IMGX:OTC) in 2010.
Jon previously served as Co-founder and CEO of Pandora Media, the largest and fastest growing online radio product in the world with over 150M registered users in the U.S. (NYSE: P). Jon was also a Co-founder of Stanford Technology Group, an innovator in the relational OLAP market, funded by Sequoia and Hummer Winblad, and acquired by Informix Corporation in 1995. Jon served four years as Chairman of the Technology Council of Southern California, and currently sits on that organization’s Board of Directors. Jon holds a B.A. from Stanford University.