Founder Friday — Meet Gabe from Rufus
What did you think you wanted to be when you were in HS?
I was a big BTTF fan (Back to the Future for non-fans) and even through high school I thought I was going to end up in my garage blowing things up but eventually being able to travel through time. I did not go down this path at all… until recently when I started Rufus a few years ago out of my garage. Not a lot of blowing things up or time travel… yet.
What did you study in college and what was your first job?
I spent the first year and a half as a computer engineer at Lehigh University and then switched to the business school, eventually graduating with a BS in business & economics with a focus on marketing. Throughout college I worked part-time at Smith Barney, networking their computers and doing tech work while learning about trading and the markets. After college I decided that a traditional job or sitting behind a desk wasn’t right for me and I ended up as a production assistant on The Daily Show. I had spent a lot of time on campus running events and eventually responsible for a $250,000 budget to bring music and events on campus so I had already started down the entertainment path and this opportunity was too good to pass up.
What did you do in your previous life, prior to founding Rufus Labs?
After The Daily Show, I stayed in entertainment, moving out to California to continue my career. As a writer I’ve sold scripts to Walden Media, Comedy Central, MGM and more, as well as having a movie bought and produced by Sony/Screen Gems. As an actor I’ve appeared in over 60 national TV commercials (5 of them Super Bowl ads). I learned more than I ever thought I would about marketing, how to communicate with the consumer and how to work with teams at a rapid pace towards a common goal.
What inspired you to start Rufus Labs?
I had engineering and physics roots (two areas I loved and missed when I moved to the business school at Lehigh). A few years before Rufus I had started shifting my writing to a tech focus, which eventually brought me into tech journalism and to CES. There was really nothing other than Pebble in the wearable world at the time and I was surprised that no one was building wrist wear the right way. Devices that existed, or were rumored, were simply a glass screen on a form-factor that hadn’t changed since the late 1800’s. My vision was to build a wearable with the goal of eventually eliminating everything from the pockets. In order to achieve that it needed to have a form factor that allowed for a screen that could actually be used for real tasks, a full operating system and a battery large enough to power it. It had to be someone’s “only” and not a glorified notification center or fitness device — a real productivity tool that can stand on its own. In 10 years the smartphone will be dead and replaced by wearables. I want to lead that charge.
What has been your biggest challenge growing your company?
Originally our biggest challenge was getting people to believe in our mission. That is no longer the case — we have a great team and much more support than ever, especially as we focus on B2B tools, creating a superhuman workforce, allowing workers to be more productive and safer on the job. I’d say now our biggest challenge is growing the team fast enough to meet the customer demand and being able to retain that talent when capital is at a premium.
What has been your biggest win?
We have many wins as a team. Of the ones I can discuss, I would say Arrow Electronics. They have been one of our greatest allies and champions — supplying our bill of materials for our production run and providing us with an unbelievable credit line/terms to get going. They have given engineering assistance and backed us with potential customers, assuring them Arrow will help Rufus scale to meet their needs. I’m grateful for their support and having a $23B gorilla in the room to have your back is an unbelievable win for us.
When you’re not working on your company, how do you spend your time?
I’m usually in my yard and garden. I spend time mowing, trimming, pick-axing, building fences, raking, planting and perfecting the space. I’m a big fan of growing food, so the yard and garden are mostly full of fruit trees, veggies and herbs. The end goal of course being able to pace around barefoot and relax in the hammock with some music and a blood orange fresh from the tree.
Best place you’ve ever traveled to?
Italy. I’m biased — I was born there and spent half my life here in the states and half in Florence. I have a good amount of family there and try to go back often. My love of growing my own food comes from my time there as most of my family and relatives all had farms and grew their own food.
How would your mother or maternal figure describe your personality?
She’d say I’m sarcastic and can be a real pain the a$$ sometimes but that at the end of the day I’m always concerned with those around me and close to me. I would do anything for them. She might also say I swear too much but I wonder who taught me that, Mom?
Your favorite get sh*t done quote —
“Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.” — E.L.B.
Want more Rufus?
And lastly, we found this series of videos highlighting Gabe’s acting appearances.