Get to know the people behind the platform! Meet Chris Schmitt, GROUNDFLOOR’s Chief Technology Officer. We chatted with him to learn more about his experience, how he came to work for GROUNDFLOOR, and how he is staying sane during quarantine.
What do you do at GROUNDFLOOR?
I am GROUNDFLOOR’s Chief Technology Officer. I am responsible for the company’s technical strategy now and going forward; additionally, I provide heavy influence on product development. I am fortunate to lead a great team of engineers and dedicated people who help build the investor and borrower experience and bring GROUNDFLOOR to life.
Where are you from?
The short answer is the Northeast -- I have lived all around the region. I was born in Rochester, NY, and growing up I lived in Connecticut, New York, Maryland, and Washington, DC. I also spent time in Rhode Island while I was in school.
Before moving to Atlanta, I did a 10-year stint in Raleigh, which is where I met Brian [Dally, co-founder and CEO] and got started with GROUNDFLOOR.
What is your background and experience?
Believe it or not, I started programming at age 13! My dad was always really into computers, and he passed that interest along to me -- I remember working on old IBM 8080s with him and reading DOS manuals for fun growing up. I thought it was so cool that I could make computers do things by just typing commands into them. One Christmas, I even programmed the computer to play Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for my mom as a Christmas present!
It was a no-brainer that I’d continue studying computers and programming in school. In college, I majored in computer information systems, and I even debated going to graduate school to get a degree in the virtual reality space.
After graduating, I moved to Raleigh, where I worked at a couple different software companies over the course of 6 years before coming on board with GROUNDFLOOR.
I really enjoy the challenge and beauty of creating something from scratch -- I see computers as providing a blank canvas for freeing our creative spirit, for opening our minds to new possibilities. There’s a real art to engineering that I think often goes underappreciated. I find true beauty in solving problems in a way that is repeatable and scalable, and that others can join in on, even years down the line.
How did you come to work for GROUNDFLOOR?
I met Brian at our previous company, Bandwidth Inc., where I helped him build Republic Wireless, an innovative, industry-disrupting cell phone carrier. We got to know and trust each other a lot during this time, and we stayed in touch as friends after Brian eventually moved on.
When he and Nick [Bhargava, co-founder and EVP] created GROUNDFLOOR in 2013, the opportunity to join the team arose, and I jumped at the chance to get creative and start building something new.
How has the platform grown and evolved under your leadership?
Oh man -- where do I even begin? We’ve gone through countless revisions and changes in the 7+ years we’ve been engineering the platform. As our investor base and products have grown and matured, so has our platform, in every form and aspect.
We started out with a Ruby on Rails platform, which contained the engineering logic for both the borrower and investor sides of the business. The first major revision to this came when we created an API interface to encapsulate the business logic and move it into its own processing layer. This allowed us to iterate faster and gave us a cleaner codebase with a singular focus and an integrated test suite. This revision lasted us for a good 2-3 years as we continued growing as a company.
The next major iteration occurred when we added in event sourcing and Graph QL to our backend interface in the API. This increased performance and scalability and enabled a new set of development possibilities to the front end of our platform, which benefits user experience.
We are currently building out the front end and leveraging all of our technical growth to support our operations across the many devices and interfaces our customers use to interact with GROUNDFLOOR, as well as to enable new product development. This will ultimately provide a richer investor and borrower experience in the years to come.
What are the long-term goals for the GROUNDFLOOR platform as we continue to build out our technology and capabilities?
Our platform ultimately needs to serve the borrowers and investors who use it, so our long-term vision is to make that easier in all forms. Whether that’s facilitating getting information on mobile devices, improving reporting, or increasing turnaround times, we’re interested in making our platform experience as seamless as possible so our customers can ultimately be more profitable.
One of the areas in which we are most excited to grow is in the mobile space. We are doing a lot of work to leverage our core infrastructure and technology to empower our borrowers and investors to get the most out of our platform via a mobile experience, so GROUNDFLOOR can meet them where they are at any given moment.
What excites you most about GROUNDFLOOR? What is your favorite part about working here?
I’d have to say the passion of the people who work here and the dedication to creating a new type of investment vehicle for everyday investors. I can build all the technology in the world, but it takes a group of really dedicated and passionate people to bring a business to life. Seeing the good we do every time we repay an investment or work out a loan, and witnessing the dedication from the asset management or customer success teams, really encourages me to build a better product to uplift their work. It’s really inspiring. That’s what makes me come to work every day.
How have you been staying sane during quarantine? Any fun quarantine projects?
In true quarantine fashion, I decided to build a couch after watching a 20-minute YouTube video of someone doing it. My couch has been broken for 3 years, and I never got around to getting a new one. Towards the beginning of quarantine, I watched this video and decided to try it myself! Needless to say, it’s been through a few revisions and I have put way more time into it than I expected.
Finally, I love tennis, and thankfully you can play it while still being socially responsible. I am currently playing in 4 different leagues and try to play 3 times a week. It’s great exercise and provides an excellent outlet for my competitive side.
Thanks, Chris - we appreciate all you do!