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Brooklyn / Startups

Why Bay Area transplant Matt Kandler chose Williamsburg over Manhattan

After moving to NYC to work at Ranku and sleeping under six different roofs in a little over a month, Matt Kandler settles on Williamsburg

Matt Kandler chose to live in Williamsburg after living out of two suitcases in six different places around New York City, for over a month.

His relationship with New York was a whirlwind from his first phone call, with Kim Taylor, founder and CEO of online college course marketplace Ranku, and she had a one-way ticket purchased for him before the phone call ended. He lived on the couch of his bosses for a few days before he began cycling through AirBnB locations and homes of other friends.

Shortly after he arrived, celebrity investor and NBA executive Mark Cuban invested in the four-person Manhattan-based company, and they had to push out new version of the site in two weeks. At that point, there was no way he was leaving.

After seeing a lot of the city during his couchsurfing weeks, he opted for Brooklyn. A fan of beer and music, he likes the fact that it has a calmer vibe than Manhattan. It is a good spot to come home to after long startup days in the Flatiron district, he said.

He loves music, beer and art, plus he said, “I’m a sandwich connoisseur.” He may have landed too far north.

Ranku‘s online degree marketplace concept is still a new area, and for now the company is only working with accredited, traditional academic institutions, such as Liberty University, Georgetown and Arizona State.

Kandler explained that they are working to disrupt the for-profit university model that’s dominated online education till now by helping students find out about programs with greater credibility that may cost the same or even less. The team is working on refining the look of the site, how search works, improving recommendations based on users resume and they may begin to explore creating a stronger community aspect to the site’s infrastructure.

As Director of Product for the site, he’s responsible for all its user facing aspects. That’s why you may be surprised to learn that Kandler has both undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering. During his graduate work at Stanford, though, he began to focus more on design.

The Stanford culture, he explained, is steeped in startup thinking. “People say that at Stanford, instead of starting a band, you launch a startup,” he said.

He and a friend created Quixplore, a service that aimed to be like a Twitter for events. It didn’t fly, but he developed skills that he believes helped him win his job at Ranku, and he would do it over again to learn what he learned.

Kandler may find he likes Brooklyn for another reason. Asked why he opted to pursue Mechanical Engineering even though he ended up doing more design work and creating online product, he said that he’d been driven into it by an interest in robots. He took part in robot competitions at Stanford in classes and spent a summer in Pensacola working on a project around a walking robot that could adjust to terrain on the fly and use less energy.

We’ll see if Brooklyn doesn’t take him back to his roots. Not only is there a robot lab for kids here, but in the general atmosphere of Brooklyn makers, if he doesn’t find himself at a church run by bots, someone’s going to talk about building robots in his earshot before long. If the Tumblr CEO doesn’t crash a drone into him first.

Series: Brooklyn

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