How Wiser’s Tom Weingarten has made risk-taking the norm

Let’s go back to the year 2000. A new age site called Google is in Beta and haunting images of dancing babies plague the Internet. Windows 98 is threatening to take over the world, “You’ve got mail” has become a household phrase, and anyone can have the most ridiculous questions answered in a flash by a man named Jeeves.

With such cutting edge technology in place, the stage was set for online gamers everywhere. Meet Tom Weingarten, a student at Westfield High School in the small town of Westfield, New Jersey. A coder since age nine, Tom wanted to create something of his own. So using only his wits and a server situated atop his bedside table, Tom developed Dusk, a game where players make collaborative avatars built to endure all sorts of heroic group adventures.

In a short period of time, Dusk acquired over 20,0000 users and Tom assumed the position as its fearless leader. His main priority? Protecting his server, the epicenter of the complex Dusk world. If anyone so much as touched this power source, the entire site could come crashing down, forcing Tom’s adoring following into a fit of disappointment and rage. (Some devoted Dusk users are still improving the open source platform to this very day.)

Overtime, Tom transitioned out of his position at Dusk and into his current role as Co-Founder and CTO of Wiser (formerly Delve), a tool that allows businesses and employees to share the most relevant news in their space. Through this platform users can find high impact, high grade content aggregated from both major and niche publications that is worthy of sharing with their colleagues.

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Tom came to Wiser after earning his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and his Ph.D. in Computational Biology. He founded an information-tracking app called Giraph in 2010 before fortuitously meeting his co-founders Sandeep Ayyappan and Andy Whalen in 2012. At a pivotal point in his professional life, Tom was facing a dilemma:  Should he pursue a “normal career job” or somehow break into the startup space?

When Tom met Deep and Andy, they were in the midst of developing MyCircle, a news product designed to help people curate and share news. (Sound familiar?) Deep asked Tom of his unclear career trajectory, “Wouldn’t you love to start your own company?” And after saying “Hell yeah!” to a Co-Founder role, Tom worked to transform MyCircle into what eventually became Delve.

“I’ve always loved being scrappy and collaborative,” he says, “I discovered early on that the startup scene seemed to be a place where my skills and passions collided.”

As Tom continued using these passions to build the Delve product, he and his team had the opportunity to participate in The New York Times timeSpace program, an accelerator that provides space, insights, and exposure to companies in the media space. “It’s amazing how helpful and creative everyone in that institution is,” Tom explains. “Being part of the program was a tremendous learning experience.”

So with newfound insights into their field, Tom and his team re-evaluated Delve’s purpose, ultimately deciding that their goal was to help companies create shared experiences surrounding important and relevant news.

“This is why we made the name switch to Wiser this year,” Tom explains. “‘Delve’ was great because our users ‘delve’ into content, but our goal is to help people learn, gain agility, and become ‘wiser’ overall.” The team relaunched their brand last month and will be hosting a launch party WeWork Charging Bull on May 22.

In addition to working on this relaunch, Tom also runs Test Tube, a monthly event where creators can test out ideas on their peers. Tom and fellow WeWork member Pierre Wooldridge launched Test Tube in December 2012 and since that time, they have grown the event into a highly-anticipated meetup known as “speed dating for usability testing.” (This is also one of the few times where Tom and Pierre can be seen donning matching goggles and floor-length lab coats.)

“Fear completely paralyzes people and prevents them from taking risks,” Tom explains. So by creating an atmosphere where risk-taking is the norm, Tom hopes to encourage people to develop and test out even the most outlandish of ideas.

As Tom continues to offer this support to aspiring entrepreneurs, he’s also excited to support the growing Wiser team by bringing new people into their “karrass,” as he describes it. (For anyone who is unfamiliar with this concept, karrass is a term coined by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. in The Cat’s Cradle to identify “a network or group of people that unknown to them, are somehow affiliated or linked”.)

“The most challenging role as a founder is to build your team,” Tom says. “It’s finding that small group of people who are passionate, principled, who truly love what they do, and are excited about doing it together.”

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Photographs by Lauren Kallen

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