My name is Chris, and I work at a company called TaxBit, a Series B startup building modernized tax and accounting solutions for digital assets and beyond. As a Product Manager Lead, I am responsible for defining the overall strategy and roadmap for an entire product line, and work closely with the rest of the company to ensure its successful development, implementation, and go-to-market.
I attended the Missouri University of Science & Technology, a public school located in Missouri. My major was in Computer Science, and I also dabbled in bioinformatics during my studies, although it didn’t become a significant part of my career.
My career aspirations are to be an entrepreneur in a field that I am truly passionate about. Being my own boss and creating something unique and valuable is a significant goal for me, and I am actively working towards it.
From Hackathon Organizer to Founder
My involvement with Major League Hacking (MLH) began when I first attended an MLH League event. I was immediately captivated by being in a space and environment that facilitated spontaneous learning and growth in a practical way while also being supportive and beginner friendly. The vibes were truly “it” and it inspired me to start a hackathon at my university, called PickHacks! Our event gained popularity quickly and became well-known within the hackathon community, culminating in my co-founder and I being selected as part of the first batch of MLH’s Top 50 and a featured story at HackCon.
The experience of having a vision and then going through all the motions to bring that vision to life, which involved building and managing teams, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, and collaborating with other organizations on campus, showed me that I had the drive, determination, and work ethic to make anything I was passionate about successful. This realization also led me to pivot from software engineering to product management, as I recognized that my skills were better suited for the latter and that I would be able to make a greater impact in the role.
I am extremely grateful for the opportunities that MLH has provided me to find myself and grow as a leader. I’m so proud to have been a part of such a vibrant and dynamic community, and since graduating, I continue to give back by being an MLH Coach.
Launching my Business, Stellar Effects!
I founded my own freelance business, Stellar Effects, which specializes in creating custom augmented reality experiences for social media. The idea for the business came about rather spontaneously, as I had been creating AR effects as a hobby. To my surprise, many of my effects went viral on Instagram and TikTok, generating billions of views. This caught the attention of many media outlets, including Yahoo, NBC, and Daily Mail, and led to me getting verified on Instagram. This sudden attention led to an influx of inquiries from individuals and businesses interested in having me develop custom AR effects for them. Encouraged by the demand and my passion for the field, I decided to soft launch my services and began accepting projects in January 2021!
Since then, I have had the pleasure of creating AR effects for some of the biggest brands and musicians in the world, including 5 Seconds of Summer, MOD Pizza, Rick Astley, and more. While the business has remained a single-person operation, it has grown significantly to the point where I have to turn down opportunities due to personal time constraints. In terms of revenue, my business has seen substantial growth since its inception. When I started 2 years ago, I generated just under $8k in revenue. Now, I am projected to earn six figures in revenue this year. My side hustle has even gained the attention of LinkedIn, who will be featuring a piece on my work soon!
Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
Participating in hackathons has proven to be a valuable experience for me in my entrepreneurial journey. As both an organizer and participant, I have gained a wealth of knowledge and skills that have helped me in my side hustle. As an organizer, I learned the importance of taking ownership and putting in hard work to ensure the success of a project. This mindset has been essential in my business, where my success is directly correlated with my efforts. Moreover, my experience in leading sponsorships for my event has honed my skills in reaching out to potential clients and forming partnerships.
My advice for hackers aspiring to become entrepreneurs is to take advantage of the skills and connections you develop through participating in hackathons. These events provide an excellent opportunity to hone your technical skills, work collaboratively in teams, and develop your ability to identify and solve problems quickly. Furthermore, the connections you make at hackathons can be invaluable in building your network as an entrepreneur. Make sure to stay engaged with the hackathon community even after the event ends and consider attending entrepreneurial events and networking opportunities in your area. Additionally, don’t be afraid to take risks and pursue your passions. Entrepreneurship can be a challenging and uncertain path, but with dedication, hard work, and a willingness to learn from failure, it can also be incredibly rewarding.