You can’t deny people are awesome. Who doesn’t like sitting down with good friends to ask them interesting, insightful and funny questions? That’s what 11 Questions is for. I’ll be featuring some friends I look up to as well as people within the community I’ve always wanted to get to know. Let’s get started!
Nathan & David are two cool nerds. I’ve been friends with Nathan for several years now. He’s a artist, programer, entrepreneur and math whiz. David is an artist, public transit guru and passionate activist for various issues. We met when I photographed him and others for a UCF story on the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando. David and Nathan teamed up to start Omnimodal. Their goal is to “work with Smart Cities to connect all commuters across all modes of transportation to the Mobility as a Service (MaaS) marketplace.” What’s that mean? They want you to make the bus/train/gondola on time! I really appreciate their collective passion and I think you’ll enjoy hearing from them.
Who do you look up to?
David: Singer-songwriter, philanthropist and businesswoman Dolly Rebecca Parton, of course. I will always love you, Dolly.
My parents, aunts and uncles. The many mentors I’ve been blessed with. But also my chosen fam, who inspire me to assume best intentions, lead with love and compassion, aim to do no harm yet take no shit and persevere in solidarity. And people in general who are actively working to live their best lives authentically. Which is not easy, being able to practice self-care can require a lot of privilege.
Nathan: No one. Well, occasionally someone. But very rarely (I'm 6' 5" tall). Oh…you probably meant that in a different way. Lately I've been keeping a special list on my phone called "Courage" and putting people on there that specifically inspire me in this startup journey. People like Yvon Chouinard, DHH and Jason Fried, Douglas Rushkoff, and Arlan Hamilton
Do you have a favorite book or album?
D: In terms of books, anything by David McCullough or Erik Larsen. More recently, I’ve been all about Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly.
Regarding music, I’m really a playlist enthusiast these days but my Top 3 (technically 6) albums are Dolly Parton’s Y2Kish blue grass album triology (The Grass is Blue, Little Sparrow, and Halos & Horns), U2’s The Joshua Tree and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours.
N: Recent favorite books include The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (sci-fi / fantasy) and The Idea Factory by Jon Gertner (non-fiction). One of my favorite albums of all time is Transatlanticism by Death Cab for Cutie.
Favorite place to eat in Orlando?
D: This is hard! So many Orlando eateries to choose from and factors to consider. Hamburg Mary’s will always have a special place in my heart. Se7en Bites is decadent. Mamak, Pom Poms, Prato, Mills Market, Hammered Lamb, Lazy Moon, The Sanctum, Dandelion, Pho 88, Market on South and Bikuri are also go-tos.
N: Tako Cheena on a budget, Ravenous Pig for a special occasion. Though I really enjoy cooking, especially for other people, and trying new things.
If you could mate two different species of animals what would they be?
D: First off, I think penguins are perfect just the way they are and should be left alone in this experiment. That being said, it would be cool if zebras could fly. So maybe a zebra and an eagle (but more Pegasi vibes, wings would be the only bird-like feature). Basically I’m rooting for a black & white-striped Pegasus. Intraspecies-wise, I think a Dachshund + Basset Hound (Dachsset Hound?) pup would be quite magical.
N: Weird question. Maybe a cat and a dog… it could poop in a litter box, go on walks, and snuggle and play without being overbearing.
What gives you inspiration?
D: Storytellers. Intersectional community organizing. 3rd wave feminism. Learning about the history of cities and the queer liberation movement. Solitude. Intentional, creative, inclusive people and spaces.
N: Being outside in the woods. Taking a walk or riding my bike. Live music. Shared meals. Hearing stories of people doing things differently, or fighting for justice everywhere.
If you had a chance to live in a different decade, what decade would you choose?
D: I think I’m okay with just living in the present. Though I wouldn’t mind being able to meet my Grandma Lou and Grandpa Frank who passed when I was a toddler/before I was born.
N: Probably the 1960s - lots of exciting developments and opportunities for innovation in computer science and digital art (one of my passions), mixed with the hippy movement, which I think I would fit in with.
What in your personal life has influenced you to choose your career?
D: My current path with Omnimodal kind of chose me. Riding the LYNX bus here in Orlando exclusively for several years, I worked with Nathan and Pat Greene among many other local creatives on a public art project about the bus system called TrIP (Transit Interpretation Project) back in 2013. Nathan and I kept in touch and eventually he reached out about starting a company to improve public transit tech.
Before I became a regular rider and advocate, I was definitely a public transit enthusiast from a young age. I credit my early interest largely to my Dad. When we would visit my Grandma Pauline (his Mom) in the South Hills of Pittsburgh, we’d often catch the streetcar down the hill from her house into the city. Loved riding the streetcar and also the incline up Mt. Washington.
N: My dad is a software engineer and my mom is an artist, so I grew up engaging both the left and right sides of my brain and having exposure to both disciplines. I started learning how to program when I was about 7 and pretty consistently took art and computer science classes through all of school and college. I worked mainly as a freelance consultant for the better part of 15 years to pay the bills as I tried to make fine art my career. David and I actually met through a public art project (the Transit Interpretation Project, or TrIP), during which I learned about transit data for the first time. That became a seed for Omnimodal. Another seed was planted when my wife Amy and I circumnavigated the northern hemisphere in the summer of 2016, including places like Nepal and Norway. When we came back to Orlando I felt like I wanted to start something that would make a significant impact on my city and knew there was a lot of need around transportation. So I reached out to David to ask, "If you could change one thing about the bus to make it better, what would it be?" Among other things, he said "real-time tracking" (knowing where the bus is and when it's going to get to you), and we eventually decided to start Omnimodal to work on that.
How do you balance your personal and professional life?
D: That can be really difficult especially running a startup and working on my PhD at UCF. Prioritizing self-care and making time for yourself and your loved ones is a must. Easier said than done. My Google calendar is a life-saver as are power naps (and sometimes longer than expected naps).
N: I try and take either Saturday or Sunday off from using my computer and phone, and try not to work after dinner. But especially right now as we're in the thick of starting a company, that's often the first thing on my mind when I wake up, the last thing on my mind as I go to sleep and occasionally the source of stressful dreams!
Is there anything you haven't done yet that you feel compelled to achieve in the future?
D: I’ve been developing a musical that I would love to eventually produce possibly for Fringe or another venue.
N: So many things. I am a pretty ambitious person and can be an obsessive perfectionist, so it's hard to imagine not feeling like there's more to do.
What are your other interests?
D: Being hard of hearing (have worn hearing aids since I was in pre-school), I’m very much a visual person. Love photography. Reading. Watching sitcom reruns with the closed captioning on. Enjoy composing music on the piiano. Traveling to new places. Occasionally blogging or freelance writing.
N: I love playing music with friends, traveling, hiking, cooking, gardening, reading, fermenting, learning new things, and creating interactive artwork. Church and spirituality are a big part of my life too.
What rejuvenates you?
D: A good night’s sleep (I’m a hardcore morning person). Laughter. Playing the piano. Sunrise or sunset at the beach. Being somewhere new, especially a city I’ve never been to before.
N: A real vacation where I disconnect from tech and spend a lot of time outside, preferably somewhere with topography and reasonable temperatures (I'm in Orlando, Florida right now, which is super flat and 95 degrees). Also, a good counseling session (highly recommended).