“In the Studio,” Kiip’s Courtney Guertin Keeps His Midwestern Ethic

Editor’s Note: Semil Shah is an EIR with Javelin Venture Partners and has been a contributor to TechCrunch since January 2011. You can follow him on Twitter at @semil.

“In the Studio” enters Q4 by welcoming someone who picked up computer science because he was bored in college, went on to build products and bootstrapped businesses before eventually packing his bags and heading out west, where he landed at one of the Valley’s most talented startups and eventually met his future co-founder for his next business.

Courtney Guertin, the founder and CTO of Kiip, brings a passionate yet humble midwestern attitude to the startup ecosystem in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood. After discovering an interest in computer science late in college, Guertin started building products and hasn’t stopped yet, bouncing from and creating startups along the way. Through the process, he’s been exposed to creating products from the ground up, bootstrapping businesses, getting stuck on go-to-market, and eventually moved out to California.

Guertin landed in San Francisco and started working at Digg, where he met his current cofounder, Brian Wong. Through a series of discussions, Guertin and Wong oftentimes ended up talking about a rewards layer for the real world — and Kiip was born. The idea they’d been noodling on — providing a rewards layer for real life — started to take on a life of its own, and Guertin saw in Wong a perfect business compliment. He wanted to focus on what he loved — building product, working with their developer ecosystem, and diving deep into advances in browser and mobile application technologies.

In this discussion, Guertin walks through the last decade of his career, explaining in detail what motivated him to start hacking in the first place, challenges he’s faced building products and taking them to market, why he prefers the CTO role, and how startup ideas that create value are extremely useful even if they don’t lead to “billion dollar businesses.” Folks may also recognize Guertin from a side project he also participated on, Eight Bit, which grew virally almost overnight as people started making old school 8-bit avatars of there profiles. Though Guertin didn’t feel Eight Bit was a big business opportunity, it did give him a chance to explore areas of web and mobile technologies that he hadn’t had a chance to, and was able to bring that technical knowledge back to Kiip.