"It's our future, let's build it together"

5 Questions with Derek Myska

April 4, 2019

Just 6 years after graduating cum laude from UMaine at Orono, you co-founded a successful startup, PingTank, and relocated to Los Angeles. What experiences prepared you to build your own company? 

Derek Myska,
Senior Consultant & Director of Blockchain Technologies at CGI

To be completely honest, I wasn’t even remotely prepared. Almost overnight, I was thrust from being a software developer with very little responsibility to co-founding a company with incredible expectations. Our earliest investor, Tim Draper, backed companies such as Tesla, SpaceX, Skype, Hotmail, Bitcoin, etc. During our pitch to Tim and his student body of future entrepreneurs, he labeled us the “next Facebook”. The next Facebook”! We were just two kids from Maine without a clue how to build or run a business – but we had a dream.

Facebook incorporated PingTank’s product into the Facebook Messenger app. How did you get their attention and deliver a successful pitch?

About six months into building our company, we were approached by a gentleman from a prominent mobile gaming company with an offer to buy 50% of PingTank. As we always did when faced with difficult decisions, we reached out to Tim. He felt the offer was too low and made a couple of phone calls on our behalf. Before we knew it, we had meetings scheduled at both Facebook and Google. Facebook was a perfect marriage for us. They were looking for fun, innovative companies that could integrate into their platform – we brought an early build of our app to demo and they absolutely loved it. Confidence, passion and true belief in your product are key. If you don’t believe in your own product, neither will anybody else.

After leading a successful startup, you worked as a software developer and technical consultant with large, established tech firms. Why make the switch? 

I would say “successful” is a relative term. The company, despite having an incredible opportunity, forging strong partnerships and raising over $3M in funding, dissolved in mid-2018. That said, I learned more through experience in those years than any school or mentor could ever teach. In 2015, I made the switch away from the startup life purely out of necessity. I learned that my co-founder had been severely misappropriating company funds and I wanted no part of it. I did what was necessary to provide the financial stability necessary for my family.

You currently work remotely out of Bricks Coworking & Innovation Space in Waterville. Why did you choose to join a coworking space?

I currently work for a Boston-based firm. As a software engineer, I am incredibly fortunate to have that option. Working out of your home on a daily basis becomes stale fast. When I found myself talking to my cats more than I was to people, I knew it was time for a change. Bricks is a fantastic location in downtown Waterville that provides me everything I need from an infrastructure standpoint, and gets me back out around like-minded, motivated individuals.

Aside from finding you at Central Maine Tech Night, where can people hear more about your incredible story of life as an entrepreneur in Los Angeles?

A quick Google search of PingTank should yield some interesting stories and videos on websites from Forbes and Masahable to TechCrunch and TMZ. If you’re still longing to learn more, I will be speaking on May 1st at Thomas College’s “Pardon the Innovation” event – telling my startup story. Come by and learn all about it!

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Last modified: October 6, 2021

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