No Boundaries: How Lisa Leslie Is Making the World a Little Smaller
Lisa Leslie got hooked on technology at an early age. She grew up playing games on her family’s computer and took every opportunity to tinker around on the Web.
“I’ve always been extremely curious about how the internet works,” she said.
When Lisa went to college at the University of Washington, she knew she wanted to do something significant with her career. She decided to study international studies to gain a more global perspective; she thought she might go into diplomacy, government, or language translation for French.
“After a year abroad at a political science institute in Paris, my worldview had evolved,” she said. “I began to understand and interpret things—culturally, socially, politically, and economically—in a global framework.” She came back to the U.S. with a strong desire to bring people together across national boundaries.
After graduation from UW in 2007, Lisa moved to Dubai. “At the time it seemed like the most global place to be,” she said. She landed her first job as a product manager for an internet company delivering data on emerging markets. The company was working with heat maps. Lisa was put in charge of features for its website.
“After that role I fell in love with the dynamic nature of the internet and the power it had to bring people together and share information,” she said.
Lisa later moved to New York City, where she continued obsessing about the internet. What stuck with her most was the use of maps as a framework to organize data.
“I started researching geo-location tools and considering how the internet could benefit from a location-based platform,” she said.
After reading about information architecture and prototyping on her own, Lisa came up with some concepts for geo-networking on a map-based interface.
When she came across the University of Washington Coding Boot Camp, she knew it was a chance to show her skill set and rise to the occasion. The experience turned out to be more rewarding than she ever imagined.
“I feel like I’ve finally opened the door to realizing my full potential and have a set of skills I can carry with me throughout my career and continue to expand upon,” she said. “It has allowed me to understand the complexity of my work from a technical standpoint and understand the technologies needed to build my platform. It’s not as impossible to build as I once thought.”
During the boot camp Lisa was able to showcase some of her geo-networking ideas, building a networking app for travelers living abroad and for those who love to travel.
“I realized how hard it was to make friends and create community while living in Paris and Dubai, even though I saw a lot of people around me who would be interesting to meet or be friends with,” Lisa said. “One of my best friends is French and when I moved to Paris I didn’t have an apartment or know anyone, but she helped me find a nice place to live for a year and made me feel like Paris was my home. We built a friendship that will last a lifetime, and I would love to make more friends like her around the world.”
With Lisa’s app, users type in their destination city and then get matched with locals. The app also has chat and messaging and shows things to do in that city along with minute-by-minute weather updates. It is designed to connect users to community, on-the-go and anywhere in the world.
Last fall, Lisa was accepted into the Founder Institute, a Silicon Valley based start-up accelerator that operates across more than 180 cities. She opted to wait and complete the boot camp before committing to the institute.
“The boot camp will make me more effective in my business and allow me to contribute directly to the ambitious goals I’ve set for my company and myself,” she said.
Lisa plans to join the Seattle chapter of the Founder Institute for their upcoming cohort, scheduled to begin this fall. “I can’t wait to see how things come together.”