Michael Buffington


Tuesday, June 11 2013


My Grockit Origin Story

Farbood Nivi came to me with an idea that I found irresistible. He wanted me to build a prototype of a web based game that let a group of players answer multiple choice questions, awarding points to the players with the correct answers.

During the time spent prototyping the game Farb started describing his vision with more detail. Imagine a game where people all over the world would be encouraged, even rewarded, when they helped teach others. Not only that, but they’d have rich feedback on how well they were learning the subject themselves. The implications sent chills down my spine.

Shortly after the prototype was done Farb said he was taking the idea one step further and asked me to be the co-founder of Grockit. It was an amazing and generous offer, especially since he probably already knew I was hooked on the idea and would have worked for very little to see it made real.

Making it Real

While I spent the first month building the technical infrastructure for Grockit, Farb spent it talking to every VC on the planet, eventually accepting Benchmark Capital’s investment.

The next year was devoted to building the team and the product. We brought in Pivotal Labs to help us build the product as well as teach our team everything they knew about about agile development and extreme programming. In the span of several months I probably learned more about software development as a whole than I’d learned in the prior several years.

Real Life

When Grockit really started to pick up speed I moved with my young family to San Francisco from Portland. To describe that period of time as both challenging and rewarding would be a massive understatement. Our 5 and 6 year old were immersed in multicultural experiences every day. They were also exposed to the sound of gunfire nearly every weekend night as gangs carried out what we later learned was a recent flare up of violent clashes.

After about a year of adjusting to our new life, circumstances developed that motivated us to move back to Portland, at which point I handed off my role as CTO.


Based purely on my observations as “outsider”, I’d say Grockit is thriving. Farb is obviously hitting his stride as both a visionary in the area of online education, but as a visionary in terms of business as well. I consider my experiences building Grockit with Farbood once of the best and I’m truly honored to be part of Grockit’s history.

Tuesday, June 11 2013