Dan Morrison is the founder and CEO of Rushline, a new kind of communication platform that holds the key to getting more people to share their knowledge in public than the roughly 1 percent who do today.
What part of Arizona do you call home?
I’ve lived in and around the Scottsdale area since the mid-1990s.
How did you get started in the tech industry?
I taught myself to program in BASIC by reading magazines and chatting in Bulletin Board System as a young boy in the early 1980s. Later I studied MIS at University of Arizona. I was attracted to tech because it was the perfect place to apply my creative, strategic, and entrepreneurial personality.
What was your very first entrepreneurial venture?
I cofounded ITtoolbox—an early knowledge sharing community—in 1997. This was during a time in which the core platforms for online communities were still being figured out. We were one of a small number of companies that succeeded at it back then, which was a lot of fun. We were acquired in 2007 and I remained CEO until 2009.
How did you come up with the idea for your current business?
I’ve worked in the online community space for 20 years. ITtoolbox was among a small number of companies that figured out a model for an online community with public knowledge-sharing in the 1990s, before there was much of one. The model we helped pioneer continues to prevail today at services like Quora, Reddit, and Medium.
We were named one of 20 companies likely to disrupt the information industry with Facebook and YouTube before being acquired in 2007 for $59 million. Despite our success, I was disappointed to learn that this model we helped create tends to get less than 1% of people participating.
Through my experience, I believe I came to understand how to fix this participation problem for the first time. Rushline was created to bear that out with a communication platform we believe will exponentially increase the amount of crowdsourced knowledge available to learn from.
What makes Rushline unique?
Rushline is very different from any other communication platform. It’s a blend of private messaging (like Whatsapp) and public forum posting (like Reddit). We take private conversations between friends seeking advice from one another and make an anonymous view available to the public to learn from and add back to.
The idea of private conversations being available to the public may sound unusual, but it’s part of the social contract among Rushline users, and it results in value for everyone.
Public followers get to learn from candid conversations between groups of trusted friends. The friends having the conversation safely get the benefit of crowdsourced insights in their personal conversations, without compromising their privacy.
Rushline is a consumer communication platform, so our target is not the business sector. Our end goal is to be a mass communication platform people use with their friends when discussing topics of shared interest and getting advice from one another.
What is your favorite part about running a business?
Getting to do things that have never been done before to help improve the lives of millions.
What was the biggest challenge in executing the idea behind Rushline?
So far, getting people to understand a new concept of privacy in their conversations. Six months from now, I’ll probably have a different answer.
How long have you lived or worked in Arizona?
I moved here from Illinois to attend UA in 1989. This is my second startup in Arizona, my first dating back to 1997. The ecosystem for tech startups is far better than it was. There really wasn’t much of one back then. You had people like Francine Hardaway and Ed Nusbaum working hard to create one, and they deserve a lot of credit for that. Fast forward 20 years, and there’s a much larger group of great and successful people working hard to make sure there’s a strong ecosystem here. It still has a way to go, but the momentum and enthusiasm are palpable.
If you could only describe your city with one word, which word would it be?
What’s your favorite thing about living in Arizona?
Being part of an up-and-coming major market that’s always chosen to do things its own way. We all get to be part of the defining process.
What’s your least favorite thing about living in Arizona?
I really can’t think of one. Arizona is a great place to live.
In what areas do you think Arizona still has a long way to go?
Many, but in a good way. It would be great to have a couple consumer platform companies emerge locally and achieve market valuations of $10 billion or more. That would help put AZ on the map for more out of state investors and talent. Maybe more importantly, it would provide a local pool of experienced money and talent that could help create more of these companies.
What is your favorite place to get breakfast in your city?
The kitchen table at home with my family.
What’s your favorite place to grab lunch?
Best place for a meeting over drinks?
Citizen Public House.
What is your favorite memory from Arizona?
Driving through Phoenix on a hot, late summer night with the windows down and music blasting, on my way from Illinois to Tucson for freshman year.
Any tips for new Arizona residents?
Most like it right away, but if you don’t, give it a chance.