Saying Goodbye To Gesture Theory

Action shot inside Gesture Theory

One of my goals when I wanted to move to NYC was to start a company. With Gesture Theory I was able to complete that unattainable goal that I dared to consider many years ago. Gesture Theory lasted two years and we worked on projects that I had previously not come close to working on.

It all started with a simple conversation a couple years ago with Roy. We had worked together for a couple years prior at Daylife. When he asked me to consider leaving Behavior to start something, the first feeling that struck me was the same gut reaction when I decided to leave everything in Canada to move here. It was basically “how could I not do it”? I would never be able to guess what might come down the road and I knew I would regret the decision if I didn’t go through with it.

Gesture Theory started in January 2011. By the end of the first year we had a decent studio space in Soho, building products for some well known and respected clients, and building both products for our selves at the same time. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything in the world. There were challenges as there always is with running a business but there was something deeply satisfying knowing that things were on our shoulders to get the work done.

Learning from the first year 2012 exploded with business. I thought nothing could go wrong. I’ve learned now that when that type of emotion comes into play things could drastically change in an instant around a blind corner. That blind corner hit in the spring. Within a couple days I was informed that a new company was taking over the studio space and that Gesture Theory had thirty days to move. A couple days after that Roy let me know that he had accepted an offer from a colleague of his to move to SF to be in Y-Combinator and that he could no longer have an active roll in Gesture Theory. It was a kick to the gut that I never saw coming nor knew how to react to. If it hadn’t been for my former wife I don’t know how I would have survived those first couple of days.

The months after that seriously questioned why on earth I wanted to start a company. It didn’t matter what I did, things just went from bad to worse. What I went through and was feeling were things I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to go through. There was no option, I had to finish up projects so I could say goodbye to Gesture Theory. I wasn’t interested at the time continuing on by myself.

The summer was pretty bad but as fall was approaching things finally started to click. I ended up finding a great company that had more potential than I had ever seen before. Dataminr had access to Twitter’s firehose which in turn was focused on building products for the financial sector. The team was like no one else I had worked with. Really smart people that could be trusted. The UI needed a lot of work which excited me a lot. I could really help with building the next version.

I wanted to finally write this post about Gesture Theory as there’s a lot of stuff being released with Dataminr. Due to the competitive nature of the financial sector along with expanding into government and news I won’t be talking much about the upcoming products.

It was awful having to say goodbye but I would never had been able to create the experiences and learning lessons any other way. I still have a couple case studies that I want to write about the work at Gesture Theory. But for now I’m enjoying the time looking forward.

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  • duncan swain

    Michael – so sorry to see the end of GT, specially having talked through it a few times with you in NY just as it was starting. Am back in NY early summer, will drop you a line beforehand and we can catch up again. Hope all’s well and good to see you’re finding a positive way through.

  • Michael Surtees

    Sounds like a plan Duncan