Alex Grande, San Francisco-based CEO of, started his career journey in 2004 as the classic college graduate struggling to find a job.

While many students, especially with tech degrees, are able to quickly find employment, this psychology major from Western Washington University was not.

“‘Stanford Student Creates Start Up, Billionaire—’ that’s the typical story you hear,” said Grande.

“What you don’t hear about are all the people who don’t go to Stanford, but have the grit and the determination, and the philosophy of self-continuance in lifelong learning, to achieve those same goals.”

Grande bounced around a bit, from working in Korea, to a sales job in Seattle.

He couldn’t seem to catch a break, admitting that after quitting his sales job, “I was kind of in a bad situation.”

With no job, no home, and nowhere to go, he was offered a deal.

A friend’s father offered to trade him a place to stay for construction help on his land.

Grande happily took the deal, he said, since the offer of shelter was hard to turn down.

Once moving onto his new boss’ land, he was shown to his new home: A tent.

“I lived in a forest,” said Grande. Helping out on the land and spending nights alone in his tent, Grande was given an opportunity to think. Luckily, he had one other item with him, a cheap laptop.

His tent was set up next to a transformer box, which he began using as a desk and would use to connect to a DSL and surf the web, he said.

“I would plug in the computer at night and learn.” said Grande.

“I was inspired by the internet. It’s just something that doesn’t require much upfront cost; you just need a computer and you need internet access. I loved the idea of being able [to use the internet] to create a business that would cost zero upfront cost, it just requires you and your time.”

With web development being one of the top six in-demand digital skills, Grande strategically decided to hop onboard.

“I started reading web development books,” said Grande. “I kept learning and practising, building websites.

“I wanted to make myself a portfolio website; something about me that I could present to the world as a way to get a job,” Grande added.

“So I built a page all about me. I put photographs I had taken; I had a page about photography; I had a page about web development ideas—all custom at the time.”

Grande referred to his website trials as “recipes,” and his tutorial books as “cook books.”

He first used the book to learn how to create the websites, then started tailoring them and making them on his own from there, he said.

“About eight months later, I was able to then convince some company in Seattle that I could do the work, even though I really, really couldn’t; but I showed them that I could do it through these feed websites, and that’s what got me into web development,” Grande said.

“I was always dedicated to entrepreneurship, and at some point I started doing more and more projects on the side. I worked at technology companies, getting better and better, perfecting my craft, learning more skills,” he added. “I never stopped learning in this world, and eventually I created Recognize.”

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