Alumni snapshot: Andrew Cove

  • B.S., computer science, Carnegie Mellon University, 2005
  • M.S., computer science, Carnegie Mellon University, 2006
Many great ideas to improve existing services have gone by the wayside because users decided the intangible costs of switching weren't worth the effort, says Andrew Cove (CS'05, '06). "If you need a certain app to do something, that's a hurdle, and it makes switching a very unappealing thing," he says.

Some of those ideas don't make sense at a small scale. They'd work well if they achieved a certain market penetration, but they never reach that level because potential customers can't get past the "friction" of switching from an entrenched technology to a new, untried model, Cove says. Success or failure in those cases depends on a start-up's plan to get over that initial batch of friction.

Cove is hoping the new idea that he's developing with fellow CMU alum Mark Egerman (CS'04) has cracked that problem. They're entering the crowded field of mobile payments--dominated by established players such as Visa and MasterCard--by targeting restaurants. While the details of their plan are still being kept quiet, Cove will say the adoption cost of their idea is low, it requires no special hardware, and using it will be nearly effortless for both consumers and restaurant owners. They're already testing it in a handful of New York City restaurants.

Mobile payments are a new area for Cove, who has made several stops since graduation, including at computer game developers Naughty Dog and Sanzaru. Working for gaming companies gave Cove an appreciation for seamless and enjoyable user experiences. He later worked for IA Ventures and with AngelList--an online network that matches investors with entrepreneurs--and says those "extremely complementary" instilled the "very strong urge" to start his own business. "AngelList showed me the market and built up my intuition, but IA is where I learned the fundamentals," he says. "In some ways, it was a crash-course MBA. It gave me the opportunity to explore a lot of problems that start-ups have."

His understanding of user interfaces and entrepreneurship should prove to be valuable as Cove and Egerman test their project and get ready for a formal launch.

While at CMU, Cove spent a lot of his free time exploring his interest in music, both as a performer in a garage band called "Eye on the Wall" and as a technician, crafting mixes at the recording console until the wee hours of the night. Although Cove still enjoys music, he has a new hobby--exploring his new home of New York City. "I've lived in suburban south Florida, Pittsburgh, Santa Monica and Los Angeles, and then San Francisco, and New York is so dramatically different from all of those that it's like a cultural playground," he says. "There are so many different parts of the city to explore, so much cultural activity and so much diversity, that when I have nothing to do, I go out and explore the city."

New York's many restaurants are one of the city's attractions. They also provide a research bed for mobile payment ideas. "One of the benefits of working in the 'dining' space is that we have excuses to go out to eat a lot," Cove says, laughing. --Jason Togyer (DC'96)
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Jason Togyer | 412-268-8721 | jt3y@cs.cmu.edu