Nori Yoshida might have hit upon the secret to creating a successful business with partners—temporary cohabitation. His latest venture, Curebit, which allows online retailers to offer incentives for customers to make referrals via social media, took shape after he and two acquaintances rented a house together in Berkeley, California, for three months of intense brainstorming and prototyping. Yoshida’s fiancée and his partners’ wives saw the three men only on weekends. “It’s really important for everyone to be close, especially in the initial period,” he says. “You have to gel as a team.” He hopes Curebit, which launched in October 2010, will soon be profitable.
Living and working with business partners is nothing new to Yoshida. His first professional endeavor began his junior year during Independent Activities Period at MIT, when he and friends spent a month coding together in a Next House room. The result was Devhood.net, a tutorial site for Microsoft’s then-new .NET software framework. The idea took off, the team made the semifinals of the $50K Entrepreneurship Competition, and Microsoft acquired the product in 2002.
Yoshida credits MIT with helping him think more rationally, logically, and creatively, though creativity has long been a part of his life. His mother, a professional violinist, started him on violin lessons at two and a half, and he played through his freshman year at MIT. After graduating from the Institute, he worked at Oracle for a few years, but his entrepreneurial spirit drove him and fellow MITers to create CrispyNews, a customizable social news website that allowed people to vote articles up or down. The idea caught the eye of Salesforce.com, which bought it to track customers’ suggestions and preferences. Yoshida worked at Salesforce.com for three years helping to implement the technology, which was also used for Dell’s IdeaStorm site and other clients.
While at Salesforce.com, Yoshida and Jack Yu ‘01 built Brainyflix, a popular, free crowdsourced site that allows kids to upload photo and video flashcards of SAT vocabulary words.
These days, Yoshida is expanding Curebit’s team, client list, and technology so the system can be used in any retail situation, not just online. Though he lives in the Bay Area, the Institute is never far from his life. In February 2011 he married his college sweetheart, Jolie Chang ‘01, MNG ‘02, a head and neck surgeon. And about 80 percent of his friends are MIT alumni. “The thing that makes me happiest is the friendships I have with people,” he says.