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Meet James Britt of Neurogami in Scottsdale

Today we’d like to introduce you to James Britt.

James, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
In my teens and 20s, I was a painter and musician in New York City. I had my work shown at a few places, and for a while fronted a band that played clubs like CBGB and TR3 in the heyday of punk rock. Making a career as an artist is a tough road, and I held assorted day (and night) jobs.

Two books changed my direction. One was Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, by Douglas R. Hofstadter. The other was The Soul of A New Machine, by Tracy Kidder. While both were ostensibly about computers, the first was emphasized the philosophical and artistic aspects of computational logic, while the other showed me that actually designing and building computers was a fascinating endeavor on its own.

The result was spending many years completing a degree in Computer Science, and then working as a software developer.

While I enjoyed the work, and the money was good, I eventually grew tired of building yet another Web application. Not to knock the challenges of doing this, and doing it well, I found myself rethinking how I got into computers and software in the first place.

I started Neurogami around 2000 as a basic software consulting company (i.e., build Web apps), but over the last few years I’ve been recasting the business to focus on tools for creating art and music. A good part of that time was writing and producing two albums of my own music.

Part of the production process has been writing custom software to aid in sound production, editing, and performance. The tricky part now is to convert these custom tools into salable commodities.

The end goal is Neurogami as both music label and software provider.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Getting started as a conventional software consulting business was remarkably easy. I had a good reputation as a developer and was fortunate enough to have people send work my way.

It helped that I had written several articles for technical magazines and co-authored a programming book. (Side note: I did quite well with my first co-authored book. It mislead me into thinking I could make a career as a writer. But the tech writing market is fickle. If you are first to market with a good book you can do well. But if you’re a bit late you may find you’ve been working for way less than minimum wage.)

Pivoting the company has been a different story. I have the advantage that I can always keep doing the bread-and-butter work, but that takes away time to build a different business.

I was part of another small start-up for about a year or two, and learned the hard way that having a quality product is not enough. You need marketing and support and sensible pricing. It’s a different world.

Neurogami – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Neurogami is an independent music label as well as a source for custom multimedia production software.

I’m most proud being able to offer a distinct, personal, point of view. I’m not just a hacker; I’m an artist and a musician, and this informs what Neurogami does.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Being happy, being productive, and being proud of what I make. It’s important that I have time for personal projects and plenty of time to spend with my family.

I never want to feel ambivalent about my work, or that I’m wasting my life.

I’m successful to the extent I can choose the work I do and walk away from anything dubious or unfulfilling.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
James Britt / Neurogami

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