Community//

Alex Taub of Upstream: “Life is short”

I spent 4 years at two places that had raised money and were scaling. So I learned a lot of what to do and what not to do there. But in terms of things I wish people told me: 1) Pace yourself — it’s okay to not do everything at once 2) It is good to have […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

I spent 4 years at two places that had raised money and were scaling. So I learned a lot of what to do and what not to do there. But in terms of things I wish people told me: 1) Pace yourself — it’s okay to not do everything at once 2) It is good to have a public heartbeat monthly — do something blog post / news worthy each month 3) Don’t worry about things that ultimately don’t matter — don’t spend months on domains/name/etc. 4) Life is short — work on something that matters 5) Make sure whatever you build doesn’t have lethal dependencies. Be able to control your own destiny as much as possible.


The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.

As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alex Taub.

Alex Taub is the co-founder and CEO of Upstream. Upstream is a great way to grow your professional network. On Upstream you join communities, give and get help, attend events to meet other professionals, and spend meaningful time together.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Of course. I grew up in New York City on the Upper West Side. I have an older brother and younger sister. My father worked on Wall Street and mother was a Calligrapher. Three out of my four grandparents were Holocaust survivors (two in Poland and one in Belgium). I was fortunate to spend many of my earliest years with them all to hear stories and learn from them. From the earliest days I was interested in technology and business, as it was what was discussed around the dinner table. I went to school in Riverdale and then New Jersey and overall had a very fortunate, privileged, and charmed life. After that I got married in 2008 and we have two girls and currently live in Miami, Florida.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Put yourself in a position to get lucky” was something I heard early on and it stuck with me. A lot of good things happen from pure luck. But there are ways you can put yourself in a position to get more lucky than the average person. It’s a combination of leaving yourself open to opportunities, being accessible, and someone that doesn’t burn bridges and scorch earth everywhere you go. I try to always put myself in a position to get lucky with everything I do.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

There have been many forms of entertainment that have had major impacts in my life. One of the recent ones was the TV show The OA (on Netflix). Season 2 was the closest thing I’ve had to a religious experience in a few years. The early Marc Andreessen blog posts (they were deleted but are archived online now) are some of the best written posts on startup / early stage company building. I really enjoyed Peter Thiel’s Zero to One. Really makes you think about building a company and what type of ideas to go after. I don’t personally agree with much of his politics but that book is a fine one. There are many more things that have had significant impact, we are living in the golden age of entertainment and content.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?

I’ve always been working in the tech / startup world. Out of school I worked for a startup called Aviary. They eventually got acquired by Adobe. I then worked for a company called Dwolla — one of the earliest ways to get money in and out of Bitcoin back in 2012. Then I started a company with my friend Michael in 2014 called SocialRank. We sold it in 2019 and started a new company called Upstream right at the beginning of the year.

What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?

It wasn’t exactly an actual pivot, we had always had this part on our roadmap. More so we fast-tracked some COVID-friendly aspects of the business. Upstream is the best way to grow your professional network. On Upstream you join communities, give and get help, attend events to meet other professionals, and spend meaningful time together. We ended up pushing up some features — specifically building out virtual events because of the pandemic.

Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?

A friend had emailed me in early April 2020 saying that human connection was really missing over the past 2–3 weeks since going into lock down. We had previously spoken about virtual events and how they would work on Upstream. We realized if we don’t try to do this now, with the perfect world environment for this, we were never going to do it. So we started building it and launched it on May 1st. Right out of the gate people loved it. You’d go to a virtual event, it lasted 20–30 minutes, and you’d meet 3–4 new people on one on one video matches. If you wanted to chat more you can share your contact info. If not, you just moved on with your life.

How are things going with this new initiative?

Really good! The average user comes to 1–2 events a week on Upstream. Three out of every four people that come to one event attends a second one. They are the best professional use of 20 minutes during this wild and crazy time.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

We really appreciate everyone who has come to an event and told a friend to come. Personally this would be impossible without the team. I’m more of the Brawn and they are the Brains. Specifically Michael, Zhanna, and Kazi. Without their tireless work we would never have moved so fast to get the product in place to be able to successfully pivot.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

We added the ability to have a guest speaker at your Upstream event in August. We’ve had some great guests like Taylor Lorenz from The New York Times, Kirsten Green from Forerunner Ventures, and more. It’s gotten so popular that now very successful people are reaching out to us about being a guest speaker at future Upstream events. It’s not just us trying to get the time of people but now people are seeing us as a coveted place to be interviewed / promotion.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

I spent 4 years at two places that had raised money and were scaling. So I learned a lot of what to do and what not to do there. But in terms of things I wish people told me: 1) Pace yourself — it’s okay to not do everything at once 2) It is good to have a public heartbeat monthly — do something blog post / news worthy each month 3) Don’t worry about things that ultimately don’t matter — don’t spend months on domains/name/etc. 4) Life is short — work on something that matters 5) Make sure whatever you build doesn’t have lethal dependencies. Be able to control your own destiny as much as possible.

So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?

Stay off of Twitter during the day. If it matters you’ll find out from a friend or loved one. If you just doom-scroll all day you will never be in the mental state to do anything productive. If you just focus on the work and ignore the noise you will quickly see your anxiety lessen.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

That people could be happy and reach their life potential. I think people that are satisfied with their existence would do the most good as the side effects are typically good for a lot of tangentially related things (health, wealth, and more).

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

It’s a great question. It would probably be James Dolan, the owner of the Knicks so I could try to convince him to sell me the Knicks. This is probably not what most people would say to this but I really want to make the Knicks relevant again. It’s been a sad 20 years.

How can our readers follow you online?

My Twitter handle is @ajt and my email is floating around the web-verse. I try to respond to any legitimate email within 24–48 hours (although I’m a bit delinquent right now).

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

Look Ahead and Visualize a Positive Future

by Barton Goldsmith
Community//

Jamie Baxter of Qwick: “Make your own luck”

by Karina Michel Feld
Community//

“Fail fast, fail forward, fail frequently.” With Jason Hartman & J. Massey

by Jason Hartman

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.