Hi, I’m Krystof - engineer, adventurer, and all-around good guy.
I’m a business leader and software engineer working primarily in intelligent systems that make the world a better place. My most recent job was CEO at Ecogate.
I suppose I’ve always been interested in robots and intelligent systems. I grew up building things from Lego and Merkur and variously learning about electronics from my dad. I think the first things I made that could “think for themselves” were probably various LEGO Mindstorms robots.
In high school I joined the FIRST Robotics team, designing and building and programming robots, and there was no turning back from here: I was hooked. It was here that I got my first taste of computer vision as well, teaching our robot to find a target and try to score some points autonomously in the beginning of each round, before humans were allowed to touch the controls.
I studied computer engineering in college, and did some NSF-funded research as an undergrad, working on projects in computer vision and machine learning. Here’s one.
After getting my bachelor’s degree, I felt that I still didn’t know enough, and went right into graduate school for computer science, focusing primarily on machine learning and computer vision. Here are some of the projects I worked on during that time.
After completing an internship in the Communications Ground Systems Section of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), I had the opportunity to spend some time in the Mobility and Robotic Systems Section at JPL. There I worked on computer vision, primarily for the DARPA-funded ARM project (for “Autonomous Robotic Manipulation”), whose goal was teaching robots to operate autonomously in environments designed for humans, including using human tools. Here’s a video of our robot changing a tire:
In 2013, I joined the team at KeyMe in stealth mode, working out of a single windowless room in an incubator in Queens, New York. Today, the KeyMe platform is a smart, convenient and secure way to copy keys and resolve lockouts using a combination of robotic kiosks and mobile apps that digitally scan physical keys using only computer vision and save them to the cloud:
In 2015, I got the opportunity to join Ecogate as the company’s CEO. Ecogate makes intelligent controls for industrial exhaust systems - our systems use only 30% the electricity of traditional systems while performing better in every way - for technically-savvy clients such as Andersen Windows & Doors, GlaxoSmithKline, Tesla Motors, and the US Navy.
In 2020, Ecogate made the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in the United States! This is for growth during 2016-2019, and I’m super proud of the team at Ecogate for making it happen.
I see engineering as more of a mindset than a job: it’s a way of systematically solving problems by breaking them down and applying a rigorous understanding of how the world works with a generous helping of creativity.
These skills are helpful even in scenarios that don’t at first look like engineering problems, like running a business or breaking out of a hotel bathroom (these things happen).
In 2019, I decided that it was time to move on, and gradually handed off my day-to-day responsibilities at Ecogate, though I remain involved in an advisory capacity and otherwise help out as needed.
In the meantime, I am looking for the next great thing - let me know if you’d like to talk about that.
Adventure has always called for me - first from the woods around the house where I grew up, and then - fuelled by Jack London’s novels of hardy souls with indomitable spirits - from ever more directions from all corners of the globe.
Here’s an example: a two-week rafting journey down the Tatshenshini and Alsek Rivers in Yukon and Alaska:
For the entirety of the river journey, our party did not see another human soul, or even any marks of human activity. My concerns during those days were simple:
- Safely navigate the river
- Find wood for a fire
- Make shelter
- Make food
It is incredible what doing that for just two weeks does to the human mind. The clarity, simplicity, and singularity of focus is something that I think just cannot be found in civilization. The first day back, I remember seeing someone in a fast food restaurant endlessly scrolling through Facebook on their phone. It seemed like the strangest thing in the world to me.
Here’s a selection from the poem Atavism by John Myers O’Hara. The first stanza is used as the epigraph to Jack London’s The Call of the Wild:
Old longings nomadic leap
Chafing at custom’s chain
Again from its brumal sleep
Wakens the ferine strain.
After the torpor of will
Morbid the inner strife
Welcome the animal thrill
Lending a zest to life.
With that in mind, remember William Wallace: “Every man dies. Not every man really lives.” That zest for life is the difference between living and just passing the time until you die.
I think it’s critical to continually push our limits. If you do, you will surprise yourself - the limits are almost always way further out than you think. If you push out, you will reach them, and in persevering expand them. If you don’t push out against them, the limits will slowly get tighter and tighter, until they finally suffocate you.
Some of the adventurous activities I enjoy are skiing and alpine touring, mountain biking, hiking / trekking / backpacking, riding motorcycles, martial arts, whitewater rafting, travelling, and capturing photos and videos of all of that.
Even more generally, as G. K. Chesterton wrote:
“An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered;
an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.”
And so life is full of adventure - on the road, in love, in business… the whole world is filled with open doors, and all one needs to do is keep their eyes open, find a door, and step boldly through.
All-Around Good Guy
I’ve trained in several martial arts, and as any practitioner will tell you, martial arts are as much about the mind as the body. Each style comes with a set of rules and principles that frame the practice within an ethical context. For Shotokan Karate, these are the dojo kun:
They can be concisely translated as:
- Seek perfection of character
- Be faithful
- Respect others
- Refrain from violent behavior
Together, these form a solid ethical foundation for one’s life. The first one always stood out to me: to seek perfection of character. In fact, Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan Karate, wrote that “The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of the participant.”
The principle is to seek perfection of character. The implication is that there is no true perfection of character, that true perfection is an unattainable ideal. But that does not mean that we should not seek perfection - the act of seeking perfection is valuable in and of itself.
What does it mean to seek perfection of character?
I think it starts with identifying the things that matter - the things you care about. If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you hope to get there?
My favorite tool for making that goal explicit is writing a mission statement as described in Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, among others.
So what’s mine? I have a page-long mission statement of guiding principles… and I have decided not to share it. The quest for perfection of character is deeply personal, and my understanding of what perfection looks like continues to evolve as I grow.
In any case, words are cheap - it’s actions that ultimately matter. And so the standard that I ask you to hold me accountable to is as ambitious as it is vague: to be an all-around good guy.