David Di Biase
Technical Director and Co-founder, Pilot Interactive
Career profile provided by CareerMash
At 23, David co-founded Pilot Interactive, a digital and graphic design agency that creates websites, desktop and mobile apps or video productions.
David decided to hold off on law school to start a digital agency and now has clients across the world!
At 18, David earned $15,000 for an e-commerce website he built over a summer. The system was for a catering company that delivered food to elementary and secondary schools. The organization needed a way for parents to place and pay for orders online and have them automatically sent to a school. It was a huge project that David accepted with admitted naivety.
“I didn’t realize how major it was because I didn’t know all the technical lingo yet. I threw myself at it, learned anything I didn't quite grasp and made it work.” He finished the project over four months while also working at his father’s business. “When it was completed, they brought me in and said, ‘By the way, how old are you?’ When I told them they couldn’t believe it!”
At 23, David co-founded Pilot Interactive, a digital and graphic design agency that creates websites, desktop and mobile apps or video productions. David develops really cool interactive experiences and also runs the development side of the business. “I oversee all of the development, programming and technical resources.”
David started Pilot in 2009 with his business partner, Tegan Mierle, who handles the design side. Now they have a swanky office space on Toronto’s hip Queen St. West. The agency has a staff of 10 illustrators, designers and developers serving a roster of international clients including Samsung, Carlsberg and Nike.
A Day in the Life
When Pilot receives a new project, David's partner, Tegan, develops the creative direction and strategy while he finds a technical way to bring it to life. Sometimes this means flying around the world to go over details or coordinating development with clients in places like Belgium, Switzerland or New York. “I am the point of contact between the client and Pilot's programmers. If we fall slightly behind, I even hop on the development team to directly program and solve problems.”
David developed a 3D interactive movie theatre for Jumbo Cinema, a virtual, online world similar to the Sims where you can live a digital life through a custom avatar. The virtual movie theatre lets you walk around, buy tickets, put your arm around your date and even eat virtual popcorn while screening a movie on your browser. “It has a full theatre-like environment so it appears as though you’re sitting in front of a big movie screen.”
“I am the point of contact between the client and Pilot's programmers. If we fall slightly behind, I even hop on the development team to directly program and solve problems.”
Why This Job Rocks
David is proud to run his own business at such a young age and even prouder that it continues to grow. “One project kind of leads to the next.” For example, Pilot re-branded and launched DailyXY, an online men’s magazine like GQ, only for the savvy, urban Canadian. The magazine’s website has versions for Toronto, Calgary, Montreal and Vancouver. Immediately after launching DailyXY, another online magazine called Toronto Standardapproached Pilot and David to redevelop, design and conceptualize the site to increase traffic and daily viewership.
David was super into art but in grade 10 his parents encouraged him to switch to music. “I’m so thankful they did because I had so much fun. I was in three bands. I traveled to Montreal, performed on a Caribbean cruise and at Disney World. I feel strongly that the decisions they guided me towards helped develop both my analytical and interpersonal skills.” David started to program at the age of 12. He joined the St. Michael’s College School robotics team and helped program a life-sized functional robot. However, it was the website he created for the club that earned him attention and a web design award. Then David took the law route. He got his BA in political science from the University of Toronto. He continued to study politics with a desire to major in computer sciences and eventually attend law school. Fate intervened. Pilot Interactive kicked off. David hasn’t looked back, though he does intend to finish his computer science degree eventually and perhaps attend an MBA program.
“The biggest challenge was letting go of other directions.” He was set on law school but when his freelance work exploded, he faceda mighty dilemma - finish university or take a risk on starting a new business? David chose Pilot and put his studies on hold. His decision caused a two-year rift with his parents who wanted him to become a lawyer. “What can I say, I love my parents but I had to follow my heart.” Once Pilot took off, his parents came around.
Tips for success
Come out of your shell. David used to be really quiet, but found himself through music and robotics. He became confident performing in front of people and began to lead and organize robotics workshops to groups of 200 people. “Don’t be afraid. Go out there and try new things. Go for it and strive for what you absolutely love even if people tell you otherwise. That’s how people will realize how capable and passionate you are. Once they trust you’ll get the job done properly, you’ll be successful and happy in all your endeavors.”