I’m Hiring

First off,  thanks for coming here and reading this. I feel honored you took the time.  Here’s a little more (ok, a lot more; it’s long) details on what I’m up to and looking for.  If this still is interesting and seems like a good fit, let me know.  If not, no problem.

A little about me: (check out my online presence)

My name is Dan Fellars (I also go by Danny). I currently live in Provo, UT (Yep, I have Google Fiber!) but am original from San Diego, CA.  After going to graduate school in computer science (MSCS) I worked as a full time engineer in the gaming industry in San Diego for many years but always had an interest in business and running my own company.  So, I returned to BYU in Provo to earn an MBA and got involved in venture capital.  I worked with a VC firm for a little while, then left to go (eventually) become the CEO of a smallish (~$12M revenue) company in the healthcare space.  We ended up merging that company with another and after a short stay with the new company, I left to start my own company.  That was 3 years ago.  During the last 3 years I’ve been back to writing code and building the software platform I’m currently deploying.  I re-joined the VC firm I was at previously as an Entrepreneur in Residence and provide them consulting and some development services while I developed my software.  I’ve also done some freelance work for a few other clients during that time.

Why I’d make a great partner:

I’m going to be more self promotional than I typically am with this section, but I wanted to share why I think I’d make a great partner to you as a strong technical talent who brings a lot to the table yourself.  I’ve had the unique experience to have roles in development, marketing, business development, finance/investing, and management, but at my core I’m a technologist.  I believe that having a better product makes all other aspects of a business that much easier.  What would it be like to work with a business person who gets you and all you have to deal with?  Someone who can speak intelligently to the product and technology when dealing with clients; who doesn’t have to drag you into to every client or sales conversation to answer simple software questions; Someone who gives you the uninterrupted time needed to get in the zone to build great products; Someone as driven as you to build great products and grow a sustainable and reputable business;  Someone who, instead of asking the dreaded “when will it be done” questions, can follow the git commits and already know, and even jump in and help if needed?  That’s what it would be like working with me.  I’ll handle all the boring business stuff, financial modeling, growth hacking, sales, blogging, HR, partnerships, investors, legal, etc and let you do what you do best: build.

My priorities in life are 1) My family (married with wife and 4 kids), 2) My faith (if you didn’t already guess based on where I live, I’m Mormon), 3) My Health (I try to get sufficient exercise and sleep), and 4) This Startup.  But don’t be mistaken, even though my startup is priority #4 on my list, I still put a TON of time and energy into it and many times it is my top priority; but overall I feel I have a balanced perspective on life and startups.

What I’m working on:

When I first started on this venture, my original goal was to build an open source marketing integration and automation platform. This was the biggest pain point I had at my previous company as far as bringing all the different marketing systems together into a single platform.  After getting into it, I realized I had built/was building a pretty awesome platform that has a much broader use case; I could essentially build any kind of backend web application in a nice, modular approach very quickly. Its kinda what Drupal could be if it didn’t suck and wasn’t so bloated, then even better J.  As I started using it and showing it, I found that my original goal was still a ways off, but that I could start generating revenue more quickly taking on projects where I built backend platforms for clients.  These are not just contract/freelance work.  They typically pay for a license to my platform plus any custom development.  All my contracts are either ongoing/long term or will be converted to that model this year.

My committed sources of revenue for 2014 are:

2 custom development contracts paying monthly retainers; 1 in finance and the other in marketing

1 product in the oil & gas industry paying a monthly recurring fee (this product alone could do very well once I finalize a sales partnership)

I’m also about to launch my own product called Trackacompany (an outdated version of it is up at trackacompany.com if you want to take a peek; but just know it will break) – this is a competitive analysis tool to track companies vs their competitors.  I’ve got committed customers ready to beta and pay once its ready.  I’m working on getting it shipped next month.  It is built entirely on my platform and showcases the ability to completely customize the UI of the platform.

I still have a long term vision of revisiting my original idea of open sourcing my platform, but I’m not there yet.  Here is the truth and me being completely transparent: There is a lot of technical debt with the platform.  At one point I had everything unit tested and fully documented. Then I made a major architecture change which broke everything.  I was so frustrated with the wasted time in documenting and writing unit tests on what was now thrown away that I put those ideologies on hold for a while to make sure my new changes would stick.  Well, the changes work great, but now I’ve gone on too long without addressing testing/documentation.  It’s built pretty well and modular that I’m able to get by even in production environments for now, but we all know that won’t last forever. So, those are some of the things that need to be addressed before I’d open it to the wild.

Technology:

The technology is PHP heavy.  I chose PHP purely for business reasons. If you don’t like PHP then this won’t be a good fit for you.  I actually hadn’t done much PHP before starting this but PHP made sense from a business standpoint as many developers from the WordPress, Magento, Drupal, SugarCRM communities would be my target market of users for an open source marketing platform. It’s built on top of an MVC PHP 5.3+ framework called Lithium.  Lithium is not widely known, but is very similar to more popular frameworks like Laravel.  The creators were originally part of CakePHP team.

The front end is pretty slick.  Its built using Backbone.js and has nice front to backend integration where I can write some pretty fancy UIs without having to spend much time writing javascript.  I’ve found that javascript is typically where I spent most of my debugging time so my goal was to write a front end that offered me the benefits of a single page app but that I didn’t need to spend much time in javascript code.  I’m now at the point where I rarely write much javascript unless I’m creating a new component I don’t yet have.  Once the component is implemented, I can communicate with it directly from PHP passing wrapped json requests back and forth.  I also use Handlebars.js for templates.

The database is MongoDB.  A document based database provides for some pretty unique capabilities when your building an open framework like this.  Mongo doesn’t always get good reviews.  I haven’t ran into any issues with it yet, but for any major projects it’s not a requirement to use Mongo for any heavy data usage.  I’m keeping an eye on TokuMX and RethinkDB as possible replacements if MongoDB becomes an issue.

One other unique feature of the platform and really the sweet spot for the types of applications I build is the Service integration capabilities.  Any type of 3rd party API integration is easily wrapped into  the platform and useable by the application code.   So, for example, my trackacompany product connects to several apis and manages all the oauth tokens, api endpoints, etc very easily.  Any new connections/end points can fit nicely into the environment.  That’s was a key selling point to all but 1 of the customers I have.

Bootstrap vs. Funding:

Currently I’m bootstrapping this and funding it myself. I will continue to work with a few select companies to built products together with them to fund the development of my own products while they pick up but I don’t have a definite path I need to take.   I can continue building it organically and am pretty confident it will be successfully to some degree.  I’m also open to taking some investment money to fuel it and grow faster.  A lot of my decision on which path to take will be determined by the level of talent I bring on in the early days.  I know the pros and cons of going down the investor route having worked as a VC. So before I make that decision I will be 100% sure it is the right choice because there is no going back once you do.  I need to find product/market fit first with a product before even considering taking on investment.  I hope to accomplish that this year.

 What I’m looking for:

If you’re still with me, this is where you come in. There are two different types of people I’m talking to:

1) Someone who I can trust with handing over client projects to.  I have some ongoing contract work that I can subcontract out to and if I had a trusted resource to take this on, I can go out and find more. I’m now only doing ongoing monthly retainer based contracts, all of which are built on top of my platform, so it makes it easy to manage and I know there is consistent work.  This will be on an as-available basis, meaning if we agree to work together, once I have new work come in, I’ll bring you into the mix.  I’ll make sure you can earn the rate you want and I will assist as needed to ensure a satisfactory project.  This would all be business/backend type application development, not wordpress/front-end type work.

And/Or

2) A full time partner that will become my technical right hand man (hopefully for a lifetime of multiple startups).  Someone I can completely trust and hand over the keys to the kingdom and know it’s in good hands.  I’ll always be involved with the product and will have an influence, but my real interest is becoming the leader of the organization and making it grow through sales and marketing.   If this is what you’re looking for, I’d still want to work with you through a subcontract project as described in #1 first to make sure we work well together. If you’re looking for a new job quickly, I can’t offer you that; this will take some time for us to get to know each other and reach that level of comfort/trust.

For either role, I need senior PHP level developers.  For option #1 I can get by if you’re not a full stack developer, but for Option 2 you’ll need to have it all.

For both, I need guys who don’t need training and don’t need me to hand hold (other than the specifics of my platform).  You need to be the type who can figure things out on your own and have been through the entire development cycle a few times before.  I don’t measure that by years of experience.  If you typically need to rely on someone else to help guide you through technical challenges, then you’re probably not at the level I’m looking for.

Another option: If you’re not quite ready or willing for the scenarios above, but still want to help out by taking a look at my codebase and offering feedback; or doing a small project for it and possibly become listed as a founding contributor to a new open source project;  or maybe you want to use my platform to build your own SAAS business; I’d still like to talk to you as those might be options I’d entertain.

Next Steps:

Ok, still interested? Cool!  First off I want to be up front: This will take a while to work through, so if you’re in need of a new job in the next few weeks you’ll probably need to look elsewhere.

If you’re interested and think you’re a fit for what I’m looking for, respond to this email with any information about yourself you haven’t already shared (github, portfolio, resume, etc), what role you’d be interested in, and anything else you want to share.

If I think we could be a good fit, I’ll then set up a call with you to discuss more and answer any questions and go from there.

That’s it for now.  If you have a little crazy in you and want to see more, contact me at dan @ my last name (fellars) dot com

- Dan (Danny) Fellars

 

 

 

Social Commerce Exchange November 2012 Presentation

I will be presenting at the November 15th meeting for Social Commerce Exchange on Content Management Tools.  After the presentation I will update based on feedback received from audience.

Here are the slides on the presentation:

To view the full list of content marketing tools, visit the list here: http://bit.ly/YRelyg

If you see something missing, you can fill out this form to add to list: http://bit.ly/WGdYIz

This Content Grid from Eloqua is a great source to guide you through the types of content you can create to push customers through your sales pipeline.

Finally, let us know which ones are your favorite by tweeting with #SOCOMX AND #FAV5 hashtags and the names of your favorite content marketing tools.  I’ll update the list with this information.

If your a pro at marketing but looking for a better way to manage and organize, you may be interested in what I’m working on.  Check out Inbounding

Introducing Betacave

Betacave Logo

After struggling with hiring/recruiting on both sides of the fence, an old buddy of mine and I decided to do something about it.  We knew there had to be a way from talented professionals to feel safe in engaging with companies without being too intrusive and overbearing (like some other big platforms are becoming).  We are excited to introduce Betacave.com to the world to make recruiting more efficient.

We are still pre-launch so currently gauging interest so would love it if you checked it out and signed up to be a part of it.  We have also begun talking to great companies who want to be a part of this.  If you work for one, have them get in contact with us asap to become a launch partner.

Tldr: Recruiting sucks on both sides. Betacave.com is a new, private way for talented professionals to connect with amazing companies.
Sign up for free at http://betacave.com to get in pre-launch either as a talented professional or an amazing company.

Here’s the gist – technologists( i.e. developers, designers, marketers, etc) are in high demand. Those involved with hiring this talent know how hard it is to get access to the good ones;
Those who are in demand are sick of being cold-called by recruiters every 10 minutes.
So, instead of having an open meat market approach like LinkedIn where they sell access to your personal information to companies and recruiters, Betacave gives control to the talented professionals to decide which opportunities they are interested in and can passively monitor/follow a company anonymously without anyone knowing (including your boss).

Here’s how it works if you are a talented professional:
1)      You sign up for free and answer a few basic questions about you and what you’re looking for
2)      From there, Betacave’s algorithm gets to work and starts sending you opportunities from companies in our system based on what we know about you.  At most, you would receive 1 opportunity per day; and it comes from us, not the company so the company has no idea who you are at this point
3)      If you are not interested, you can simply ignore the email or tell us what doesn’t interest you about the opportunity so we can improve our algorithm and send you better matches with time;
If you are interested, even if just a little, you can engage in a few ways:
a)    You can remain anonymous and simply follow the company to track and stay up to date on what they are doing
b)    You can ask questions anonymously about the company to get more details;
c)    Or you can decide to let them know who you are(when you’re ready) and begin more open dialog about the position and take it from there. It’s really up to you;
We don’t take a commission when you get hired, so we are not in cahoots with the companies or anything.
They pay us just for the opportunity to get in front of you in this way.
Your privacy and respect is the number 1 priority for our company.  If we are not sending you opportunities that interest you, we aren’t doing our job.

If you are a company looking for talent: You pay a monthly subscription for your opportunity to be in the system and for you to be able to interact with the pool of talent that has expressed varying degrees of interest in your company (some even following you anonymously).  Think of us as your recruiting pipeline nurturing platform that takes into account the respect and privacy of the talent you are hoping to engage with.  This is not a way to fill a position overnight. It is for companies who recognize that recruiting is an ongoing process and requires building trust over time with the talent out there.  It may not be right for all companies, but any company I would want to work at I would hope has these principles, so we built it for the type of companies we would be interested in working for.  If you represent a company with these values, sign up and let us know you want to be part of our launch and we can share pricing information.

We are still pre-launch looking to gauge the interest level – so if you believe in this approach to recruiting please show your support and sign up and/or by spreading the word to your network.  And be sure to participate (even if you don’t sign up) in our Launch Contest by showing us your beta cave ( a beta cave is a place where you go to just get stuff done – such as your desk or a park or a couch – my favorite). Simply tweet a pic of your beta cave with #mybetacave.

We really appreciate any feedback or support you can give.

 

Utah Companies at Dreamforce 2012

In going through the Dreamforce expo list, a couple companies caught my eye and thought I would post the list of companies going to Dreamforce 2012 from Utah  (these are companies that sponsored or will have a booth, not just attending).  I’m probably the only one who might care about this list, but who knows.  if your going to Dreamforce, would love to connect.

Domo

Bloomfire  (now headquartered in Austin, TX but still have office in Utah)

inContact

NetDocuments

InsideSales.com

Treehouse Interactive

 

If I missed a Utah company going to Dreamforce 2012, let me know

nReduce Review

On Friday I heard for the first time about nReduce via PandoDaily.com via HackerNews.  I was instantly hooked and signed up.

Unfortunately I was on my phone and couldn’t complete the registration to get full access because they require a profile image before you can get full access (more on that later).  So later that night while watching the Olympics Opening Exercises (sorry Techcrunch!), I completed my signup and was in.  I was very excited to get access and find out about this secret underground startup society.

After a day or two to take it in, I thought I would share my thoughts on what I like and what I would love to see change. I won’t be sharing any information on any companies within as that is against the rules for good reason. My reasons for being open about what I think needs to change are not to be critical, but to hopefully help make the product better.  I think this has huge potential to shake up the startup community and have been extremely impressed with what Joe and Josh have put together so far, and with continued iterations I think it can reach a point where it becomes the norm that successful companies start with their program from day 1.

 

The Signup Process

The nReduce team have thought a lot about the signup process and taken an anti-pattern approach by purposely making it more time consuming to sign up.  I actually liked that and had no problem going through the steps.  They even make you do an intro video of yourself before you can get full access to the site.  The only drawback was that they required a photo upload which my iPhone does not support, but that is probably more of an iPhone issue than nReduce. So I couldn’t complete my signup until on my laptop.  Great job on finding the right balance to create sufficient barrier to entry to make sure signups are somewhat serious but also not being too overbearing.

 

The Weekly Updates

I’ve only just started so can’t really comment on how I’ll feel about this.  I’ve looked at some of the others and it seems simple enough.  Just take a minute to make a goal each week, then another minute video to give update on how you did.  I’m willing to commit to that.  I already keep daily/weekly goals, so might as well formalize that process.  Right now they use all youtube videos and sometimes it can take a bit to upload and then figure out the url of the newly updated video, so feedback would be to see if that can get streamlined as much as possible.

 

The Team Groups

Once you join, they provide you with a couple similar companies based on your provided profile.  You can look at them and decide on whether you want to try to keep them in your group or pass and have some new ones randomly selected for you.  After trying to decide which ones you want to keep in your group and which ones aren’t good fits, you find out quickly they limit the number of companies they provide to you as an option, and once you pass on a company, you can’t go back and re-request them.  And this is a two way street, so if the companies don’t accept you into their group then you’re out of luck.  I’ve seen many other’s comment that they were not accepted by others and left in the cold without any friends, so I think this is going to be a major hurdle for nReduce to get right.

 

The Feedback

Another requirement is that companies participate by leaving comments to companies in their groups with the expectation you leave weekly comments.  I’ve already seen this lead to very basic “Attaboy” comments in order to fulfill the basic requirements.  Based on the feedback I’ve seen left for other companies, I think the level of feedback is just ok with a lot of room for improvement.

 

How to Improve nReduce

The 3 things I was seeking by signing up for nReduce were 1) Some good old-fashion competitive peer pressure to help keep me on track and 2) Some real feedback from others to help improve my startup, and 3) Build lasting relationships with others that might help down the road.

I could be wrong, but will make an assumption that the majority of others joining up are looking for at least 2 of these 3 as well.

 

Here is how I would change things to maximize each of these 3 goals.

 

First, I would create classes based on when people signed up, very much old school like college.  I would do 4 groups/year based on 3 month periods (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer might work, but shows bias towards Northern Hemisphere!).  So if you register in Jan, you wouldn’t officially start until April with the Spring class.  This may seem counter-intuitive to what is possible with an online environment and one of their recent changes, but I think they should revisit this as I believe there is value in auto-grouping people this way.  It provides instant context and identity with each new startup. Possible conversation:

A: “You did nReduce? Which class?”

B: “Summer 2012”

A: “Oh, Company X was in your class, right?”

B: “Yeah”

A: “Cool, I get it.”

I would use these groups mostly for a basis of a starting point.  You might need to sub-classify each company based on stage within each class so every class has the “Idea Stage” companies, The “Prototype Stage” companies, “Growth Stage” companies, etc.  To provide more of an apples to apples comparison.

Then, within each class I would have a leaderboard to provide the social motivation to stay active.  This would show the ones who are doing their weekly updates, participating in conversations, etc.  Since you are seeing the groups that are at the same stage as you and started at same time as you, you can compare on equal terms how you are doing relative to your peers.

 

This also resolves the current issue of trying to lobby companies to be in your group.

 

This would primarily resolve goal #1 and partially goal #3.  This, however, would not be how I would accomplish goal #2.  These companies that join up at the same time as you might not be the best ones to provide feedback for your particular startup.

 

So, second, I would change the feedback loop to cut across the entire community based on solving specific pain points you are facing as a company instead of limiting it to the same group every week.

 

Companies still post their weekly updates to track that they are making progress, but don’t use that approach to seek feedback.   Feedback would be more of a Quora style Q&A where you post the issues you are facing, such as a Technical Hurdle, or whether you should pivot your company, or help analyzing your marketing strategy, or whatever.  Then the community as a whole provides feedback.

 

Similar to how it works now, you would be required to provide feedback on a regular basis to stay active within the community.  Maybe there is a ratio of having to answer 3 questions for everyone 1 that you post/ask.  You search for questions that you can provide value to and answer accordingly.  As you review a question, if you want to get more background info to better help that company, you can review their profile and status updates to get up to speed on what they are accomplishing.

 

This feedback loop makes it much easier for the companies to engage with each other.  They can post their issues up, and on the flip side help any companies where they can truly add value instead of just posting an “Attaboy” on your group’s weekly updates since you don’t really have any value to add on what they were working on that particular week.

 

For example: I can already see a common scenario where a company is seeking help with a particular technical hurdle.  Nobody in the group is familiar with that technology but feels the need to provide feedback to fulfill their weekly commitment so puts up some kind of comment which may end up costing the original company to spend time explaining the issue in more detail or going down the wrong path to “try” something suggested by a group member who heard from a friend to try something.  This wastes time for all parties involved.

 

Why not instead open that feedback up to the entire nReduce family where everyone is expected to participate in answering questions so you should get responses from people more experienced with that particular issue.

 

This would also accomplish the goal #3 of getting to know as many people as possible, not just the small set of companies in my group.  The best way to build relationships is to help them out.  I would feel more comfortable helping companies with issues I feel I have a strong handle on instead of trying to come up with some kind of comment to post to the same company each week.

 

I believe these 2 structural changes could accomplish the 3 goals I would want to accomplish with nReduce.

Conclusion

In their recent update to open it up to all people, I commend Joe and Josh’s for having the insight to take a step back and re-evaluate how nReduce can and should be different than other incubator programs instead of trying to just re-create the offline experience online.  I truly believe they are on to something ground breaking.  If they can figure out how the community can work together to benefit all parties, then this will become the top of the funnel for future great startups.  I am hopeful they can get there and why I took the time to provide feedback.

My First Post from The Inbounding Platform

This post is being generated from The Inbounding Platform as I work to integrate WordPress into the platform.  Not much to see here, other than one day I will look back at this post and reminisce on the good ol’ days in the beginning of Inbounding :)

The Wife Test

(note: this is written from the perspective of a male entrepreneur who has a wife.  If your situation is different I don’t make any claims on whether it applies)

I recently had lunch with a friend coming off a bad experience with a business partner.  After reflecting on his experience he mentioned how early on in the venture his wife warned him she did not get good vibes from his partner.  He ignored her warnings and continued on to learn for himself the hard way.

This resonated with me as I recently had an unfavorable experience with someone whom my wife had expressed a “bad vibe” about.  Luckily this person was not a business partner, so my learning experience was not as painful as my friends, but reiterated something I’ve learned over the years: Trust your wife’s instincts regarding people.

On a related note, I find it very important to keep your wife in the loop if you are working on a new venture.  Being a solo founder, I often bounce my ideas of her and get an opinion from someone with an outside perspective.

7 Reasons I Shouldn’t Be Starting a Company

When looking back at how I got to the situation I am in now, I consider myself very lucky to have been “let go” in a downsize at my previous employer.  Lucky for several reasons. I was planning to leave anyways, so getting a severance package was a much better way to leave.  But more importantly, it provided me a chance to re-evaluate what I wanted to accomplish with the remainder of my career.

I had been toying with starting my own company for a while, but the opportunity cost of what I would be giving up seemed too great.  Now, with nothing really set in stone, I had the courage to take the leap.

That being said, there were (and still remain) many reasons why some might suggest I re-consider doing what I’m doing, or why an investor or incubator may have second thoughts on writing a check. So, instead of putting my head in the sand and ignoring these, I thought I would address the reasons head on and discuss what I’ve done or am doing to help overcome them.  To clarify, these reasons are not related to the actual business itself (i.e. market size, business model, etc), but more on a personal level.  I’ll leave the business discussion for another day.

With that, here are the top 7 reasons (in no particular order) I shouldn’t be doing what I’m doing:

#7 I could be making a lot more money right now

Since going off on my own I’ve had opportunities to pursue C-level positions available but chose to pass them up because I believe in what I’m doing and have set to personal goal to see this through.  This one hasn’t been that hard to manage as one might think, largely in part because of my amazingly supportive wife and the fact we have always lived a pretty frugal lifestyle which has allowed us to save up sufficiently for this effort.  I also know what I’m passing up in terms of those opportunities since I’ve been in those shoes before.  It’s time for something different in my career.

#6 I have a wife and 4 kids

Yep, 4 kids.  Ages 9, 6, 3, and 10 months.  My family is the most important thing to me, so if it absolutely came down to whether I had to choose one over the other, there is no question which I would choose.  But I am out to prove you don’t have to choose between them and can manage both.  That doesn’t mean that everyday has to have an equal balance. There will be days or weeks or even months (for example, if I get accepted to an investment program which requires a 3 month stay in Silicon Valley) fully allocated to the startup, and other days/weeks dedicated to the family.  There have been many times when my kids have come after school or on Saturdays to my office and hang out there for a few hours while I’m working. Vice-versa, there are times when I need to take a call during dinner time.  I have no problem integrating the 2 lives and plan to have a startup culture that supports that (which is especially important here in Utah).

Having a family while doing a startup does have legitimate drawbacks, I’ll admit.  There are many times I have to force myself away from the computer when I’m right in the middle of writing code to take care of family matters, so I’m sure it has delayed the progress of my product to some degree, but it could also be good I have forced break time as I typically haven’t experienced the burnout that others have expressed when going 100% on writing code.  Tough to say at this point on that.

One thing that has helped in this regard is that I’m a pretty boring person and don’t have a lot of outside hobbies I must do.  I like doing all that stuff, but don’t *need* to going skiing once a week or golfing etc.  If there is a rare opportunity to do those things I will ,but I’m perfectly content having nothing going on outside my startup and family during this phase of my life.  So by reducing the items I’m juggling in life allows me to handle the important aspects.

One final benefit to already having kids before starting a company is that I don’t have to make that adjustment midstream.  I’ve known younger entrepreneurs who have kids a year or two into the startup and struggle with how to manage both because they grew accustomed to spending all their free time on their company and now had other responsibilities to juggle.  I think I’ve got that routine down by now (not perfect, but know how to adapt accordingly).

#5 I’m about to turn 35 years old

Supposedly there are many that feel that only younger (<30) people should start companies.  I think that may be more of an issue that younger people don’t have the other red flags mentioned above and so have a lower opportunity cost to take the leap into startups.

For me, it was about exposure.  I was never really exposed to what a startup is until my late 20′s early 30′s.  To some degree, I did not know what this world was all about.  I graduated with My MS-Cs degree in 2000, when nobody dared think about doing startups.  I worked for a mid-size company doing really fun, challenging stuff getting paid really well doing it, so a startup wasn’t something I explored.

I also don’t think I would have known how to do the startup I’m doing 10 years ago.  It came from real-life experience of working in this industry and dealing with the pains first hand and desperately needing a solution that didn’t exist which led me to build what I’m building.

Had I known what I know now back in my 20′s, sure I would have loved to have started this 10 years ago, but since that is not the case, I don’t have any regrets with my previous career path or concerns that I’m too old to do this (honestly that sounds funny to write; I am only 35 :) )

#4 I don’t drink coffee/caffeinated drinks

This one is slight tongue in cheek, but I’ve had some interesting conversations with people unfamiliar about my personal beliefs when they find out I don’t drink coffee or red bull or even coke and am a programmer.   Often the two are synonymous.  For me, there is nothing like a nice cold glass of water in the morning.  The flip side of this is that I try to get 6-7 hours of sleep at night.  As long as I am getting sufficient sleep, I typically don’t feel that tired, even when  I’m writing code all day and night.  Other people’s results may vary, but I’ve never felt at a disadvantage to colleagues for energy or being productive as a result of not drinking energy drinks/coffee/etc.

#3 I don’t have a startup pedigree

Would it have been cool to have been an early (fill in the blank cool startup) employee? Sure. But for me, again, it was not even on the radar.  I graduated from school in San Diego and was working at a mid-size company (maybe a hundred employees) and was being challenged doing a wide variety of tasks getting paid very well.  I stayed there for as long as I felt I was being challenged and growing (which ended up being about 6 years).  I’ve never been someone who chases the crowd just to be a part of it.  If I feel I can accomplish what I want to where I am, I will stay.

#2 I live outside of Silicon Valley

Similar to number #3, I’ve never had a burning desire to move to the mecca of startups because I was able to accomplish my goals where I was.  If that changes, and I feel I can’t do that where I am, I would have no problem making a move.  So far, I have not found that to be the case.  I have spent my fair share of time in the Valley, working there for weeks at a time earlier in my career, and even have immediate family there. So, I’m not anti-Silicon Valley.  I just think it is possible to do things outside of there, and sometimes there are advantages to being outside of there (while also recognizing there are obviously disadvantages as well).  Time will tell how this will play out.

#1 I am a solo founder

Hmmm….this one is the trickiest to answer.  Obviously (some might argue) since I can’t get anyone to join forces with me, than either I am not convincing enough or the business is not compelling enough and so therefore should not continue forward.  Fair point.  I have a different take but until I either find a co-founder or start hiring, it’s probably a mute point.  But I will just say that I would love to have a partner in this, and have made several attempts (even publicly) and gone down the path with a few that have not worked out for various reasons.  Finding a partner is something I take very serious and I don’t want to just bring on somebody just to say I have a co-founder.  Even worse than having no co-founder, is having the wrong co-founder.  So, I’m going to continue down the path alone until I find a partner, even if it means I have to hire him/her.  I’m fortunate to have the skillset necessary to get my product off the ground, except for the UI/UX component which I have paid a freelancer to fill in the gaps there. I’ll keep plugging along by myself for as long as is necessary.

These are all valid reasons someone might delay pursuing a startup, but ultimately none of these mattered to me when I reached the point where all I could think about was solving a particular problem I had and knew that if I could pull it off there will be a market for it. It’s that driving force that pushes me to move forward and not give up.

I also want to point out, that although I highlight some potential red flags here, I do have some redeeming qualities that are increasing my odds of success  :)

I’d love to hear what other reasons you have that you are overcoming to accomplish your startup dreams…

 

The 3 Degrees of Financial Freedom; Part I

For anyone in the early stages of a startup, finances are often a touchy subject.  I’m currently self-funding my startup, so I’m keeping a closer eye on personal expenses than I have in the past and it is something I think a lot about recently.  I realize I’m blessed to be in a situation where I can self-fund and spend a significant amount of time working on my startup (I do work on outside consulting engagements to stabilize my expenses, but the majority of my time is focused on Inbounding), so I thought I would share some insight into how I got to this point.

First off, by no means am I a millionaire or rich by any stretch of the imagination.  Any wealth I’ve accumulated has come from being an employee for someone else.  The key to financial freedom is actually very simple: spend less than you make.  It’s amazing how simple this strategy is in theory but difficult (for some) in practice.  For me (and fortunately, my wife as well) this has never been a challenge for me.  I’ve always been paid well because of my profession, and live relatively simple lives without much frills.

One reason behind this is something very few people know about me: I don’t believe in budgets.  Really.

Instead, I just simply ask myself before making any significant purchase: Do I need this?  If I don’t, then I don’t buy it.  I feel that if I were to have a budget and allocated a certain amount to certain purchases, then I would go ahead and make the purchase even when I didn’t need it, but allowed myself to since it was budgeted.

Unfortunately in a corporate environment, others don’t share my restraint, so my personal belief of no budgets does not carry over to corporate life.

Now that my secret is out, the next post will go into detail on what this approach to finances has allowed me to do and how it relates to what I call the 3 Degrees of Financial Freedom.  Stay Tuned.

3 Days in New York

I’m just finishing up a 3 day trip to NY for business and thought I would jot down my thoughts on the experience.

 

I’ve been to NY only once before for another business trip, so have not spent a lot of time there.  Here are my main observations:

 

Like in life, finding your way is much easier when you know what you’re looking for.

 

The first day I went out to my meeting and planned to take the subway.  I was prepared with my iPhone app of the subway system and knew what streets the subway stations were located, but once I got to the general vicinity, I could not find where the entrance was.  After several minutes of looking around, I finally found the underground passage ways.  Now that I knew the distinct signs and signals which somehow escaped me in the mass of people, I started spotting subway entrances all over.  Same lesson applies to life.  Once we notice the small cues around us, it becomes much easier to spot in future, but we can so easily dismiss them prior.

 

We CAN all get along

 

Call me weird, but I love people watching.  I start to postulate on their story, where they work, what they’re like, etc.  NY is the perfect place to observe human behavior.  I spent quite a bit of time wondering the streets in route to meetings or dinner and observing people.  It is truly amazing how people from all walks of life can co-exist.  We as humans find ways to adapt to our environment, with New York being the peak of adaptation.  There is much to be learned from New York in that regard.

 

It’s a great place to visit, but not my cup of tea long term

 

I could see how the city can generate energy and get the creative/competitive juices flowing as just 3 days did for me, but I’d prefer to get that in spurts vs. all the time. The down side to it would be that it is hard to pull away from that source of energy if/when you have other demands/responsibilities pulling on your schedule.

 

Thank you New York for 3 great days.  I look forward to returning in near future.