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

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

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.

Technical Visionaries in Utah

I recently had a conversation with some one who yet again suggested that if I really want to do a software startup, I needed to move to Silicon Valley.  It’s something that I think anybody outside of SV has heard before and thought a lot about.  Being a California native (San Diego), I would have no problem moving back to the Sunshine state (although I would prefer So. Cal), but I just don’t think it is necessary and I have no desire to make that move with my family at this point.

In fact, I enjoy the fact that people tell me I can’t do it outside of SV – it fuels me to prove the naysayers wrong.

That being said, I’ve talked to a lot of people here in Utah regarding why there aren’t more successful startups in Utah.  There are several possible explanations, and in future posts I may go into more, but for today I wanted to focus on 1 in particular, something I’ll call the Technical Visionary Dilemma.

Here is my hypothesis: For software companies to push the barriers and build products that standout amongst the competition, a startup requires a technical visionary that both understands the business opportunity and how to take advantage of the opportunity through technical means.

Now, clearly, this is not an absolute.  There are many examples (which I will also highlight) of companies who may not have this person. So my argument is not that it is a requirement to have this technical visionary, but that it improves the chances of success.

From my interactions with startups in Utah, I feel (in general) there is a difference in the type of people starting companies here vs. people starting companies in SV.  The sense I get is that most startups coming out of SV are started by engineers, where as a high proportion of Utah companies are started by more business types (i.e. sales/marketers/generalists) who bring on a technologist to help execute on the problem.

Why is that?

It could be related to the Utah culture (which is very unique for those not familiar with Utah).  I think in general Utahns are more conservative in regard to business risk.  For an engineer, the risk of doing your own thing vs. getting a pretty good salary, buying a home ( a temptation engineers in SV often don’t have ), and settling down is a high risk.

It could be the lack of engineer friendly capital, although I think that is improving in part due to things like AngelList, BoomStartup.  But it still has a very long way to go.  I am often amazed when I attend events like the monthly Launchup event put on by Jeremy Hanks and look around and don’t see any investors ( I will give a shoutout to Robb Kunz who I’ve seen a couple times there).  I don’t understand why more Utah Angel investors or early stage venture firms don’t attend those types of events regularly.  There are great companies presenting at those events.

It could be that that talent doesn’t exist here in Utah.  Fair point.  But I would argue this.  Obviously I’m biased in this opinion, but  I’ve worked with engineers in SV and met several engineers here in Utah and I would put the talent level of engineers here up against the talent level in SV any day.  There are both good and bad engineers in both places, and more of both in SV, but I believe there is sufficient talent here to see more startups forming.

Or, it could just be the lack of rock star promotion for these successful visionaries like what you see in SV.  For example, have you ever heard of a guy by the name of Drew Major ?  I hadn’t until a few years ago.  I’ve never met him and never even heard him speak in public, which would imply he is probably more reserved and not self-promotional, but Drew is a great Technical Visionary of Utah.  Old-school Utah folks know him for being a co-founder of Novell, but more recently he started 2 more successful companies (Arroyo Video Solutions was acquired by Cisco at a decent price from what I understand) and Move Networks (which has had a rocky streak recently but at one point was the hottest thing since sliced bread – I know because when I worked full time in venture capital we tried to get a meeting with Move and couldn’t even get the attention of their secretary).  So, why is it that very few people  know about this guy, and how many others are there in Utah that I don’t even know about?

The reason I believe it is important to know about Drew and company is because it provides inspiration for me as an aspiring technical entrepreneur in Utah, which is huge at this stage of the game, and those who know me know I need all the help I can get :). So, I plan to do my part here today by starting a list of people I would consider technical visionaries in Utah in an effort to hopefully provide inspiration to other techincal counterparts here in Utah who have considered taking that leap of faith. At the very least I know it will help me to have a list of people I respect and admire for what they’ve accomplished and maybe haven’t received due recognition.

This is a work in progress list as I know there are many out there that I don’t know, so please please please help me add to it.  Provide your suggestions in the comments.

I’m only going to focus on software/internet companies since that is what I know and have an interest in.  Go here for a more in-depth look at technical advancements coming from Utah.

My criteria is pretty simple:  someone who through their technical knowledge was able to put a stamp on the outcome of a company that otherwise would not have happened.  This needs to be the guy who is pushing the product in a new/different direction based on his own insights, and not someone who maybe executed well but was taking direction from the business team.  Ideally this person was one of the driving forces in starting the company. There are many great technologies who have done amazing things beyond just starting a company, or who have roots in Utah but started companies based else where (many of whom are found in the Utah Technology Hall of Fame), and by no means do I want to diminish their work, but for the focus of this discussion, I hope to limit to people involved in the early forming and direction of companies, and companies you would associate with Utah.

That being said, here is what I have to begin with:

The Building Blocks of Utah Software:

Evans & Sutherland  (I honestly had never heard of this company before researching this post, but man do they have an impact on industry as a whole): David Evans, Ivan Sutherland.  This company also is where following people got their start (and left to SV): Jim Clark (founder of Netscape), John Warnock (founder of Adobe)

Novell: Drew Major, Kyle Powell, Dale Neibaur and Mark Hurst

WordPerfect: Alan Ashton, Don Owens, and Bruce Bastian

Iomega:David Bailey

Other Early Notables:

Folio (Infobase):

Caldera Systems:

Megahertz (acquired by US Robotics): Stephen Aldous  (couldn’t tell if David Spafford was also involved technically – someone please let me know)

Precision Data Link: Greg Warnock (now investor with Mercato Partners)

The New Regime:

Omniture: John Pestana (I’ve asked him before if he considers himself the technical co-founder of Omniture and he said he doesn’t think so, but I think he’s just being modest)

Mozy: Josh Coates (now with Instructure)

WingateWeb (acq. by Active Networks): Tom Karren (now CEO of Moki Networks and personal friend/advisor to my new startup).

The Exceptions (great Utah companies started without a technical visionary – at least a publicly known one; if there was one, please let me know so he/she can receive proper respect):

Altiris: It appears the 2 founders (Jan Newman and Kevin Turpin) were not themselves technologists, although they had worked in the industry for quite a while.

Overstock.com – Patrick Byrne

 

TBD  (these are companies I still need to research to determine who was behind their success) – Digicert, Authorize.NET, OrangeSoda,  One on One, NetSteps, BlueHost, AtTask, Property Solutions, Fishbowl Invetory, Doba, Corda, Smile Reminder, Access Technology Solutions, Costume Craze, Security Metrics  (and many more to come – please help me out).

 

Have more?  Let me know in the comments or on twitter (@DannyFellars)

 

 

5 years away from programming, boy have things changed

After enjoying 6 great years as a full-time software engineer, I decided to take a different path.  I then spent the following 5 years doing more graduate school, and a variety of management/investment type positions.  I staid relatively close to technology, but was not doing any active development during that time, except for maybe hacking a wordpress theme or plugin – which is not the same as building a software application.

I was not staying up on latest trends like I used to, so really got out of touch with my programming skills.

Once I decided I wanted to do my own thing this time around, I thought it would be relatively easy to get back in the saddle and start off where I left with software development.  Turns out, software development skills are something that need continuous attention and time, otherwise you can lose them – just like any other skill.

I’ve already explained how I think my skills are due to this time away (amongst other reasons). So, in this post I want to talk about what went on in the world of software during those 5 years I was away.

For some perspective, when I left active coding was the summer of 2006.  I was writing mostly back end server software in J2EE/Java using the Spring Framework, which was just 1 year old at the time.  Since returning to development, I have not touched Java code at all (not because I don’t like it, it just hasn’t fit the requirements of what I’m working on), so I won’t be going into what has changed in the Java world during those 5 years since I frankly haven’t looked to see where things are now.  Here are the main things I’ve noticed that are drastically different since I left:

PHP as Viable Enterprise Platforms

To be fair, most of what I developed in my prior life was not web based applications, so I may have an inaccurate point of view, but most people I knew would not have considered using PHP for building out an enterprise type of application.  PHP was for side projects or small websites.  I rarely ever used PHP, so I would have never imagined I would be using it to build a company with (Yes, I confess, my name is Dan, and I’m using PHP for my startup).

I think this may be largely due to the Ruby on Rails movement, which I completely missed during my 5 years away.  RoR v1 was released in December 05, so I guess technically it was around before I left, but not by much, and I had definitely had not heard about it until a year or so later.

I think the RoR push helped PHP grow up some.  Now with latest versions of PHP (5.3+) and new frameworks (Lithium is my framework of choice), PHP can be a solid language for many types of applications.

I could have easily put RoR as its own bullet point of what came out while I was away, but since I really have not used it since returning, I decided I could not include it in my list.  I’m sure many will say (in fact just yesterday someone did!) that I’m still out of the development scene if I haven’t adopted RoR, so I guess I still have something left to discover.

Social Development

Places like SourceForge and FreshMeat (now Freecode) were around when I left, but I don’t think they had accomplished what GitHub has in terms of social development.  GitHub launched in 2008, so benefited from understanding what social was thanks Facebook and the like.  It’s amazing for me to spend time perusing through GitHub and learning from other peoples code so easily.  I’ll admit I have not been so freely giving of my code samples as others are.  I do use GitHub, but have a private plan so typically have mine locked down.  I guess that is a factor of missing out on the social development scene while I was away.

Sites like Reddit and Hacker News have also contributed greatly to the concept of social development.  Both launched while I was away, so I am just now getting into that scene (I mostly spend my time reading HN).

The concept of communities has obviously been around for a while, but I used to get most of my deep technology news from sites like TheServerSide.com and a few others I can’t remember, but those had much more of an editorial feel vs. social contribution.

NoSQL Databases

Wait a minute, your telling me that if I leave the development world for 5 years, people are going throw away SQL completely?  And on top of that, that I’m going to love it? Your crazy.  It’s impossible.  Relational Databases and SQL were the 1 constant in this world of software development.  It didn’t matter the programming language you used, everyone could some-what standardize at the database level and use SQL to see into that data.

After returning to development, I started hearing of these databases like CouchDB and MongoDB.  I realized that I was trying to make MySQL do unstructured stuff (i.e. dump json into a column) and started to play around with MongoDB.

What amazes me is how quickly I was able to just throw away years of thinking like a structure/relational database(not that you don’t think that way with NoSQL, but you get what I’m saying).  Everything I learned in graduate school and years on the job out the window, just like that. Just plain crazy to think.

Mobile

This one I am kicking myself over for missing out on and may do a whole post on later.  I could have been at the fore-front of this movement if I were still in the thick of things.  I was very involved with mobile development before I left.  I had built applications in J2ME (is that even still around), BREW (anyone remember that Qualcomm platform?), and even Wireless Markup Language (WML).  Those were the good ol’ days.  Our WML app was the top played application on several carriers.  It was amazing what little memory and screen sizes we had to work with, and touch screens were a thing of the future.

I had my doubts that mobile would ever become the platform that people thought it could be prior to Apple throwing it’s hat in the ring.  The iPhone was released a year after I left the mobile world in 2007, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now that I’m back to development, I have decided to skip the whole Objective-C/Android Java scene and jump straight to HTML5/Javascript for making mobile applications, which I believe makes sense for the type of apps I’m working on.

JavaScript

Holy Crap, where did JavaScript come from?  When I left, JavaScript was something you used for just the very basic of things on the web due to browser compatibility issues.  I remember when I first started developing web stuff having to do browser coding in both JavaScript and VBScript so it would work in IE, so we obviously kept our browser scripting to a minimum.

JQuery V1 came out in August 2006, literally the last days of full-time coding for me, so I completely missed out on that whole movement.

And now the thought of being able to write your entire application in Javascript, both server and client is just mind boggling.  And now that I’ve gotten up to speed on JavaScript (I use Backbone.js rather extensively clientside), I’m blown away at the power of JavaScript (although not perfect!) and look forward to incorporating NodeJS into any new projects I work on.

Startups for Everyone

Last, but not least, is the crazy notion that everyone should be able to start their own company if they want to.  I spent my first career in development between 2000 and 2006, not the most ideal time to think of starting your own company.  I just missed the first Internet Bubble and considered myself lucky to find a job in the software world.  In fact, while I was part-time at the place I ended up going full-time, they laid off half our development team, and probably the only reason I wasn’t let go as well was because I was at school the day they did the layoffs and management didn’t know how to get a hold of me (I didn’t even own a cell phone in 2000!!), so I showed up the next day and realized half my team was gone and they decided to keep me once they realized I could do the work of the team(not really, but I said I could) that was let go for a lot cheaper since I was just part-time.  Things got a little better by time I graduated, so they hired me full-time at that point.

Now that I have a little more knowledge under the belt and the guts (or stupidity) to turn down good C-level opportunities to start my own venture, I’m grateful that things are much easier to start a company.  It’s cheaper (I can fund it myself to get started), there is more capital available (even though I’ve chosen to hold off on raising for a bit), and there is so much free stuff to help you build on top off.  It really is a great time to be doing a startup.

Conclusion

Even though I learned a lot during my 5 years away, I sure missed out on a lot of things too.   The last year I’ve spent getting back up to speed on all things software development related, and now feel like I am back on track and ready to launch this year.

Shameless plug: I’m still in search for my technical soul mate, so anyone out there interested, feel free to contact me.

My Search For A Technical Soul Mate

I am very grateful that I found my real soul mate (my wife Lindsey) so relatively easy.  She was the girl next door, literally :)

Finding a business/technical soul mate has not been so easy.  In my quest to start my own company, I have networked with many very intelligent developers way smarter than myself, although I have not yet made that connection yet.  I’m still optimistic I will find him (or her).

I thought I would approach this post by answering questions that people have asked me or might have wanted to ask me regarding this topic:

Why do you need a technical partner when you are a stud programmer yourself? (ha!)

Although I am a programmer, that’s not where I see myself as the best fit.  I love being involved in the process and having my input (Im building the Inbounding Platform essentially on my own with help of a designer), but I also love being involved with the other aspects (marketing, finance, fundraising, hiring, etc).  I like to have pulse on the entire business.  Being the lead technical guy, there is just too much to worry about on that front to also be heavily involved in other areas.

If you can’t get anyone to join you, then you and/or your idea must not be very good.

Fair point.  In reality, I have had people join me on this quest, but just like in dating, things just haven’t worked out.  I don’t believe it was their fault or mine, it just was not the right time in their lives to commit to such a relationship.  I continue to talk to and find people interested in the idea and me and know people who may be interested down the road, so I remain optimistic that person is out there.  I don’t think I am that guy who doesn’t understand why no girls will take him serious when its obvious to everyone else around him.  But, then again, that guy doesn’t think he is that guy either :)

What about former co-workers?

I worked as a software engineer in San Diego and have several contacts there, although I worked in a drastically different field than what I’m working on now so don’t think my former colleagues would be interested  (I worked at a casual gaming company down there, and am now doing business applications.  Typically game developers are not that interested in doing boring business apps :) ).  So, when I moved to Utah I left the developer scene for a while and built more business relationships.  Which, unfortunately, means I have not worked closely with many developers here in Utah, although I have met several on my own and through local user groups, but those take longer to build strong relationships vs. working side by side everyday with someone.

You’re a venture capitalist, why don’t you just raise a few million bucks and hire your soul mate?

Technically, I’m not a venture capitalist, although I do work for a VC firm and consult with another angel investor.  This is a question I ask myself a lot.  I’ve been hesitant to go out fundraising even though I have close relationships with angel investors.  My reason is that I want to be 100% convinced of what I’m building will be able to accomplish my  hypothesis.  Maybe that’s me being afraid to “Go Big”, but I don’t think so.  I have every intention to take this as big as it can go.  But before I take on the responsibilities associated with having investors (yes, although they are equity investors, I still believe there is a level of indebtedness involved when anyone gives you money), I want to be fully convinced myself that this product can deliver on its promises.  I’m getting much closer to that point, and hope to get there in a 2-3 month time period at which point I will take the product out to market.  But until then, I’m fortunate to be in a situation where I can self-fund at the pace I’m going and still provide for my family (did I mention I have a wife and 4 kids to feed!! ).

Back to the question, if it turns out that I get to that point on my own (which at this point is very likely) and have to “buy” my soul mate(s), then so be it.  But I would much rather find him/her before that to get someone as fully invested in the company as I am.  I also believe this relationship will be different.  Having a hired employee is different than having someone put sweat equity in it with me. But on the same token, I will not bring someone on before hand just because they are willing or so I can apply to an incubator program (i.e. YC) who typically prefer a team (yes, the thought has crossed my mind).  There really needs to be that connection of a true partner.

Conclusion

I hope this is not taken as a rant or me crying about why nobody likes me. That’s not my point.  I knew this was going to be a challenge when I went off on my own.  I’m very fortunate that I do have enough of a skill-set to do the work on my own to continue to push it along and contract out what I can’t do.

I’m fully aware that this is also a problem that many others face.  I know because I (just like I’m sure every other person who has some programming talent) am hit up constantly by non-technical friends and family desperate to get me to work on their idea.

I believe this is such a pain point (and one that I have obviously experienced and though a lot about) that has not been successfully solved that I have a pet side project that I believe can help alleviate this problem.  It’s not far enough along to share any details yet, but I can guarantee it will be a completely different approach than anything out there trying to solve this.  More details to come.

But in the meantime, if you (my technical soul-mate) are out there and preferably live in Utah (long distance relationships are hard in any context), then here is my invitation to you: let me buy you lunch and lets talk :)

Why I Started Inbounding.com

Inbounding.com

This year is going to be a big year for Inbounding.  It’s been a big project for me that has taken way longer than I ever imagined, and I still have a long ways to go with it.  But I’m finally bringing it all together to where I feel confident it can accomplish what I wanted it to do.

The biggest reason I started Inbounding, and frankly the only reason strong enough to keep me motivated to stick with it, is that I needed this software to do my last 2 jobs, and it just doesn’t exist on the market.  This is the software I wish I had when running the marketing department for a small multi-vertical publishing company, as well as when I was dabbling in Internet Marketing on my own.

At the publishing company, we had a rather large team engaged in several channels of marketing: email, SEO, Social Media, Affiliate channels, content creation, PPC, Direct Mail, Telesales.  You name it, we were trying it.  But every channel required its own software expertise to manage the process, so everything ended up being very silo-ed.  Our direct mail campaigns had no idea about our email campaigns which had no idea about our social media campaigns, and so on.  We tried to bring all this data under one roof into a single CRM, but it was just too many systems that we couldn’t get to play nice.

Then, after the company ran its course, I had a little more time on my hands and dabbled in Internet Marketing.  I tried a variety of techniques and learned some of the tricks of the trades.  Some I agree with, some I don’t.  But I learned that even a single online marketer faces the same challenges a bigger marketing department faces: to be effective online, any organization needs to have a multi-channel strategy, and managing a multi-channel strategy is extremely difficult.

So, what are your options.  There are platforms that claim they be that all in one multi-channel platform that you build on.  Some options that come to mind are Infusionsoft, ExactTarget, Silverpop, Mailchimp, OfficeAutoPilot, HubSpot, and countless others.

These are all good and serve a purpose, and for the right customer might be the right tool, but I struggle with these platforms in that they are great for the basics, but once you want to branch out and do something they don’t support (none of them can do it all), or don’t support well (they typically have just 1 core competence and the rest are just feature lists to say they do feature X), then you are back in the same situation where you need to integrate outside that product.

I typically recognize this early one and go best of breed from the beginning, which then in turn has its own set of problems, the biggest of which is integration. In speaking with other organizations with similar pain points, I quickly realized that if this challenge of integration could be overcome, there was a real demand for this type of solution that not only addresses the integration, but also the automation or management of marketing tasks across multiple channels.

Which is where Inbounding comes into play.

The goal of Inbounding was to build a platform that could be a playground for whatever marketing integration needs an organization has.  It needed to have a solid architecture to be open for 3rd party developers to build apps on top of it. It needed to allow for these 3rd party apps to share information in an SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) approach as simple as REST API calls between them.  It needed to have a simple, well-designed UX for marketing folks to be able to use and understand. From a personal perspective being more of what I call a backend developer, I wanted a platform that made it extremely easy to build working applications with very minimal UI coding; a programming interface that I could quickly whip together working applications that performed specific tasks that I managed and didn’t have to worry too much about the UI as there were re-usable UI widgets or screens already available to utilize.

With those lofty objectives in mind, I set out to build The Inbounding Platform.  I had no idea how big of a project it would be.  I’m probably 6 months into it and finally starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.  That doesn’t mean the light at the end is a finished product, it just means I am starting to see that I actually can pull off and accomplish what it is I set out to accomplish.  The pieces are starting to come together.  For a while, I was not so sure it could be pulled off, atleast by me, anyway.

So now I feel the experimentation and research phase is coming to a close.  Now I need to keep my head down and start coding to get to my minimum viable product.  Back to coding!

A Year of Eating What I Kill

Techcrunch contributing writer, James Altucher, has written some great posts for startup founders and never holds back any punches.  One term he frequently uses is Eating What You Kill.

Having left the corporate world after 8 years of service (not including 2 years off for MBA school), the last year I’ve spent on my own.  I’m not the biggest risk taker in the world, so this was not an easy decision.  I regularly spend time with what I call the “true entrepreneurs”, guys who knew in high school they wanted to be the ones calling their own shots running their own business.  They are the ones so sure of their ideas they were willing to fund their businesses on personal debt to see it through, were ok when it didn’t work out and got back up and did it again.

I am not that guy.

I was perfectly content working for someone else and letting them pay me to learn how to build cool stuff ( my first full-time job was writing multi-player casual games).  But there was always this desire to want to do more and push myself further. So, once I reach a point where I didn’t see myself being challenged in my current environment, I changed my environment.  Even though I’m sure most of my family thought I was crazy, but that’s a story for another day.

Another reason I’m “not that guy” is because I actually find value in formal education.  I’ve had several discussions with some of these “true entreprenuers” who think entrepreneurs should not go to school.  I’m not where I am today without my formal education and 2 Masters Degrees( yes, 2).  I do well in school, I do well on standardized tests, I know how the system works.  There’s comfort in that.

So, naturally, I went back to school to change my environment.  It was during MBA school where I was first exposed to the world of startups.  Yes, an MBA is what convinced me I wanted to do my own startup.  I already knew the technology aspect of things, but now through MBA school, and more importantly my exposure to venture capital while in school, I gained confidence that the business side of things is not all that scary either.

But even then, I still couldn’t pull the trigger and go off on my own :)  (Did I mention I have a wife and 4 kids to support!)

After a 2 year stint with an established, but small, publishing company where I was given the opportunity to work my way into the CEO position and later merge that operation in with another company where I became a VP of Biz Dev, I found myself being laid off for the first time in my career.

Being laid off was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.  Everyone should get laid off once in their life to realize there are more important things than a being employed.

Finally, I had the guts to do what I had been itching to do for years and “Eat what I kill”.  For anyone who has any software development skills, making a living on your own is not hard to pull off.  I don’t do any advertising and only work with a few select companies I have relationships with and do just fine.  But, more importantly I only work 2-3 days a week most weeks for these clients, which means I have plenty of time to pursue my own product development and ideas, which I’ll be launching a big project this year.

Granted, I don’t make as much as I used to when I was at a CEO or VP salary, but getting by and only having to work 2 days a week has it’s perks too.

Ultimately, I plan to get back to being more in the CEO role like I was before, but it will be around a product and company I built from the ground up and am much more passionate about.  I’m excited for this year and for knowing I can do just fine on my own no matter what happens and agree with James when he says Life Tastes Better When You Eat What You Kill.