Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Biggest Reason Not to Read "The $100 Startup"

The tagline on the front of the book reads…“Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future”

This sounds fabulous, but what it doesn’t tell you is that - The entire book is focused on creating micro-businesses.  

What’s a micro-business?  Simply put, a micro-business is intended to provide maximum freedom by keeping a business as small as possible but still providing enough income for a nice lifestyle.  Every business discussed in the book is small both in terms of revenue and in terms of company size.

If you’re interested in building a nice scalable business, then the focus on micro-businesses is the biggest reason to pass on this read.

After reading this, I’m surprised it was chosen for a handout at Big Omaha since most of the attendees there are interested in trying to be one of the next successful tech startups.  The other book, Delivering Happiness, which I reviewed previously was a better fit.

That said, Chris Guillebeau did a nice job laying out many of the creative approaches that micro-businesses are using to be successful.  Some of these tips and approaches would apply to a tech startup and others would not.

Overall, I liked most of the advice on staying small and using some ingenuity in the way we market and produce our services/products.  I plan to go back and do some of the exercises that were a part of the book to review my sales pitch and work on a pricing model among other things.

I would recommend this book for someone who is unhappy with their day job or has recently become unemployed.  

And I’ll leave you with a couple of my favorite quotes:

“I spent some of my time learning how a real business works, but I didn’t let it interfere with a busy schedule of reading in caf├Ęs during the day and freelancing as a jazz musician at night.”

“To start a business, you need three things: a product or service, a group of people willing to pay for it, and a way to get paid. Everything else is completely optional.”

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Brief Technical Professional Bio

I was asked by a friend yesterday for a short biography of my technical professional accomplishments so I figured why not throw it on the blog.

Computer Engineering at Purdue

I went out of state to attend Purdue because of the quality of their engineering school.  The computer engineering degree gave me a great foundation in both electrical and software engineering.  

By the time I was a senior, I knew I enjoyed software and web development in particular.  One of the electives I worked on there was a Java website for volunteers and agencies to connect and fill open volunteer slots.  I was using CVS, tomcat, and automating tests with Junit.  Graduated in 2004.

Database Performance at Cerner

I then joined Cerner over an equally competitive offer from IBM mainly because of the benefits of a gym at Cerner.  Neither company was offering me web dev.

I spent about a year doing database performance primarily for Oracle.  During my time, I wrote the book and class for which most of Cerner engineers eventually went through to learn how to troubleshoot and improve the performance of a traditionally used relational database.

Although I was doing well, I wasn’t happy with this work.

Java Web Services at Cerner

Then I was able to join a web development group.  When I joined, we were doing all kinds of things worse than the Java sites I had worked on in college.  It was a big Struts site using Apache Tiles, Jsps, an Oracle db, building with ant and deploying on WAS to top it all off.  It took over a month just to get the local development stack set up.

A year later and I’d done a bunch of i18n, SOAP services, paypal, and other kinds of work, but for the most part the stack remained unchanged.  A little after this at the beginning of 2007, I was promoted to lead the team and we made a bunch of wholesale changes.

Local development started to be on jetty, tomcat became our dev server, and we saved WAS hell until pre-release.  We upgraded to struts 2, fixed the crummy urls, switched to sitemesh & freemarker templates and began using SVN with maven builds.

It was a little better, but I kept grasping for more.  I played with GWT, play, Rails and others but ultimately Google app engine introduced me to django and I couldn’t get enough.

Python Web Development at Home and Cerner

I was fortunate enough to have a manager and cohort, Ryan, be very supportive of switching to python+django and we dumped java for new development.  At the same time we began working on outside of work work.  We coded up a site that used twitter and facebook apis to let you share lists of concepts with your friends.  Google search apis ( which are no longer around) made it easy to embed images, videos, or links to content in your lists.  We deployed to EC2, ran mongodb as a backend, and rolled a basic nginx/apache django stack for our app server & content.  

It wasn’t long before we had introduced much of the side project learning back into the company and we ended up creating the most efficient teams building websites inside of Cerner.  Along the way we learned some lessons on development from Etsy and other forward thinking companies.  Eventually nyroo got boring so we tried something else…

instin & myHomework

Mobile web sites and skinning the site for any device we’d pretty much mastered so we moved on to native code.  We picked up a third guy, Rodrigo, or you could say Rodrigo picked up us :)  After 15 months of building ios, android, and web that all worked together, we had a product successful enough that we thought we could take it full time.

And that’s where we’re I’m at now.

I left out a ton of details and buzzwords but hey, it was supposed to be brief.