My cousin / business mentor suggested I document at least ‘once a month’ about how things are going with my company. Being the good mentee, I set up a calendar reminder to do this.
Well it’s been over 3 years, but finally today I decided to keep a journal of what all is going on. Had I done this 3 years ago I’m sure there would already be a treasure trove I could enjoy going through, so I figure better late than never.
Who knows why, but I always seemed to have that entrepreneur’s kick.
Back in college, I really wanted to have a flat screen TV, but I knew it was an excess desire and could not ask my parents for such a luxury. This would be the first wishlist Excel document I put together. I would tutor, move boxes, and find random gigs on sites like rent-a-coder to save money for this TV. I started this kick in April of 2004, by April of 2005 I was now finishing up my Junior year as my Excel tracked savings surged to about $1,500. (Just enough at the time for a low-end EDTV — not even HD!)
My then roommate told me, “you are an idiot”. “Your futon is a piece of shit, wallpaper is ripping off your walls, but you want to get a TV.” He was right, I immediately renamed my Excel file from “TV Fund” to “Lifestyle Improvement Plan.” I made a list of probably a dozen things I needed to do before getting this TV. Paint, leather couch, stainless steel garbage, …. can’t really remember what else, but the total needed was closer to $2,500. Determined to make it happen, I started “Computer Help DC” – since I was always fixing friend’s computers, I had a lot of experience with random hardware or operating systems. I’d never charge friends, so finding prospects forced me find a way into the school newspaper where I wrote a bi-monthly column “The Hatchet Geek.” With a small tagline introducing me in each article, I managed to get maybe 10 customers. A sign in my apartment building yielded me another 3 or so. Without income from my regular part time job at the government, I was able to save up for my first set of lifestyle improvement items. I also discovered that building credibility by writing articles in a qualified publication would yield an increase in sales — stuff I would read about years later.
Computer Help DC was great and all for side work, but it was a real pain in the butt to fix other people’s computers. Money was way better with a job, and time was better spent at happy hours with friends. Just before graduating though, I found myself with a $100 towing ticket. I was pretty pissed at myself and started searching Craigslist’s gigs section for some computer work.
I found Tommy Foster of Prior Art Searches. He had a posting to “build in access database” — “10 hours of work, will pay “$100.” Kind of ridiculous wage, but I responded saying I’d take the 100, but wanted to work from home since it might take 1 hour or 10. I got the gig — did the work, and stopped by his office to do the demo. There, he had a chart showing some network diagram. He had his broadband line plugged into a really old 1 MBps switch and was wondering why. I suggested he get a faster switch, and pretty soon he became what helped start my company.
I built a workflow system for him (I forgot the name) for something like $3 grand. Got my parking ticket paid for with the first project, then got my backpacking trip post graduation paid for. After finishing that, he had me build a client management portal, I called it the EIS or Enterprise Information System. This was $25,000 + “$600/month” maintenance.
I built the EIS in about 3-4 weeks in the evenings after my job at the DoD. Around this time, I also replied to a craigslist ad from someone looking for a “software development business partner” — turned out this ad was from Tim Spell, my classmate at GW.
Like myself, he was also taking gigs on craigslist for what seemed like easy money. Together, we formed vOfficeware in March of 2007. Both still with fulltime jobs, we had what we thought was a low stress way to make extra money. Looking at Prior Art Searches we were like “man — if we can do this in just a few hours a week, imagine how much we can make if we did this full time!”
It wasn’t till January of 2009 until we both quit our jobs. From 2007 to now we have yet to find another Tommy Foster or Prior Art Searches. If I had known what hell it is to grow and run a business, I never would have set foot. I guess that’s why 5 months after quitting my job, my cousin who founded and later sold Ignited Discovery told me to keep a journal.
I’d love to reminisce and write about all the stories since 2009, let alone since 2007, but they will be flashbacks as this posting is. I hope to spend the time journaling about events as they happen as I also reflect on the past.
Worst case, this will be a nice memory for myself. Best case some of the notes here can help others who are looking to bootstrap and build their own company.