I have been trying to trace back to when I first became so enamored with startups, and creating a business. I think it began when I met the founder of MenuPages, Greg Barton. Prior to that I was just another software engineer, totally oblivious to what the world had in store for me. I spent my days slinging code and my evenings chugging brews with my fellow developers.
When I accepted the job at New York Magazine (NYMag) I had no idea I would be working on MenuPages. My manager at the time did mention I would be working on some top secret project, but he could not mention what it was, as the acquisition was not yet complete. When I started, I was immediately thrown into the pit. NYMag had just acquired MenuPages and they wanted to overhaul the codebase and the design, basically the entire site. We got to work, and it was in that process that I discovered so much about how a business works, how it begins, and what sacrifices go into making it successful.
Greg shared a lot of his secrets with me, including why he started the business (saw a market gap), how he marketed the business (word of mouth), how MenuPages worked and how he raised capital. It was amazing to see what he did with MenuPages, and where he took it. Greg was my first real glimpse into the mind of an entrepreneur. Prior to that, I had known other entrepreneurs but never regarded them as such, and consequently never capitalized on my time with them. Maybe it was because I had just moved to New York City, or maybe because Greg's story was so compelling to me, but a light shined into my world of startups.
I started reading TechCrunch and Hacker News on the daily. I began following bloggers, and began honing my coding skills. In the beginning, as a naive developer, I stupidly had the 'Field of Dreams' mentality where if I built it, they would come. It being anything I could hack together and cobble up with my incredibly subpar design skills, and They being a massive hoard, the teeming critical mass causing my servers to burst at the seams. I built a few different sites, bless my friends and family for being the beta testers to lots of terrible ideas by yours truly.
I suspect that developers have a short-sighted view of startups. Since so much of the emphasis today is placed around engineers, I think many technical folks don't realize how much other work goes into a startup also known as a business. My vision became more entrepreneurial as I studied startups, but I also found more questions. What made a business win or lose? Why did some get funding and others did not? What constitutes a great product? How much of it is who you know?
I knew I had the skill set that many startups needed, and I really wanted to know how I could put that to the best use possible. Did engineers posses some magic that made these startups win? Why were we in such huge demand? The questions left me open, and a friend reached out about an opportunity at a startup called Savored (VillageVines at the time). I remember speaking to Greg about it, and he asked me what I hoped to accomplish by going there, and I remember feeling so much passion at what I may be able to affect; and all I could say was magic.
What I learned since then is that it does take magic to run a startup, but only a part of it is in the engineer. The rest of the magic is all mixed up in the founders, the crazy-dedicated (that's crazy and dedicated) employees who come aboard, the customers, and the desire to make something new, something out of nothing. That magic is why I work in a startup. And until the magic is revealed to me, I don't think I can work anywhere else.
Dev/Code/Hack is a technology and business blog by me, Par Trivedi. I'm a software engineer and I've been writing code and managing teams for over a decade. This blog serves as a way to share thoughts and ideas about the tech/startup community, and also to educate newcomers to software development.