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That Startup Life: The Covid Special – Musings of a Technical Co-Founder

That Startup Life: The Covid Special A Technical Co-Founders Journey

For the past few months now I have been working deeply on an incredible opportunity called LittleNewt (https://littlenewt.com) Now on the surface, Automating tax stuff for CPA’s, it may not sound the most thrilling, but building a fully automated system from scratch to do this is a bit more so. A startup is challenging to begin with and we decided to make it a bit harder by throwing a dash of covid into the equation, not by choice certainly, but it is what it is and a covid startup does have some advantages, namely – focus. When there isn’t anything else to do it becomes pretty easy to focus on building something.

In 3 short months, we took a product from an idea and a few notes into an automated platform that does some pretty nifty things from a few different perspectives and stands to be rather disruptive to a market that still looks like the world runs on windows 98. Now that I am coming up for a little air I thought I’d detail a bit about the process, startup life during covid, and general tips, tricks, hacks, ideas, philosophies, and reasonings that lead from an idea to a working product and some of the steps to get there.

When I design systems I like to begin with the idea – what are we trying to accomplish. I have to view the project from as many perspectives of the user as I can muster both internal and external. The idea should be something simple “Automate Tax work” a building block to build out of. If your system is comprised entirely of tiny blocks dedicated to automating tax work then when you finish building something those same properties (and others) should emerge from the finished system. This is how nature operates and how our perception of reality is formed so the benchmarks out there indicate the method works!

After the idea is clear and simple the process is to set the scope – what sort of rules are going to confine our system – what sort of software do we have to use, what sort of interface are customers used to, what other products are doing, does the market place any bounds, regulations, etc. You likely won’t know them all, but having an idea of what sort of barriers you are going to encounter during the process allows for better planning, fewer revisions, and a faster product development cycle.

So now the stage is set we’ve defined the terrain and we know the destination now to walk the path – but wait, we’re making the path as we go.

This step of the process I find will define a product, what is our process?

For me, this decision is always easy – I have 20+ years of a litany of skills and know I can develop an MVP solo – it won’t be some work of gorgeous elegance, but it won’t crap out at the first sign of mud either. If you are a technical co-founder or aspiring to be, this is the wheelhouse you want to inhabit. Why? Even if you can put the spit and polish on something your job as the technical co-founder is blazing the trail, not making it look pretty for people to follow you. This process when viewed from above will look like a river moving through the land moving this way and that with thousands of little tributaries branching out (dead ends, not right nows, maybe laters) with the overall path of the river itself representing the system being developed.

Using natural systems as inspiration isn’t exactly new hat, but I find it often overlooked for the flavor of the month acronym, some holy grail 1 stop language, and endless wireframes. Why is there often a disconnect between your technical people and non – especially in startup land? Because there is often a disconnect from reality – we focus so much on the esoteric ideas of our roles that we forget they aren’t so complex – perhaps there is an onus in society that drives this behavior, but as trailblazers, it becomes part of our job description to find the path of least resistance and remove what clutter we can so the waters flow (that’s cash for those of you who have had too much metaphor).

At this stage, the mind will churn and stacks, implementations, off-the-shelf, open-source, and proprietary solutions will begin to mingle and a solution to the problem we just created begins to take shape. Time to do some work and begin building the foundations of your system. Start broad, use off the shelf, and open source as much as possible even if a future iteration will re-write the functionality. Aim to be custom coding as little as possible in the beginning – even if your meta power is super coding you will still bend the knee to the almighty copy & paste find & replace. There is a saturation limit here that will vary depending on your project. Plugging in 120 different libraries may be fine for a prototype, but you should probably refactor the idea for an MVP.

Solving this equation efficiently and elegantly is what defines a technical co-founder and can often directly impact the success of any startup.

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No Absolutes

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The State of Things: Its the end of the world as we know it… or is it?

benjamin-c-george-theory-of-information

The State of Things

Its the end of the world as we know it… or is it?

*shrug* 

One perspective is the math. If we take growth models and apply some of the statistics we have on the corona virus and extrapolate that the contagion lives on some surfaces up to 9 days, is airborne, it takes days-weeks to incubate in a host,  and can infect people before hosts show symptoms then it stands to reason that its been making its way through major population centers from mid-January and at this point will probably end up as ubiquitous as the flu. End of the world? Probably not. 

Yet, the end of the world as we know it is a bit more complex than simply one virus making the rounds. If we look at the effects this is having as another perspective there is a lot of interesting takeaways. 

Markets: Capitalism has many mantra’s and one is never to let a good crisis go to waste.  Usually, in times like this, we see a run up on Treasury bonds, gold, and investments like bitcoin. Indeed the FED injected 1.5 trillion into the bond market, but it made a little splash and may as well have been a stone thrown into a wave. The reasons could be varied and is more likely a combination of reasons than one specific takeaway. In the lineup, we have a potentially overextended investment sector that lacks liquidity (cash money) to buy up these assets which in a word or two is not good. Another factor could be a general fear of the unexpected as the root cause of this particular crisis is a new flavor and investors are waiting to get more information to guide their next steps. Speculation could continue, but I feel the takeaway here is the novelty of this crisis combined with a global intertwined society has put the entire world’s markets on new and unknown economic ground. 

Supply Chains: Where does your TP come from? The vast majority of toilet paper is bought from 3 companies, but where do those 3 companies manufacture this white gold? If you guessed not in the USA you’d be pretty right. If you guessed not in the majority of the developed world, you also are pretty right. The generic medicines that every hospital in the western world relies upon? Without the ability for pharmaceutical companies to rake people across the coals with 1500% markups those have all be off-shored. You’re electronics, the computer chips in your cars, household items? Yup, those all reside in countries where the labor cost (read: slave/child/indentured labor) and manufacturing cost (lack of regulations/safe working conditions/and general oversight) are low. Indeed the vast majority of products that aren’t concerned about intellectual property fall into this category. It is the reason when you type a product into amazon you get thousands of results. 

Social – in our ‘modern’ age people’s ability to deal with actual people is dismal in most places and downright hostile often enough that we have all sorts of rules and laws to attempt to ‘protect’. The erosion of the historical community has been happening long before this global hysteria, but it is through events like this where the effects of that degradation are keenly felt. As the constant moving target of what to do is being replaced with closures, cancellations, and warnings the seemingly ever-present distractions of society are being replaced with hysteria. No more events, sports, concerts, social gatherings? Oh my! 

Politics: A plethora of bloodsuckers seems perfectly fitting in this current situation. It seems that at all levels of political systems across the world there is a consistent message of ‘we care, but we don’t care’. Rather through indecision, inaction, or over-actions, we’re seeing the host of responses lean to the extremes. In any crisis, measures taken should follow their namesake and be measured. Yet we find ourselves embroiled in a cacophony of a mixed response. 

The Global Society: If the above explorations indicate anything it is that we are all connected. Despite that interconnectedness we remain divided as a race of people. Those divisions, those absolutes are responsible for the ineptness, delays, grandstanding, and indecision that is currently magnifying this pandemic into something that is more than itself. It is our archaic adherence to the absolutes we use to define our various tribalisms, divisions, and professed differences that are derailing the various systems of the world that have evolved to be what they are. 

Indeed all of this combined suggests that we stand upon a precipice of change even if those changes are responses to the above situations they will have lasting impacts for a time to come. Historically when there are times of burden, great upheaval is more likely to occur. With an election looming in the US a magnifying lens will be focusing on aspects of government and private industry that have worked exceptionally hard to remain outside that lens of discernment.  The gimmick of “look over here not over there” loses significant potency when people can’t get toilet paper to wipe their ass. 

It may well be the end of the world as we know it, but the world won’t end just yet

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No Absolutes

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Into The Swing of Things

Some Thoughts

Into The Swing of Things

Life happens and often it is sincerely lacking in any semblance of justice, fairness, or other placated ideals that really only exist in bubbles. So, what do we do when life happens? Personally, I find myself falling back into the rabbit holes in which I’ve done the most exploring, finding familiar territory and chipping away at walls that have been etched to their seeming extreme. Sometimes I find myself a little nugget or even a tunnel into another rabbit hole that I didn’t realize were connected. It is a way to gain some perspective, that familiar territory reminds me that in the journey of life I’ve come far and with each of those steps I’ve connected many things and yet many more connections exist.

Once upon a time, I used to write thoughts like this often. I suppose the excitement of abandoning the simple and trekking down a path of uncertainty & adventure was inspiration enough. A desire to heard certainly supported the effort, but I found over time that my desire to be heard was diminished. In part, it was due to my enlightenment of the world around me. A realization that challenge my young hubris. I contented myself to explore these vast cavernous expanses until I had some form of understanding that merited being heard. At some level I simply didn’t want to be wrong, at some level I didn’t want improper ideas, thoughts, or works to define me.

This kicked off quite the adventure – one that I will be telling for the rest of my life.

In the tradition of our seemingly cyclical reality, this has come ‘full circle’, although that isn’t what a cycle is. In this ever dynamic existence, even the cycles that seem to revolve over and over are not truly doing that. Sure, the meta-occurrences seem relatively aligned, but that alignment is happening in an entirely novel place and time and the culmination of the events in the previous cycle is adjusted by this constantly changing position. Much the way our sun’s procession around our galactic plane, we will never be in the same spot twice. Even if we found ourselves in the same spot by some bit of wizardry the sum total of the events that happened between A&B would change A into B.

Life is full of these cycles and I find myself at the culmination of more than a few, stepping from A to B I’ve found my desire to be heard again. The intention is to articulate my adventures, research, experiments, and experiences into something that sometimes pushes these cycles faster and aims to slow down others extracting the richness, joy, and beauty we often cruise by awash in the many other cycles of our lives.

Indeed life happens, it is happening and there are conversations to be had so I hope you join me on this continuing adventure as I wish to have quite an array of conversations nudging cycles, and making life happen.

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Patreon

Patreon is a great way for me to fund this entire adventure from gear to race buy ins and maybe even a smidge for my time – join the party for as little as $1 a month and be a part of the journey!

Sweatcoin

Sweatcoin is an awesome concept of a crypto-currency based system that rewards your to move around! Get paid to walk & run, get special offers for your hard earned sweatcoins!

Youtube

I just started up a youtube channel to document this adventure. It is more than just another running story and encompasses the larger adventure that is the past 12 years of my life culminating into now. 

No Absolutes

The philosophy that is inspiring this journey, check out the preview my clocking button! This is my first book and is self published you can order on this site or amazon!