Start Something

The following is an excerpt from an email I sent to DeveloperTown in January 2016. 

Not everyone may be aware of our tagline. If you’re not, it’s “Start something.” If you don’t know this history of our brand as communicated via our website, here’s a quick snapshot:

Caps and punctuation are what we posted on the website. There’s a story behind each of those taglines and where we were as a firm. Perhaps some time I’ll force Michael to write about the original vision behind “a venture development firm.” It was an awesome vision. But for now, let’s focus on “Start something.”

We have roots in startups. “Start something” is a great call to action for the entrepreneur on the fence. “Hey you! Stop thinking about it. Do it. Start something.” And maybe we can help you do it? In my head, I read it as a passive aggressive call to action. Or maybe aggressive - Start something!

Now that we work with larger companies as well, we can’t talk about co-founders, ideas, and venture development. Start something is a great call to action for someone within an organization who might be wondering where DeveloperTown fits relative to all the other consulting firms in the market. When do you choose DT? When you’re starting.

Let’s call someone (or a group of someone’s) starting something a Start. (I’m borrowing heavily from Cloran here. That’s his language I think. And I like it.) The reason DT exists is to support Starts. We try to hyper focus on saas and mobile Starts – but you’ll occasionally find us helping other Starts as well. We help not-for-profits, we coach entrepreneurs who aren’t always in software, and we will occasionally provide space (if we can) to all sorts of Starts.

The reason DeveloperTown exists is to support Starts. I once saw Michael write that as “…to encourage Starts of all sorts.”

This week, someone asked me why I was at DeveloperTown. I’ve been asked that a lot in the past, but I’ve always given a crappy answer. Or at least, the answers all sound crappy to me. I normally make something up on the spot. And while it was likely true, it’s never the real answer. This is my attempt at a non-crappy answer.

I originally joined DeveloperTown because I was bored. When Michael approached me with the idea, I was just getting ready to go back into independent consulting as a software tester. In the world of software testing, I was a big fish in a small pond. While I still have much I could learn about that craft, by any objective measure I was on top of my game, and I was getting bored. I was ready for my next challenge. DeveloperTown came along at the right time in my life when I needed a new challenge.

At the time, DeveloperTown excited me for three reasons: sales, finance, and impact.

Sales: As an independent consultant I had done sales, but it’s a very different thing to sell your skills versus selling the skills of someone else. And while I might have sold a $60k to $200k project as an independent, with DeveloperTown I’ve learned how to sell million dollar projects. I love it. It’s like chess and poker mashed together. And I’ve developed my own style that works for me. My style isn’t like any of the other partner’s sales styles. And I like that. I feel like I’m reaching a point where I’m experimenting with nuance in my technique. I feel like I’m starting to reach the end of my “journeyman” status. Someone go put on a pot of coffee…

Finance: I knew nothing – nothing – about venture capital six years ago. Because I never had a dry spell as a consultant, I never really had to manage cashflow. I also knew very little about structuring and managing debt within an organization. And while I could read financial statements, I didn’t really understand them like I do today. And you know what’s scary? I still don’t know all that much. And I love it. I love learning this stuff from Michael. This is his 10,000 hours. And there’s nothing cooler than learning from someone who’s on top of his or her game. And while I feel like my apprenticeship with Michael is almost at a close, I know that in the next five years I’ll learn as much or more about finance as we continue to grow this business. (Don’t read into that – Michael isn’t leaving and neither am I. It’s simply a statement on where I view myself on my journey.)

Impact: This isn’t going to be some flowery exposition on how one of our clients is going to someday change the world. In all likelihood they won’t. Not in the way people like to think about changing the world when they think of one-time startups like Facebook, Apple, or Google. That would be awesome if one of our clients did that. We’d have fun. But that’s not the impact that motivates me. I also don’t get really excited about increasing quality of life through the process of value and wealth creation that is capitalism. I love capitalism – and I believe in all that crap. But it doesn’t excite or motivate me. What motivates me are people. I get excited about the direct impact DeveloperTown can have in the individual lives of our clients and employees. The favorite part of my job is when I’m sitting in a room one on one with someone. I love to coach. When I was a consultant, I would coach other consultants on how to grow their business. At DeveloperTown I coach our clients on how to grow their business. My work – and your work – has direct impact on the lives of our clients. Not their customers. Not their investors. Not the other people in their organization if they’re an established company. Them. We get to make them successful. We get to be a shoulder to cry on.

With my background, I can’t think of a better way to have a larger direct impact.  It’s also why I prefer to consult – rather than work for a product company. If I just built software and sold it to people, I would lose the thing that’s most fulfilling to me. I wouldn’t get to form a relationship with my customer and see how my work directly affected them.  

The reason DeveloperTown exists is to support Starts.  

The world is better because our Starts create value. Our Starts are better because DeveloperTown makes their journey just a bit easier – and increases their chance of success. DeveloperTown is better because I can form deep relationships with its clients and employees. And I’m better because DeveloperTown gives me a bigger platform to help people. I think that’s why I’m here.

Why are you here?

I’m guessing you like the work environment. And I’m guessing most of you like the people you work with. I like both of those too. And maybe you’re learning something new. (You had better be learning something new.) And I bet – like me - you have your own vague and incomplete answer why you’re here. Take the time to find a better answer. It’s worth the thought experiment. The exercise has helped me.

Have a great weekend,