It is that time of year again, time to reflect on what has happened over the past year, where I succeeded and where I failed, and more importantly set goals for the coming year.

I, like many of you, had a pretty rough year so I am quite pleased to bid adieu to 2016.

I like to start these posts by covering what I actually did this year before delving into the specifics of last year's goals and how I did there, so here it goes!

  • Started a new business - Last year I started Bitkumo with my friends Lev and Mike. Things didn't work out super well there, but before Bitkumo ended Lev and I started a new business, Statusy. Statusy makes affordable status pages. I've put tons of time into this business and it has grown over the year into a profitable business.

  • Lost a job - I really enjoyed my time at Virtkick, but unfortunately budgetary constraints resulted in me being laid off around the beginning of the summer. While this sucked at the time, I look at it as a blessing in disguise, giving me a chance to relax and work on personal projects for the first time since I was high school.

  • Got a new job - One door closes, another opens. Not long after I departed from Virtkick I started working for Plaid Technologies, a position I have really come to love over the past few months. I feel like this position was made for me and it is allowing me to grow substantially as a developer.

  • Moved - Another year, another move. After I finished my time at Virtkick my then girlfriend and I decided it would be wise to move closer to family, so we packed up our apartment and moved north to Minnesota. When we arrived it wasn't much different than San Antonio, honestly the heat was kind of worse (with humidity stacked in), but I quickly forgot about that as we moved into the winter and sub-zero temperatures. I never understand what -19 meant in terms of temperature, but I do now: pain.

  • Traveled - I had the pleasure of taking a road trip from San Antonio to the Minneapolis area at the beginning of the year so my then girlfriend could attend a friend's wedding. I love road tripping and it is always a joy to see family so that was a good time. I also spent a few weeks in San Francisco, I hadn't been there previously but it was an enjoyable time, thanks Plaid!

  • Ended a relationship - Easily the roughest part of the year was the end of my near nine year relationship with my girlfriend, April. Break ups always suck, but this was especially rough given the time and experiences we had together. Fortunately, many friends and family were there to help me make it through to the other side with relatively minor wounds, thanks guys!

With that out of the way, it is time to look at what I wanted to accomplish this year. In my post from 2015 I listed the following goals for 2016:

  • Grow Bitkumo - This sort of happened. Bitkumo stagnated about four months after the beginning of the year, my good friend and then business partner Lev decided we shouldn't proceed. After some himming and hawing we eventually decided to sell the business to Virtkick, who continues to operate Bitkumo to this day. But hey, a successful exit is still success!

  • Get my code into production - Check! Much of my code eventually went into production at Virtkick. I also have a fair number of things in production with my current employer.

  • Learn RoR - A swing and a miss. I learned what I needed to know during my time at Virtkick, but after moving to a company that didn't utilize Rails I kind of lost interest. I have more than made up for this in my improved JS skills though.

  • Continue growing as a developer - Definitely. I've learned a ton more about Javascript, wrote a React/Redux app and continued expanding my Python knowledge. I have also improved my code reading skills drastically. I never imagined this would be as hard as it is, but it is definitely a skill to be developed.

  • Continue growing as a person - Sure. With the end of the relationship I mentioned above I took a lot of time to do some soul searching and learn a bit more about myself. Through this I've become a better Joe, I think.

Overall I am happy with my progress for the year, especially given the difficulties it has introduced. Now, on to 2017!

  • Continue growing Statusy - I love working on Statusy, I have found a great partner in Wojtek, a former colleague from Virtkick. Together we have made innumerable improvements to the Statusy platform including several major redesigns, improved UI/UX and more features than I can count on my fingers and toes. I want to continue growing this business, it is fun, and I feel it fills a hole in the market.

  • Continue learning about myself - It sounds kind of like BS, but hey it is what it is. Doing my own thing has allowed me to learn more about who I am, what I am, and what I want. I want to continue this adventure in 2017.

  • Resume pilot training - A few years back I started developing a love of aviation. This manifested its self in the pursuit of my private pilots certificate. Unfortunately, things didn't work out financially so I ultimately stopped this pursuit, but now that I am where I am, it seems like a great time to pick this up again.

  • Have fun - Another thing I have learned throughout the year is that working all the time is simply no fun. I've had several very productive years, but working all the time has started to have an impact on myself today, my previous relationship and relationships with friends and family. I don't intend to become a bum, but I do want to take it easy this year and enjoy myself a bit more.

With that, good bye 2016, hello 2017. I hope you all have a great 2017!

Another year is coming to an end, thankfully. Like most others, I have had a rather dreadful year, bidding 2016 farewell will be quite satisfying. The end of the year always makes me reflect on how things went over the course of the year. This year I have been thinking quite a bit about pivotal moments.

Looking back, there are a number of moments in my life that drastically altered where I am today. At the time, these decisions did not feel like they would be pivotal. In some cases, the outcome was disappointing, in others, indifference, and in some I fought tooth and nail to prevent that outcome.

But, despite my efforts, things ended up happening this way, this specific way and I am where I am because of each and every one of those minute decisions.

This got me thinking, what was the first pivotal decision that I made? Was it deciding not to play soccer in middle school? Picking to sit next to X or Y at lunch? At some point in my past there was a moment that created this particular path through life. I don't know what this moment was, but I wish I did.

After thinking about this extensively lately I've decided that I need to start living in the now more often, rather than the future. The decisions we make today can be the pivotal decisions we look back on in a few year's time. Taking time to live in the moment and ultimately make yourself susceptible to these pivotal moments can shape your future in a big way.

Think before you act, but not too much. Happy New Years everybody!

I mentioned in my other post about some events that fundamentally changed my view on the world. Here, I wanted to dive into one event in particular, the break in I experienced in early August this year.

Not long after I moved from Texas to Minnesota to be with my girlfriend's family I headed out to San Francisco for a couple weeks to do onboarding for a new position I had just secured. The onboarding went great, I loved (and still do) my new company and the expereince overall was exemplary. It was the last weekend I would be in San Francisco, I remember snapping awake around 8 AM. I rolled over and grabbed my phone, as I usually do in the morning, to see what had happened while I slept. I saw one message from my girlfriend "Dude, look at the camera".

I had purchased a "smart" security camera and set it up in the apartment before I left. The camera had an app that notified you of movement, or in this case, an "Unknown Face". I looked at the other notifications on my phone and my heart dropped, I saw several "Unknown Face" notifications in a row.

I quickly opened the app and started watching the videos. The first shows a man kicking down our door, walking in and looking around. The others showed two other men carrying things out of our apartment. One video showed our TV sitting in the hallway before one of the burglars swept it up into what I assume was a waiting vehicle. I looked at the live view on the camera to see the now shattered door to our apartment hanging about half open with nobody to be seen.

The feeling was devestating - sitting a thousand some odd miles away, in an Airbnb watching your apartment being robbed.

My girlfriend, who was still in Minnesota at the time, but away with family handled the event like a true champ. She managed to call the police (for the record, if you need to call the police in another area, just dial 911 and they can connect you to the police department where the crime is happening) and not long after I watched the videos I saw more "Unknown Face" notifications as the police had arrived.

After I arrived home, my girlfriend and I combed through the apartment to see what had been taken. We found our TV missing, a box of credit cards and other personal documents missing, all of my girlfriend's jewelery, an iPad and some other miscellaneous things were all nowhere to be found. This sucked, especially my girlfriend's jewelry (which included a number of sentimental pieces), but the coming days would make it clear this was not the primary loss.

We stayed with my girlfriend's family for about a week after I returned from San Francisco while we made improvements to the security of the apartment. When we were satisfied, we hesitantly moved our things back into the apartment and spent our first night there. Neither of us slept, every little creak and whisp of wind made us roll over and check our security camera for invaders. This continued, unfortunately, for months.

When I thought of what a burglary was in the past, I always thought about losing things. Things like laptops, jewelry, TV's and such, just like the things we lost. But what I never thought about is the emotional and psychological impact something like this has on you. An event like this kind of introduces fear as a regular emotion in your life. Will they come back? If they do will they hurt us? Should we move?

I am fortunate in that I have never really felt true fear, but having it forcefully added as a regular feeling in your life is very traumatic.

Despite how bad this experience was, it does have a silver lining. It has made me realize that physical security is a very real thing, and it goes beyond a lock on the door. True security should exist in layers. Introduce redundancies to ensure an invader is caught before they have the opportunity to enter your home, and if they do enter, make sure you can watch their every move.

Beyond the security implications, I also wanted to mention that should something like this happen to you, go find yourself a therapist to talk about it. My girlfriend and I did not do this, but looking back on it and our experience since I really wish we had. This is very much a traumatic experience, it isn't something you should just sweep under the carpet and move on with. Deal with it while it is fresh and you will probably suffer much less in the months after.

Every now and again you encounter a series of events that fundamentally changes the way you view the world. For me, the past few months have held a number of events that have definitely change my view substantially.

Looking back, I've realized that I placed a great deal of importance in objects. I spent time looking at cool new gadgets, tech and other gizmos that I longed for, so much so that I would buy them against my better financial judgement. I'm not sure if this is strictly a Joe thing, or a symptom of being very wrapped up in technology as a whole, but I have realized that this is not the way I should be.

As I mentioned above, a number of events have happened in my life in the past few months that have given me pause, so much so that I have taken time to evaluate my perception, my actions and myself at a fundamental level. What I previously thought were sources of happiness (gadgets, tech, and so on) I have realized were just a sort of bandaid to keep me going. The joy of getting that new NAS, or the new iPhone is fleeting. It feels incredible at first, but you quickly forget how it made you feel and look for the new gadget or gizmo to purchase.

I've realized, what is not fleeting though is the feeling you have when you are around those who love and care for you. I have never, not even once, found myself longing for a lost object (hold maybe one of signficiant sentimental value), but now, as this rough year comes to a close, I do find myself longing for those who are no longer around.

So, I suppose the point of this little entry is to pay attention to those who matter to you most, especially as we enter the holidays. It has been said a thousand times, I am sure, but sometimes you do not realize what you have until it is gone, this has held especially true for me this year. So take time, evaluate yourself and think of who matters to you and give them a hug and a kiss, while they are still there.

I have learned so much about the startup life over the past couple years. I worked with a larger startup, a smaller one, and several that I can call my own. I learned how funding works, how marketing works, how sales happen (how sales don't happen), how to avoid technical mistakes and how to make great products.

Despite all of this, I believe the most important thing I have learned over this time has to do with co-founders.

Co-Founders are those people who share your vision - they work for little or no pay, they do the grunt work early on, they transform the vision into a real product. They do this in hopes of creating something great. Co-Founders are immensely important in shaping the future of your company. Given this, you should take time in considering who should become a co-founder.

What to consider

To become better at this process I have compiled this short list of things to consider. This list is by no means exhaustive, but I think it covers most of your bases.

1. How do you work with this person?

Find out how your potential co-founder works. Things I have found of particular important include:

  • How many hours will this person put in to the business?
  • How fast do they work?
  • How detail oriented are they?

Bringing somebody on board who works slower than you, less time than you, and sloppier than you will make you (and probably the rest of the team) pretty unhappy. Make sure you see eye to eye with your potential co-founder, make sure you are both ready to put in similar amounts of effort and you have similar ideas about the quality of your work.

2. What do they bring to the table?

Ideally, you should bring on co-founders that fill some gap in skills at your company. Given this, make sure the potential co-founder has skills that are valuable to you and your team. Already have five backend devs? It probably isn't wise to bring on a co-founder who loves writing backend code.

However, bringing on a co-founder with overlapping skills isn't necessarily a bad thing if the person brings other things to the table, but just be mindful about how other co-founders or team members may feel if you bring somebody else into the fray that may do the same thing they are doing.

3. Do you like this person?

Arguably one of the most important traits you should be looking for is relatability. This is somebody you are going to be dealing with every day for the next few years so you should pick somebody you generally like.

Do not invite somebody to join your team as a co-founder if you can't stand them - regardless of how skillful they may be.

4. Are there any warning signs?

Generally, people who are up for coveted co-founder positions are people you know somehow. They are friends or co-workers, so you probably know a fair amount about them. You should use any and all of this information to your advantage:

  • Have they done something like this before? How did it end?
  • How do they interact with others? Are they well liked?
  • What is their previous work like? Are they known for quality?

If the answers to these questions are not positive you may want to reconsider bringing this person on as a co-founder. I have found that behaviors from the past rarely disappear completely - if the person has done something undesirable in the past, it is likely that behavior will continue in the future. Make sure you are okay with this.

The team is more important than the idea

If you are like me, you have probably read tons of stories about startups, how they failed, how they succeeded and what could be done better. One common theme I have found is that the team is more important than the idea and execution is key. That being said, you should set yourself up for success by picking the best possible co-founders early. It is easier to be critical now than it is to deal with a bad match later on.

Have any other tips about selecting good co-founders? Please let me know, I'd love to hear your suggestions.