Last year I won the Coinbase Bithack v2. Part of the first prize was acceleration at Boost VC. I can tell you without any shame that the first version of Mailman was made with Shitty Code and Duct TapeTM I made it for the same reason I do everything: I was bored. It started with a legal (not really) copy of MEAN Machine opened on my mother's tablet on one side, and my desktop on the other. When I first wrote Mailman, I didn't know what NoSQL was, or what database transactions were, and I used to calculate balances on the fly by balancing debit and credit logs because that's what I was taught in Finance class.
Pakistan has an energy crisis, with rolling blackouts since late early 2008. On a particularly hot summer day, when the power was out I got the news that I'd won.. which was impossible, since I almost didn't submit my final app (thanks Fizz for making me do it). First notification I ever got about the win was from this guy called Adam Draper, and I would've discarded his email like anyone throwing money via email had he not known my full legal name (I rarely use it) and the fact that I'd applied to the Bithack, something only 5 people knew because my unhealthy obsession with Bitcoin was considered eccentric. I made Adam send me a picture of himself for proof since he didn't have a PGP key.
Seriously! Why don't you have a PGP key, Adam?
Soon afterwards, I got the notification from Coinbase itself.
Fast forward six months, when I landed in the US I met Adam, who was much taller than I expected.. not as tall as me though (I'm not used to people being taller than me).
If you know me at all, you know my obsession with Clark Kal-El Kent aka Superman. My jaw dropped when I saw the telephone boxes:
The buildings where we work and live are surrounded by restaurants. The Caltrain station is a few blocks away, and there's a bus stop a few feet away. Bank of America's financial center is the next block over, and the post office is two blocks away.
Moving around can't get any easier than this.
I was jogging one morning when I saw a building with NEO4J written on it. Wait, what? I was reading about this a week ago in Pakistan!
I looked out my window and saw the Blackblaze office. What? I'd read about that company!
I was grabbing the train back from the city when I saw the Coinbase office. Okay, no, Google maps was lying, that's just the Earth Class Mail office. Someone should really fix that.
As a startup, all you need is a table, and good internet. Then you work your way up.
For one, the power never goes out, I could come to work any time, and best of all:
# in Pakistan: $ isup PING 18.104.22.168 (22.214.171.124) 56(84) bytes of data. 64 bytes from 126.96.36.199: icmp_seq=1 ttl=55 time=350.47 ms 64 bytes from 188.8.131.52: icmp_seq=2 ttl=55 time=347.8 ms 64 bytes from 184.108.40.206: icmp_seq=3 ttl=55 time=412.67 ms # At Boost: $ isup PING 220.127.116.11 (18.104.22.168) 56(84) bytes of data. 64 bytes from 22.214.171.124: icmp_seq=1 ttl=55 time=1.47 ms 64 bytes from 126.96.36.199: icmp_seq=2 ttl=55 time=2.38 ms 64 bytes from 188.8.131.52: icmp_seq=3 ttl=55 time=1.26 ms
Also, SpeedTest was off the charts. Guess who didn't need to wait 30 minutes after an
apt-get update && apt-get -y upgrade.
The Boost program is designed to do something I hadn't experience before: to get out of your way and let you do whatever and however you want.
It's my business, thank you for letting me run it the way I want to Boost!
Every week on Wednesday we would get together and give each other updates. There was no strict format, just a few guidelines. We would select our own metrics, share our own progress and optionally talk about whatever it is we want to talk about.
We would ask each other questions at whim, and Boost barely participated in this, except Maddie taking notes and asking us to clarify when our data was vague.
No one forced us to attend or come to these updates, but we all did anyways.. maybe because there was free food after. I like food.
After updates, we would get together and eat dinner. Eventually we started hanging out more often together on our own, and it ended with Tommaso Prennushi cooking dinner for all of us every night.
The community went beyond just Tribe 7, though. Boost's slack channel is full of people from past tribes, and everyone is quite active wrt to posting updates and new things their company's doing.
Megan Endersby is by far the best legal counsel I've ever had. She walked me through appropriate setup, clear terms and policies for our product, and helped me set up everything to ensure that despite being an international founder, our company would have no trouble operating effectively.
I say it all the time, I can't handle being ignored.. Megan replies back immediately, sometimes even in the small hours of morning.
I honestly never understood the word "mentor" or what they were supposed to do. There's no set definition for what a mentor does.
Mentors assigned to me were people with more experience than myself. I tend to give them monthly updates, talk about stuff, and eventually have settled into a relationship where I can piggy back off of their experience.
The advice they're offered me has been, however, invaluable.
Thank you Matt, Roneil, and Billy for the feedback, pep talks, and fundraising advice!
This is the Boost mantra, read the post by Boost.
Cockroach definition: A startup comprised of resourceful founders who survive no matter what. Their competition ignores them but fears they enter their space. They are nocturnal, good at adapting to their environment and good at collective decision making.
I have another way to put it, though: "Don't die".
If you don't die, it means you've figured out a way to live. The only direction you can go from rock bottom (ahem, ramen profitable) is up.
Probably the most innovative group of hackers I've ever met.
Tribe 7: 1. Was three quarts international founders; 2. Had the first Pakistani company; 3. Probably the most harassed by CBP upon entry; 4. Had Tommaso's cooking! 5. Hacked a lot of vending machines. With semi-permission.
We lived together for three months, and did everything from dinners, conferences, and gaming.. including shaving heads -- but that's a whole other story.
Boost gave us the opportunity to learn and grow a lot together. There were blood oathes and spit swears on not dying. And it taught us to "hustle" as Jeff Wasson puts it.
We built a great network, received great critique and guidance. Boost helped us get from nothing to something, and believed in us before we even started.
In no particular order: