A Tale of Two Teams

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness… ~ A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

There is a revolution happening in the tech world. An emerging paradigm that’s letting development teams focus on business value instead of technical orchestration. It is helping teams create and iterate faster, without worrying about the limits or configurations of an underlying infrastructure. It is enabling the emergence of new tools and services that foster greater developer freedom. Freedom to experiment. Freedom to do more with less. Freedom to immediately create value by publishing their work without the traditional barriers created by operational limits.

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My new gig: Chief Technology Officer at AlertMe

Tomorrow I officially join the AlertMe team as their Chief Technology Officer. I’ve known about this company for quite some time, and I always loved the core concept. I’ve been helping them out here and there over the last few months, and I look forward to joining the team, just in time for BETA launch.


What is AlertMe?

AlertMe helps publishers connect directly with their readers in ways they never could before. It allows the reader to raise a hand to say: “Keep me updated on a story that matters to me… don’t make me hunt it down, or hope to randomly stumble upon it.” This helps creates loyal, regular readers, that return to the publisher’s site when new information is published.

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How I Got My Second Customer

As I wrote in How I Got My First Customer, the key was having confidence and putting myself out there. I had what I had, no more no less, and I went for it. Now that I had my first customer, getting my next customer was a lot easier. Now I had a success under my belt. Now I had a client testimonial. Now it was just a matter of finding the right next client.

My first “real” customer was a small furniture store. They didn’t have a website when I first approached them, and they were willing to give me a chance. I worked hard for that customer. I spent more time that I budgeted. I stayed in constant communication. I made sure to over-deliver. In doing so, I created a very happy customer and an advocate for my company. This not only gave me another project to put in my portfolio, but it gave me a valuable human reference from a real business owner. This was key to getting my second customer.

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How your Kid’s School Project can Teach you to be Passionate about your Work

As a dad with daughters (or sons), one of your primary responsibilities is to help them with school projects. Putting stereotypes aside, or attempting to cause outrage with my 1950’s assumptions, at least in my house (and many others that I know of), mom acts as the project manager. Scheduling time for your child to work on her project. Making sure that she has gone to the library and searched the web for the proper research materials. Helping them write the report and typing it up on the computer. Then comes you, the dad. You come armed with your tools, scrap building materials, and your unrelenting desire to build something cool.

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How I Got My First Customer

I started my first web development business back in 1998, and like most new ventures, I didn’t start with any customers. I was in college at the time when I started, so my first few websites resulted in free food from the snackbar and some free flyers printed by the campus copy shop. But I wasn’t making any money yet.

The next time I was home at the end of that semester, I knew that if I wanted to make this thing work, that I needed to get paid. So I created a little one page document that outlined what I did, put together a small portfolio of those horrible looking sites I had basically done for free (including one I did as a class project and another I did for a professor) and I started driving around my hometown. I had no idea what I wanted to say and no idea what type of “customer” I was looking for. And for reference, back in 1998, websites were not top of mind for your average small business.

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Thoughts on Building a Development Team

A few months ago I was promoted to Chief Technology Officer at ShopAdvisor. With that title change came a lot of new responsibilities, but it also came with several new opportunities. We’ve been working hard over the last several years to find the right market fit for our technology. After our recent successes with Elle Magazine and proximity programs for retailers, we’ve found ourselves needing to round out our engineering team with some new hires. I knew this would be an uphill battle here in the Northeast, given the current job market, but it was an exciting challenge to take on.

We followed the standard playbook. We put together the job descriptions (and then added some marketing flair), posted them in a few places, and reached out to some agencies. We also bought access into a resume search engines, just to give it a whirl. We got the standard influx of resumes that one would expect. Lots of highly qualified candidates, but sponsorship was a challenge that a small company like ours didn’t want to take on. We got several resumes of not-so-qualified candidates as well. We also started getting A LOT of calls from agencies that we never engaged with. There were some good resumes that we saw; there were even some great ones.

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Why “Against the Wind” by Bob Seger is a Perfect Analogy of my Life as an Entrepreneur

I’ve been an “entrepreneur” for a very long time. If you want to count shoveling snow for dollars when I was a kid, or my brief stint trying to start a baseball card shop with my cousin when I was 11, then I’ve been doing this for well over 25 years. By the time I was a sophomore in college, I had already experimented with everything from Amway to selling computers using classified ads. I even tried investing in a psychic hotline, so yeah, I’ve tried quite a bit. It wasn’t until I started my first web design business from my college dorm room that I really found my passion.

Since then I’ve been involved in more web projects and products than I can remember. I’ve owned and bootstrapped a web development firm with several employees, raised seed and venture money for web startups, built products that have succeeded and products that have failed. The other day I found myself telling someone my “entrepreneurial” life story. I went through all of my successes, challenges, and failures. It was both exhilarating and depressing at the same time.

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