About a month ago TheSquareFoot moved our base of operations to New York City to begin the Entreprenuers Roudntable Accelerator. The following are some of my initial thoughts and impressions after the first month:
Good for meetings, bad for code
From day one, it was essentially meeting after meeting after meeting. Between mentor meetings, meeting other startups, and accelerator events it seemed my calendar was full of end to end meetings and events. Most were quite enjoyable and the information I got from them was invaluable. However, I am more of an introvert than an extrovert, so talking to people all day (as well as having to be “on”) for that long can be exhausting. At the end of the day, I would look down and realize that I hadn’t been able to write any meaningful code and by that time of the day I didn't really have the energy or focus to start.
Proper time and task management is crucial for staying on top of your work. Sometimes this means knowing when you need to head to the quiet side of the office and get your head down in some code. My team and I probably should have had this done before we got here, but we did grab some time early on to go through our product and prioritize new features and bug fixes. This helped tremendously and it enabled me to get through some low hanging fruit, even with everything going on.
Incubators/accelerators tend to put you in collaborative spaces with all the startups sitting in one area. You meet new people and hear great ideas. It's easy to get feedback and in general it's just a good time (lots of silliness). But, and I can’t stress this enough, it’s almost impossible to get hard code work done in these spaces.
While my experience is limited to ERA, there are quiet areas here and times available that allow people to focus on their work. You have to be able to take advantage of them. I get the most done early in the morning, and as such, I'm almost always the first person in the office everyday. Another tip: noise canceling headphones. Get them. They’re worth their weight in gold.
Networking, networking, networking
As I said before, I am more introverted by nature. I have no problem interacting with people and most people assume that I’m in my element in big crowds, but in reality I recharge when I’m alone and able to think by myself. That being said, some of the best advice I have gotten is to "network like your life depended on it". I have met some great engineers, entrepreneurs and just people in general. And while I love my current job and team, you never know what comes next.
Probably one of the greatest benefits is working in close proximity to other engineers who are using different technologies and techniques. In our class alone we've got Rails, Flask, Node.js as well Backbone and Angular for the client side. One of the companies is using neo4j which I hadn't even heard of until I met them. Along with this exposure to different technologies there is also an exposure to different techniques and methods of project management as well as the different development and analytics tools people use. Every Tuesday we have a CTO roundtable and so far they have been amazing. We are actually beginning a series where we try to teach the rest of the group about a subject that we have a lot of knowledge. I'll be sharing my travails with Backbone.js. (I'll also try to post some articles on the subject on this blog).
I'll admit, when I first got here, I was intimidated. When I first arrived and was introducing myself to others, I realized that the majority of my compatriots were extremely smart. Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Yale, Columbia and Brown. PhD's and MBA's.
Then we started meeting with the mentors. I was amazed at both their resumes and just how sharp some of them were. After five minutes of describing our business, they were able to understand and contribute to our business discussions. I've been with the company for six months and I'm still struggling to understand some aspects of it. All of this is quite intimidating to a guy who was lucky to graduate from a state school and up until three years ago was stuck doing .NET development at an insurance giant.
With all that said, my experiences with everyone have been amazing, and my intimidation has melted away seemingly overnight. I remember what a drill sergeant in basic training had said to me when I had expressed my nervousness at meeting a high ranking officer during an inspection: "Why are you intimidated? He puts his uniform on the same way you do." The point being was that he was once like me...the only difference was time.
It's been a whirlwind. I'm trying to make these posts weekly or bi-weekly, depending on how much my other duties pull me away from it. Also, I intend to make these posts somewhat more technical in nature as I describe some of the new features that we will be implementing for our product (PostGIS is coming...)
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