Archive for January, 2009
That’s my advice if you’re thinking about starting your own company. Now, granted, I’m still waiting on Delaware to confirm that I, in fact, have (part of) a company, but the past few months have been pretty educational. Let me walk you through those months:
Summer 2008, sometime
I hate my job more every day. The pay is fine. I’m respected by my peers. The company seems to mean well and try hard to make me happy. But those elements can’t overcome my discontent stemming from corporate lethargy and an avoidance of risk (and a challenge).
I was a free man.
But wait! I felt like I skipped a step. Oh, yeah — that part about identifying my usefulness to society and how I’m going to survive. No worries… I have three and a half years’ worth of savings!
Doctor Yi: It sounds like you aren’t treating your stomach very well. Describe your daily routine for me.
Me: Well, I wake up around noon and make a pot of coffee. I usually skip breakfast because I’m too consumed with ESPN and my RSS feeds. Eventually I’ll get hungry and stop by Subway or Taco Bell. By the time my girlfriend gets home from work, I’m dying to get out of the apartment so we usually go out to eat. There are a lot of great Mexican restaurants in the neighborhood… Then we’ll top off dinner with some hot chocolate or ice cream. …there have also been a lot of birthday celebrations/an election party/after work events to attend, at which I’ll enjoy my favorite craft beers. …couldn’t we have done this over the phone?
I made the move to Boulder. I was pretty sure I’d forgotten how to code, my attempts to “work” were futile and I started to notice my bank account’s rapid decay. At least I moved to decaf and got outside more.
Locked in a small basement room for a day, I had no choice but attempt productivity. The first day of work was awkward — we bought office equipment, set up phone lines, incorporated our company, etc., but I still didn’t know what the company did. I didn’t know whether to check all or none of the boxes on the various forms that insist we must have a purpose. I checked “other”. I started to question my idea of a bottom-up company and anxiety set in. Thankfully there was something calming about working through some of the logistics.
By the end of the first week of locking myself in an office, I got that feeling of a voracious, free-ranging predator (yes, I’m continuing with the metaphor). Ideas were flowing better than ever and my confidence sky-rocketed. Every idea seemed so doable. And now, just a couple weeks later, I’m considering what to start building tomorrow, which is vastly different from considering what I might build someday. No more excuses. I have regained the comfort from knowing that 5 years from now, at the very least, I’ll be able to say “I tried”.
Now, I’ve heard stories of people starting companies – and even selling those companies – in their spare time. If that sounds like it could be you, by all means, keep the payckeck. But if you’re like me, you need to find that small basement room with a locking door. Skip over as much of mid-October through December as possible. January is why you should leave your job.
The term “high order bit” should sound familiar to software developers and other technology enthusiasts. For others, it’s probably complete gibberish. Here’s an explanation of what the term means and why we’ve decided to use it for the name of our company.
In computer science, the term “high order bit” refers to the most significant bit in a binary number; it’s the bit with the greatest value.
For example, consider the decimal number 11, which is represented in binary
1011. The high order bit is the leftmost bit, which adds 8 to the
total value. By comparison, the less significant bits only add a total of
3. Since the value of each bit increases geometrically, higher order bits
contribute significantly more to the total value of a number than do
lower order ones.
If you’re totally confused and/or want to learn more about binary arithmetic, you can do so on Wikipedia.
You can probably read the literal meaning of the term and guess at how it’s used colloquially. In conversation, programmers and other techies might refer to the most important aspect of something as the “high order bit.”
Search is Google’s high order bit. A sexy UI is Delicious Library’s high order bit. If Google fails at search, they’re probably going to have a hard time with the rest of their products, since so much of what they do is built on top of insanely great search. If Delicious Library can’t build an amazing user experience, it’s going to be a lot harder to convince people to shell out $40 for a personal media database.
Okay, I get it. But why use it to name your company?
We obviously liked the meaning of the term. We liked that it was a little bit geeky, even though that means the name draws a blank stare from non-tech types. Most importantly, we think the name fits with the company we’re trying to build and the products we hope to create. We believe that people are the high order bit of any endeavor, and we hope to provide that differentiator in our software.