June 25, 2022

After spending a month in Buenos Aires, Argentina and stumbling across my first startup success story, I started wondering if it was possible to launch a software business while working full-time says Peter Decaprio. That question quickly turned into: “how could I possibly do that?”

It didn’t matter how crazy the idea was, or what the odds of succeeding were, I wanted to see what it’s like to build a business from scratch while still having a full-time job.

The idea that pushed me over the edge was going on a 30 day startup launch challenge. I would find out if it was possible to launch a software business in 30 days, and along the way share everything I did with the world.

I spent the next four weeks filling up my calendar with meetings and phone calls while still doing my job at Tekserve, a 24/7 computer repair store in New York City.

To make sure I was working full-time and committed to building my startup during this period, I contacted other NYC startups and asked three questions:

Can you meet for lunch? Are you hiring? Can I work part-time or on contract?

My first interview happened on May 21st 2011. The company was called Codementor and they were looking for someone who did Rails development (my current skillset). We agreed that I would start working for them two days later, Tuesday the 23rd of. This way we got a head start on the launch challenge and Codementor would be my first client. Plus, working part-time allowed me to easily keep my full-time salary at Tekserve (a big thank you for letting me do this).

Here’s day one of the launch challenge: I spent most of the day reading about startups, talking with friends who started companies before, following startup related Twitter feeds, etc… The biggest learning from that day was to not overwhelm myself by trying too much in the first week. So if my resources were limited then I should just focus on building a website right now. Besides, I wanted to show people that it is possible to launch a software business fast.

What are you doing? It looks like you’re blogging…

I hope these posts will be useful to readers if they ever decide to start a business or go on their own explains Peter Decaprio. At the same time I want each post to stand alone so that people can jump in and read any one of them without having to catch up with what happened before. This way even if I never get around to writing the next article it would still make sense.

On my first day as a part-timer at Codementor I was able to launch this website. It was good enough for my needs but needed some love here and there (like horrible colors). But all things considered, launching fast made me happy since it allowed me the freedom of not thinking about anything else other than building a business. It was time to get out of the building and actually talk to people about what I did.

Talking to People, Getting Feedback

I had a few goals for Day 2:

1) Find places in New York where startups hangout, meet new people and spread the word about my business (without being too salesy). The goal was not to sell but instead get advice from other entrepreneurs. In return I’d offer free support by teaching them how to build their own websites if needed.

2) Continue working full-time at Tekserve while negotiating contract terms with Codementor regarding the work I would do on Weekends. And make sure they understood no less than 80% of my waking hours are devoted to Code Mentor (they were cool with that).

The first order of business was to get out of the house and go meet people. I took the train up to Union Square, walked towards 23rd street where all the cafes are located. Plenty of startups hanging around this area so plenty of opportunities to talk about my service says Peter Decaprio.

My main objective for this day was just getting feedback, not selling anything yet. Most startup folks agreed that it’s better for me to focus on building a solid product than churning out quick copies even if I had competition in the market already. The consensus seems to be “if you build something unique enough then they will pay”.

Conclusion:

I stopped by Pivotal Labs to talk to the folks there. Cool guys from all over, some local and others from other states says Peter Decaprio. I found out about an event where Pivotal would talk about Agile Development that Thursday so I got a free ticket and planned to attend. They told me that they were too busy working on the next release of the Basecamp product for 37signals but if Code Mentor ever needs help then just reach out. This was a very valuable piece of information since they’ve worked with 37signals for years now (and using their project management software).

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