A successful entrepreneur shares her thoughts on business success and failure.

Posts published in the Startups category:

My Experience at YC Hacks (Y Combinator’s First Hackathon)

YC Hacks I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. At 33 years old, I knew I’d probably be older than the vast majority of the 400+ people attending Y Combinator’s first YC Hacks hackathon. But other than that, I didn’t have many expectations.

YC Hacks was my first real hackathon. Many years ago, I went to the first SuperHappyDevHouse (and then 19 out of the first 20 of them), but I never had built and launched a web app in a weekend. Even though I’ve held down full-time jobs as a developer, I still have trouble telling people “I’m a developer.” I’m not a whiz-kid 19-year-old who grew up programming games in his bedroom, nor do I have a Computer Science degree from a prestigious university (I’m a dropout.) I program because that’s how I get to see my ideas come to life–and because it’s fun and addictive for me. And that’s why I signed up for YC Hacks.

With my startup having been acquired a few months ago, YC Hacks seemed like the perfect opportunity to meet new people and get exposed to the latest Silicon Valley trends.

Team? Team? Will You Join My Team?

My first exposure to the other attendees came through the YC Hacks Facebook group, where people seemed to be in desperate need of other people for their teams. At this point, I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to build, and despite a torrent of private messages and emails from people asking me to be on their team, I didn’t commit to anything prior to the hackathon.

“Are you a designer or a developer?” was a popular refrain on the Facebook group, as well as “What’s your stack?” My response was basically along the lines of “I build shit that makes money” and “Whatever works to get the job done, but probably Javascript.” (Ironically, I would end up building a product at YC Hacks that doesn’t have a monetization strategy. More on that in a bit.) (more…)

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When The Sh*t Hits the Fan With Your Startup

Sh*t Hits the Fan with Your Startup Here’s the story of how our funded startup almost collapsed–how we recovered, and how ultimately we became better and stronger because of it.

It was January 2013 and we’d run into some issues scaling our business. We’d made design decisions on how we built our tool back in October 2010 that were starting to bite us hard as we tried to gain larger clients. Neither Parnell (my co-founder) and I had done anything wrong–we’d just originally built our software to serve the needs of an SEO consultant (me, back then!) and those decisions weren’t scaling to large agencies with tens or hundreds of users potentially using our software.

As more agencies trialed (and ultimately didn’t convert into paying customers) with our software, we uncovered so many fundamental flaws that we were forced to consider a complete re-write. I wanted to add recommendations. Our customers needed more agency features. The feature requests were piling up and the technical debt we had accumulated was staggering. The good news was that we’d uncovered a whopper of a market–the bad news was that our software, as currently written, wasn’t cutting it.

Frustrated by the technical debt and facing serious doubts about his ability as a technical co-founder, Parnell thought about leaving the company. At first I thought it might be a good idea, as well, as he didn’t want to face the prospect of re-writing everything, only to potentially fail again. But a couple days later, after I went through some deep thoughts, I gave him a very personal plea to stay. Next to Brian, my fiance, Parnell is my closest friend in the world, and I believed in him and his technical ability. (I mean, the dude codes Haskell for fun. ;) ) I told Parnell I couldn’t imagine building this company without him.
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I'm Erica Douglass.
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