Learning To Code with CodeYear.com

CodeYear.com is a great idea. They will send you a weekly homework assignment that will teach you how to code. I also like the marketing push to coincide with New Year Resolutions. Sign up if you haven’t already.  I did.

Great idea, but how many people will finish and gain enough skills to actually land a job or launch a successful app?

We all know majority of new years resolutions are never met. I know of only a few reasons most people can successfuly achieve such goals – your life depends on it and/or your career depends on it.

Codeyear is a start in the right direction, but there is a lot more needed than just a tutorial. It needs to create a community support group through forums, meetups, experienced newbies and mentorship.

Augment the codeyear experience by adding taking some additional steps:

1. Set a goal – launch an app or get a job. Keep it simple, a simple CRUD or better yet, a read-only application
2. State it publicly – accountability always helps
3. Get Support – a community to answer questions, guide etc.
4. Get a coding buddy/mentor/partner
5. Fix someone else’s bugs – Coding from scratch is hard. Modifying someone else’s code is a much better starting point.

I don’t know the goals of codeyear, but lots more need to be done to build an app than some javascript. Granted with most shared hosting services, you can get a simple website up and running quickly, but it gets pretty complex with any other functionality beyond HelloWorld. Databases require some understanding of queries, relationships, data integrity, etc. What about version control? GIt vs subversion? What about hosting vs local machine dev?

I doubt many people will stick with the program.  But I want people to make me eat my words. Prove me wrong!!

I’ve signed up for CodeYear and I’m going to seek out a programming mentor, thanks alexkehayias. I “plan” on sticking with it to dust off my development skills and learn some new skills and languages. But life happens …

Build a proper financial model

In my career, I’ve build hundreds of financial models and reviewed thousands more for everything from VC funding to M&A to LBOs.

Lately, I’ve been receiving half backed financial models.

I’m not talking about seed companies where the focus is the product and getting the first customer. I’m talking about companies with a product and paying customers.

I’m not asking for a complete 3 statement financial model that bankers put together.  I’m asking for a model with the key performance metrics highlighted and understanding of the levers that drive your business.

Vanity metrics are nice, but they don’t tell the whole/proper story.

The most important part of the financial model is the revenue build.

I’d like to see your assumptions and understand how you got to the revenue numbers you presented. Don’t just plug 20% growth for the following period.

I want to see that you’ve thought through the number of customers, their spend, their time as a customer, and cost to acquire.  This will lead to your KPIs metrics like LTV, churn, and break-even.  Then compare those to industry numbers and be able to explain why yours are different.

It’s not about being accurate, it’s about thinking it through. Remember back in high school, you had to show your work on those algebra exams to get full credit? Same here.

Every industry and situation is unique, but a well thought out model is important to move an investment along quickly.

I saw the first two episodes of Techstars on Bloomberg over the weekend and I think it’s a pretty good depiction of building a startup. So far is shows how hard, tiring, and humbling the experience is for a startup. I’m sure in the end, it’ll be about the wins and the funding.  What they need is an annual update on the companies and their founders.

The first two episodes highlight how difficult it is to define your product. Most written stories a la Techcrunch are about the launches and funding closes; they barely touch on the difficulties of getting to that point.

In one episode, ToVieFor’s meeting with a potential customer shows how hard it is to explain your service let alone sell it. The show also covered the team dynamics – ToVieFor’s Melanie and her co-founder split only to be replace with someone who she still had issues with. Drama makes for good TV, so maybe it’s just creative editing. ToVieFor shutdown in Sept 2011.

Good job of Bloomberg and Techstars for showing the hard part of startups.

Why doesn't anyone respond? Metrics from GoogSMS

Here are some interesting metrics about GoogSMS‘s first week since it’s launch on Sept 1, 2009.

There are over 30 active users.  Thanks to all the early adopters.
There have been over 2,500 messages forwarded.
Only 150 replies to the messages forwarded.

I would assume that most people would reply to their SMS.  This leads me to believe that we need to educate our users about the ability to reply.

To that note
1.  We’ve simplified the response process for Prowl users with a link in the Prowl notification. See blog post.
2.  Added some bold text to the email message “Did you know” to draw attention to the fact that you can reply via email.

We have just gotten started with GoogSMS.  So much great feedback from our vocal users.  We hear you and are working hard to build the best product possible.