Like many people, I've always wanted to run my own business. There wasn't a great reason for this. I didn't have an awesome product idea, or see a market niche to be filled, although over the years a few of these have passed me by. I think it was more of a desire to build something, and to be able to run it in my own way. I wanted to be able to step back and look at the thing I built and be proud.
Fortunately, I had the wherewithal to know that the desire to build something can be a good motivator, but it's not a sufficient reason to start a business. So I spent many years working in tech, learning, and growing.
Last summer I moved back to my hometown of Toronto, Canada after living in the Bay Area for a decade. Coming home threw into relief how much things had changed since I'd been away, including how much I'd grown professionally.
Working in tech in the Bay Area really is a great experience, which explains why so many people migrate there to do just that. And while there are elements of the HBO show Silicon Valley that ring uncomfortably true, what doesn't come through is that building large scale software is really hard. It doesn't happen suddenly after a brainwave and an all nighter. It happens when a bunch of dedicated people grind away at a problem methodically, for weeks and months.
This kind of deeply collaborative work requires a lot of planning, open communication and thoughtful implementation, which is all really difficult to be successful at. As a result, some of the most important innovation in tech in the last 20 years hasn't been the technology at all, it's been around the culture, processes, tools and best practices that foster this kind of work. And because technology in the Bay Area is competitive and (paradoxically) tight knit, it's like all of this innovation is happening in a pressure cooker environment.
The other thing that doesn't come across in the HBO show is that, while many of the characters exist in some form or another in real life, by and large the people working in the real Silicon Valley are smart, humble and hard working. The process of large scale software development simply could not otherwise happen.
Back in Toronto, reflecting on what I was going to do next, it occurred to me that my past decade of work had gifted me a wealth of knowledge and experience around building software, and relationships with a lot of amazing practitioners in that space. I had finally stumbled upon the product I could build a business around!
Since then I've been working with clients in the Bay Area and Toronto on a consulting basis, designing and building software and organizational processes. More recently, I got together with Matt to found Bit Complete so that we can scale up these efforts to help companies leverage their software and build effective teams.
So I can finally step back and look at the thing I built...
The irony is that it's not "built" and now I understand that it never really will be. Even if it were, I don't think I'd have the time to indulge in that! Starting a company from scratch has been both harder and more rewarding than I expected, and I see a long and exciting road ahead for Bit Complete!