Monthly Archives: December 2014

Techstars: Day 29 (Panic!)

If you’ll recall the Christmas break makes numbering the days at Techstars a little difficult. Until now the Techstars Clock of Doom has been counting down from 103 days. This morning it said there was a little over 74 days left to go.

The Techstars Clock of Doom showing a little over 74 days left

The clock, adjusted for the Christmas break, with the expected 74 days remaining

Two hours later and it was a completely different story.

The Techstars Clock of Doom now only showing 60 days left

The clock, no longer adjusted for the Christmas break, and now showing substantially less time left

That’s right. They’ve adjusted the clock to remove the Christmas break. The 60’s lasted a little over 10 minutes, which is slightly shy of the more normal 14,400 minutes they should have lasted for.

The rationale for the change was because we weren’t at the correct level of panic for the amount of time actually left, as the 2 week Christmas break was artificially inflating that figure. It’s a valid argument, but one that would have rectified itself in two weeks anyway as the break started.

Worse than the panic, however, is the knowledge that we’re now really over one third of the way through the process and that’s quite sad. I’m really enjoying my time at Techstars and it seems to be passing too quickly.

Techstars: Day 26 (Late!)

I usually get into the office just after 7am. This morning I was still in bed at 7am. I overslept. Quite conclusively. I have no recollection of my alarm going off at all. Clearly I was tired. I finally rocked up to the office sometime just before 8:30.

To give you an idea of how tired I was last night I shall recap what happened last night.

At some point before 6pm (possibly about 5, although I honestly can’t remember) I popped out to Sainsbury’s to stock up on [lots of] sugar and caffeine. I still had some of my Dr Pepper left when we headed to the “All Hands” meeting at 6pm.

I got picked on to do the “Highs, lows, ask” for Rainbird. ‘Highs’ were, I thought, easy: Rainbird now learns. Jon was after something more though. Something to do with Ben. It took my brain some fairly solid shoving in the right direction by Jon to make the leap that another ‘high’ was replacing Ben with about 150 lines of Javascript. To be fair, he’s not quite been replaced with that – it’s just the prototype. He’ll likely be replaced by a few thousands likes of Javascript shortly though. Obviously we’ll keep him on to do the CEO stuff he needs to do until we’ve worked out how to get Rainbird to do that bit too.

The discussion over the ‘highs’ meant the ‘ask’ got delegated to Ben, who was able to chuck out “we’d like to know about data sources we can connect to”. This was good because I was drawing a blank over what to ask for. The ‘low’ incidentally was also easy so handled by me – the team were all tired and frazzled this week.

“All Hands” meeting done we moved on to “Founder Stories” where we got to hear about Duedil by CEO Damian Kimmelman. I’ve got to admit that by this point the sugar was wearing off and I was starting to see spots. Come the end of the talk Damian asked if there was anything he could do for us. I was cheerfully thinking in the back of my mind that it sounded like they had some cool stuff going on at Duedil and there could be some funky things we could do with their API and Rainbird when I saw James indicating that I should just ask. So I did. I have vague recollections of what I asked for being classed as ballsy after the event, but hey, don’t ask, don’t get.

Now it’s traditional at these things to let guest speakers know who you are, who you work for and what you do. No differences last night so I launched into “Hi, I’m Dom, I work at Rainbird. Rainbird is…” and then my brain shut down. Completely.

A few noises came out of my mouth and I distinctly remember my inner monologue suggesting that maybe I should make with the words and say something… anything instead of looking dumbly at the assembled group of 30 or so people in our cohort.

I looked to Ben for help, but he was also staring blankly into space – he’d just had the good sense not to be midway through a sentence before his brain disengaged. By this point my brain had managed to fashion some form of excuse around extreme tiredness which I found myself saying with the full knowledge that that particular bit of mental gymnastics was going to leave me incapable of anything more until I’d had a moment to recover.

Thankfully Jon noticed the train wreck unfolding and handed responsibility for coherent speaking to James, whose ability to form an argument that he was also tired clearly proved that he was better qualified to be talking than I was at that moment in time.

The great thing is with Techstars is you’re among friends who are also all absolutely knackered so they understand. There was no feeling of wanting the world to open up and swallow me. There was just an acceptance that I had ceased to function for a bit and could everyone just bear with me for a few moments. Which they did.

Techstars: Day 25 (Manic)

I get manic when extremely tired, which is never a good thing. I had tried to translate that ‘manic’ into a [slightly watered down] stream of consciousness blog post which was really just a random barrage of words that said nothing over a huge number of paragraphs – a bit like this, but in a much wordier form.

I think instead I’m going to concede defeat and just get some much needed sleep.

Techstars: Day 24 (?- happy(yolanda))

The parting comment from James as I left the Management Suite1 tonight2 was “I look forward to reading your blog tonight2”. The implication was, of course, that any sensible person would simply head straight to bed. Clearly I’m not sensible as I then got back to our flat and spent a further hour talking to Chris. So bearing in mind it’s 01:46 you’ll forgive me if I’m a bit brief.

Today can be summed up as:

?- happy(yolanda).

This makes absolutely no sense to anyone unless they’ve read the Learn Prolog Now book, and even then has a certain “you had to be there” quality about it.

Me pointing at the whiteboard

“This! This thing here. It means we can do the thing with the thing. ” – Tiredness makes me look unimpressed

The above possibly sums it up better, but is somewhat lacking thanks to the vagaries of Twitter.

What actually happened was that Rainbird learned something. It remembered. And that is monumental for a whole bunch of reasons I’m not even going to go into – mainly because I’m too bloody tired. Suffice to say that today3 was the day that Rainbird entered a whole new dimension of awesome; awesome squared if you will!

1 A grandiose name I’ve given to the flat that Ben and James are staying in – for comparison, Chris and I refer to our flat as the “Frat Flat”

2 Actually, technically “this morning” as it was half past midnight

3 Or yesterday, or whenever the hell it was depending on actual dates, or narrative, or however you want to measure it

Techstars: Day 23 (Wheel 2.0)

The Clock of Doom now in the 70s


The Techstars Clock Of Doom rolled over to the 70’s today, which is just terrifying. We’re in week 4. We’ve been here 23 days and it just seems that we’re going to get catapulted out the other side of this process way too fast because in some respects it still only feels like we’ve been there a few days.

Of course, there are things you can do to help yourself here and to make your lives easier. Chucking ideas around at random I could think of, say… not replacing large chunks of your technology stack as an example.

So, anyway, we’re looking at replacing chunks of our technology stack.

Yes, I’m being flippant, but it’s actually quite an interesting situation. What we have works, but will eventually start running into some hard limits and is going to present some problems one day. We could potentially work around those problems but that could lead to bigger problems further down the line – in fact I uncovered one of these little doozies today which is an edge case, but an annoying one nonetheless.

So, at some point some work needs to be done and the sooner that work is done, the quicker it can be finished, and the more far reaching and conclusive the changes can be; but the longer we can put it off the more we can concentrate on the million and one other pressing issues that need to be dealt with including, but not limited to, actually getting some paying customers (or even adding the ability to pay us into the product). It’s a balance. And potentially one with no correct answer.

The fact that we’re even asking the question puts us in a better place than most places I’ve worked. The typical response to this kind of problem is ”what we have works for now so lets ignore it and hope it goes away”. I think the problem is that many people see it as simply reinventing the wheel. The issue with that kind of thinking is that if you didn’t constantly reinvent the wheel we’d all have cars driving about on 4 solid bits of wood.

1 So one of my big problems with the clock is that every time I walk past it I am instantly reminded of a track by Combichrist2 that has the lyrics “Without emotions / Without feelings / Without love / Without hate / Breath is just a clock / Ticking… / Ticking …”3. As a result I see the clock and all I think is “Ticking… / Ticking…”.

2 Fair warning: I like odd music so this is going to be not to everyones taste.

3 It originates from the film Equilibrium

Techstars: Day 22 (Rise and Fall)

I achieved more today in 2 hours worth of productive coding that I’ve managed to do in the past 3 days combined. OK, so two of those days were the weekend, but I had fully intended to work on both of those days instead of languishing while recovering from The Plague.

My achievements todays were welcome ones as I think I’ve just lined up a load more work for me to do courtesy of a meeting at Facebook where a few ideas were forthcoming. The details of that meeting are unimportant as far as todays blog post goes (although it was a very productive meeting). What I’d like to concentrate on is the Facebook offices and, more importantly, the walk I took afterwards.

So Facebook is getting on to be nearly 11 years old and, in that time, their UK operation has become big enough to command a number of floors in a very impressive office block in central London. The offices boast free food and refreshments, a games room, climbing walls and all the other cool accoutrements you associate with modern tech companies. It’s all very impressive.

The building itself is located near one end of Tottenham Court Road, which used to be a Mecca for geeks like me wanting to buy the latest computer hardware. It’s been a number of years since I last walked along Tottenham Court Road (in fact it’s probably been about 11 years) so I thought I’d take a walk down memory lane. What I found was depressing, but unsurprising.

The technology houses that have survived the fall of Tottenham Court Road are now little better than consumer electronic stores selling cut price laptops, tablets and mobile phones. The shops are tired looking and run down looking; more bargain basement than cutting edge.

The sad fact is that the internet and Apple have killed Tottenham Court Road. If I want to buy cutting edge hardware I either go online, or I walk into the consumerist temple that is the Apple Store, itself located on Regent Street along with all the other high worth big names. The Tottenham Court Road I knew is a relic of last millennium.

It’s kind of weird that from the 8th floor windows of the Facebook office you can see the crumbling remains of the old tech world, and that all this has happened in a little over a decade.