Ricardo Sanchez
Coder, Photographer, Youtuber, Blogger

Startups

Introducing RethinkHub

It’s been a while since I launched a whole new project, the last one was Startup Interns, and that was about a year ago, and the project is doing pretty well. Today I would like to announce Rethink Hub, a subscription service that provides fully managed websites for small business and entrepreneurs.

Rethink Hub is going to be the fastest way to get a WordPress site up and running without having to worry about settings, configuration, plugins, security, etc. The best way to explain that is with a little tour.

Step one. Visit Rethinkhub.com and select a plan.

Step two. Tell us the location of your current site.

Step three. Visit a demo site showcasing your existing content (we’ll create this site).

Step four. Provide feedback, approve. That’s all!

We will take care of your website so you can take care of your business. See some of the services included in every plan: Continue Reading

A new marketplace for Interns and Startups

portfolio-2016-12-65Summer is already here and internship opportunities out there still abound. There are many job sites listing opportunities as well as job fair and hiring events organized by large size companies. Yet, internships and regular job opportunities at startup companies are difficult to find. There are smaller events such as meetups where students and startups can find each other and maybe start a relationship. These type of events might work, but they are hard to scale and don’t reach as many people as an online marketplace can. Therefore, after doing some research and testing the idea using a Google form, I decided to write some code and deploy this website. It is a new marketplace for interns and startups. Continue Reading

Entrepreneurship has become too fashionable

It used to be that people who ventured with startups were hardcore entrepreneurs, those who did it out of necessity or because the idea of having a college degree or a successful career was in some cases not even an option. Many times what drove people to start companies in those days was a strong belief in something and the urge to make a difference or simply the need to survive. Today, entrepreneurship has become too fashionable; a large number of students coming out of college or people working at boring jobs are taking a stake at entrepreneurship and sometimes for the wrong reasons.

The fact that being an entrepreneur is very popular these days makes it hard to differentiate hardcore entrepreneurs that are trying to make a difference in this world or their own life from the ones that are in it because it is cool and popular. Unfortunately, the startup ecosystem is filled with many people who are creating startups and working on ideas for the wrong reasons such as: becoming wealthy, to be famous (or internet famous), avoiding working in a regular job, etc… and there is nothing wrong with any of these as long as the passion is there to make it happen. If the entrepreneur is not truly driven by something, then it creates a problem because it is hard to filter out these wannabe entrepreneurs from hardcore entrepreneurs which for the most part are trying to build a company from nothing knowing that it will take lots of effort, hard work, consistency, sacrifices, patience and lots of luck. Having entrepreneurship be so popular these days also creates lots of opportunities because there are many people drag into the startup world looking to start or join one; unfortunately this also makes finding the right people incredible hard and it creates noise in the startup ecosystem.

Things have gotten easier and more cost-effective for people wanting to jump into entrepreneurship and that is great for our communities, cities and our country in general. Unfortunately this has made many people believe that it is easy to become an entrepreneur and thus we have lots of uncommitted, not hard-working people throwing ideas around and many times getting lucky and gaining the attention of investors, customers and media when in reality they just don’t have what it takes. Even worst, many other people are benefiting from the popularity of entrepreneurship and startups to make money out of people by selling them “tools” and “secrets” that will allegedly help them become successful entrepreneurs, this is just wrong.

Startups have a very low chance of succeeding in fact, that is both known and well documented, click here to read an article from Business Insider about this where they found out that about 93% of the companies accepted by Y Combinator will eventually fail. Y Combinator and other accelerators are having a very hard time trying to select the real entrepreneurs from this ever-increasing pool of wannabe entrepreneurs. And this might the reason many of these accelerators keep saying that what they really care about is the “people” and not the “idea”, it all makes sense now – doesn’t?

Hardcore entrepreneurs with bad ideas are not a bad thing as the idea can always be improved or changed completely. I n the other hand, a wannabe entrepreneur with a good idea will more likely fail and give up because of the lack of passion, commitment, motivation, etc… eventually they either don’t execute well or just give up.

I am not a successful entrepreneur yet, I like to think of myself as a connector helping people connect with others so they can build out that great idea, I run a meetup where I have been connecting people since 2010 because it feels good to help when you can. It is very motivating to see people wanting to create something or be part of something bigger than themselves. These people work hard, have ideals, know what they want and nothing will stop them until they get there, these are the hardcore entrepreneurs I am talking about. We need more of these people now and in the future, these are the people who make things happen and go on to build companies that generate jobs and changes lives in many ways, inside and outside of the companies they create.

Think hard, really hard about becoming an entrepreneur and do it if you really have what it takes and are committed to it. If you decide you don’t want to after all, that is fine too! there are many great jobs out there in need of people with skills and talent, and there is a lot of money to be made at these jobs as well. The worst thing you can do is to play entrepreneurship when you know you are not ready or committed to lots of work without pay, long hours, and many failures.

If you are unsure about what it takes to be an entrepreneur then don’t, please go find a job, and help hardcore entrepreneurs a bit by not being part of that noise. Entrepreneurship is a hard thing, it was never intended to be fashionable.

We have launched foreverbit!

We have great and exciting news to share with you regarding one of the products we have been working hard for the past few months to get the beta version out. The name of this product is foreverbit and it is a web application to save notes, lists, journal entries and the like in the cloud. The cloud is just a fancy name the technology industry uses to describe software that runs online, where users don’t need to download or install anything in their computers and since the application runs in the browser, it is accessible from any computer or mobile device.

Foreverbit is a solution for people wanting to save notes or anything that they wish to remember when in the road, while browsing, at school, etc… Write notes and remember your thoughts is the goal of foreverbit. There are other solutions out there that offer similar solutions, what we are trying to accomplish with foreverbit is to have a simple product that it is easy to use and very useful at the same time. Foreverbit has two primary functions, to let you write notes and to view them from any device and from anywhere at any time. You can write and view your notes from a Mac, a PC, an iPad, a windows tablet, your phone, etc… We hope you give foreverbit a try and please let us know how we can improve it so it works for you.

We are here to help.

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Should I continue with my idea?

These days the word entrepreneur, founder, start-up, etc are very common and so it is the idea of starting a new business, especially in the tech and internet industries. Many of us dream of creating the next big thing, an awesome application used by millions of people, a service with public APIs that thousands of developers will use, etc… we are wannapreneurs! that is a term I stole from Patrick Foley’s Confessions of a Wannapreneur talk at the Business of Software conference last year, and from a blog post he wrote about it.

This post has the intention to show you some of the most common things that demotivate people about their ideas and dreams of becoming an entrepreneur and start a business. Hope it helps you as it has helped me while I was thinking and writing about it.

The idea generator

There are some of us who are always coming up with ideas, we cannot stop it, it is something that we have to deal with and it is part of who we are. Some of us might actually convince ourselves that one of our ideas is worth pursuing, and then off we go. One big problem is following up and actually end up executing an idea. While it is fun to think and talk to others about our ideas, the possibilities, coming up with domain names, starting to prototype a user interface, and start thinking about the architecture of the application, etc…, there is always something we need to do first, it is what I call the real work, you know, the stuff that we don’t want to do because we don’t know how or are not good at. This work is something that needs to be done in order to make an idea become a reality. For example, you can come up with a great idea for an app that will absolutely disrupt some existing technology or industry, before you change the world you need to make sure that what you are about to build is something that people will pay you for it… yes, and to accomplish this you will need to get out and actually talk to normal human beings and once you are done with that you can go ahead and register a domain name, work in a prototype, and event create a landing page. Are you done? not even close, because if enough people get interested in your idea of a product, it means that after you build it you’ll have to sell it, do the accounting, do some marketing, handle payments, add features, etc… if you are a software developer like me, the thought about doing all these things is scary and is something that you are not looking forward to, I am certainly not looking forward to it. When time comes to do these tasks, remember that doing the tasks you don’t enjoy doing is super important and these tasks needs to get done, they are the means to an end, and without performing these tasks reaching your goal is not a reality.

The fear of competition

There are also some of us who will work and work not minding the boring work as long as it help us get a step closer to our goal. Then one day we realize that there are other people who are also working in the same or similar idea, or even worst (we think) an existing business offering the same type of application or service that we are working on. This usually causes many first-time entrepreneurs to doubt their ideas as it is the case of this entrepreneur which was asking if he or she should continue with his/her idea or not. In many cases, finding out that there are competitors might be enough for some people to stop working on their ideas or change it completely because their idea is not longer as unique or disruptive as they thought. I have felt like this before, it is hard not to, but feeling like this is foolish. When you want to start a company and there are already companies selling the same product or service that you want to sell, that just validates your idea and the market for it. Of course you’ll have a competitor or many, and that is OK, just make sure your company offers something that the competitors don’t, do a better job marketing your product and make sure what you offer adds value to your customers. Believe it or not, there is usually room for more players in almost any industry and market.

The day job

For many people, starting a company while having a day job is the only way to get started. Yeah many people will say that if you are really serious about being an entrepreneur that you should quit your day job and dedicate 100% of your time working in your startup, that is just crazy talk and usually comes from people who don’t have the need to have a full-time job while trying to become an entrepreneur. In the real world, when you have a family and a mortgage quitting your day job is not a wise idea and I strongly recommend against it. The good news is that you can still create a company, regardless of what naysayers tell you. For example, back in 1999 I was going to college, I was married, working full-time and we already had our first baby Jennifer, she was one year old. My wife was working for a big health insurance corporation and none of us were happy about the fact that our first child spent almost half a day under the care of someone else. We started a tax prep business, both my wife and I had some background in accounting and individual tax preparation having been preparing our own taxes every year for a while at the time. We asked our family and friends if they wanted us to prepare their income tax returns, a few of them agreed and so we started Sanchez Plus Services (it is now called TodoTax.com) and by 2001 we had a few dozen paying clients which was bringing enough money for my wife to stay home with our daughter. Today the tax prep business has become a life-style business, that is my wife’s home business and TodoTax has now over 500 paying customers all over the US, no office and no employees.

Having a day job while trying to launch a business gives you the option to take care of life expenses and support your business, people who do this usually work in their startup at night and weekends, and yes you can still have a balanced life that allows you to spend time with your family and friends, it is possible. The thinking that if you are not working on your idea 100% of the time is because you don’t believe in it, or at least not enough, is horseshit, each of us work with what we have and do as much as we can, do what works for you not what others tell you. Starting a company while having a day job is harder and it will take longer, yes, but it is not impossible and it is definitely the way to go when you don’t have the possibility to dedicate 100% of your time to your startup, if you need to keep your day job to pay the bills then keep it, and be very strict about spending as much time as you have left to your startup, without missing your life, make it happen. For example, I work on my startup at nights after my kids have gone to bed and also dedicate some time during the weekends, usually very early in the morning and late at night. Do what works for you and remember that in then end, it is a personal choice, do what you think is best for you, follow your gut.

The naysayers

We all know them, they are in our family, our friends, co-workers, etc… these are the people who think you are nuts and can’t believe you are wasting your time trying to take a business off the ground. Usually these are the same people who are not ambitious, who don’t go the extra mile, and who work from 9-5 and are very happy about it. That is OK, do not try to convince them about your idea, just move on with it. The reason many people think of creating a business from scratch as a crazy and bad idea is because it terrifies them to just think about it, they cannot see themselves doing it and so they think is impossible for you to do it. Usually these people make very good employees, wannapreneurs might not be good employees in the eyes of some since we are not good at following directions, we question everything and are always trying to change things to find a better way, always.

Don’t get stuck with people’s feedback but do not ignore all of it either. If the feedback is just about your idea of creating a business you can ditch that. However, if people are actually giving you feedback about the idea, product or service that you are working on then ditch 90% of it and pay attention to about 10%, that is usually safe as most of the feedback is from naysayers who cannot see what you can. I am not implying to just go for it and create a product without doing some market research to find out if your product/service is something that people will actually pay you for it. Do your research, talk to everyone you can and make sure you get some people to say they will buy and not just like your product, Jason Cohen writes about this in a very direct non-bullshit way in this post, read it, it is good.

Continue with your idea, just working on it will help you learn more about yourself, it will push you to explore other ideas, and even meet people during your journey… the important thing here is that you keep the energy up surrounding yourself with people who will keep you motivated and always keep an open mind and be willing to change your vision, your idea and your goals. Good luck!

I am still working on my ideas (tidycontact, foreverbit), check them out and sign-up if you want to offer feedback and become part of the 10% that I pay attention to.

Most of my writing here is advice to myself and anyone who might need it, use it at your own risk. Cheers.

Switching to Windows Azure

The annoying sound of the alarm clock crying for attention at 5:00am in the morning woke me up. Everybody in my house was still sleeping, after all it is summer and it was just 5 in the morning! For a moment I thought about going back to sleep and forget about the reason I setup the alarm at such an early time, especially after going to bed around 3am, just a few hours earlier.

About 30 minutes later I was outside and in my car, and I started to drive on IH35, heading north, I was on my way to Dallas to attend a Microsoft Azure Summit. For a while I have been thinking about using Azure for my software startup but have been avoiding it since other cloud solutions offered by Amazon and Rackspace have been sufficient to host a few web applications and image files. The reason I have been avoiding Azure is because the first time I tried it, almost two years ago, I was disappointed with it for various reasons, the product didn’t seem to be ready, it lacked many basic features and there was not enough documentation. I have been using Amazon S3 for file storage and Rackspace’s Cloud Servers for my web servers and database. Continue Reading

Innovation

It is an overused word and very often, not recognized for what it is or what it means but instead what people want to believe it means.

Innovation is not something you teach or buy; innovation is not something a consultant will find for you or much less help you create it. You cannot capture it.

Innovation is a way of life for some people; it is the way some people see the world and the way they think and do things, from picking up groceries to creating a company.

When real innovation shows, most of us don’t even know it because we are so focused on what we always do.

Innovation is often attacked by people because people often reject change and it is commonly described as a bad idea or even as something foolish.

Innovation is all around us and if you are lucky enough to notice it, do not turn your back to it, be curious, be willing to accept it and who knows you may end up being part of it, you could just become an innovator.

Cheers!

Ricardo.

 

 

Making progress, slowly but surely

I can’t believe it’s been about a year since I started with the idea of TidyContact, time really flies, especially when you have a busy life full of projects, kids, family, etc, and I am blessed for that. So far I have learned lots of things building TidyContact, most of the things I’ve learned are related to the web framework I am using (ASP.NET MVC), and the service oriented architecture I am implementing with this project. Yes it is taken longer than I expected and I know this goes against the Lean Startup methodology, but frankly, I do not care since what I am doing is fun (to me at least) and it is also a way for me to learn about third-party apis, frameworks, databases, etc… it is geek fun.

During this time I have been able to collect about 60 names of people who are interested in TidyContact, and about half of them showed enough interest to actually pay a monthly subscription for it, that is good. It is truly difficult to develop a product from scratch without any help from other developers, designers, etc… at the same time, it is rewarding every time I reach a milestone such as completing a feature, finishing a module, getting the landing page done, etc… I am looking forward to launching the beta version soon and hope to get valuable feedback to make the application better before the first version launches. I would say I am about 70% done with the version I want to release to beta users, I believe in releasing a minimum viable product and all that stuff, but since this application is something we’ll be using internally in TodoTax.com it won’t make sense to release it if it doesn’t do at least what we want it to do. Continue Reading