I am back, NDRC Accelerator, Startups are hard
I am finally back and some of the struggles we have been through.This episode I talk about the challenges we have had, and the NDRC accelerator program that we have been through. I also talk a bit about the agile challenges and quirks of AWS credits and how Azure credits are very compelling.
Hello and welcome to the podcast. I’m your host Dave Albert. In this show, I talk about technology, building a company as a CTO and co-founder, and have guests to discuss their roles in technology and entrepreneurship.
Okay, let’s get into it. So it’s been awhile since my last podcast post - whatever you call it - yeah, I guess it would be a post. Anyway, the reason that I’ve been so lax is that I’ve continued to want to carry this on but it seemed a bit overwhelming because the first few episodes, I tried to edit to make it not have the pauses and the ums, and the coughs, and the sneezes, and I realized that didn’t really do that much for me. So I’m going to go with a more raw format and just go as it is and see how that goes because I want to get this done and it’s not going to happen if I wait to be perfect. So I hope you stick with me and forgive the bumps and bruises that we’ll have along the way.
So some of the reasons that I have been so far in between the episodes is because - that’s the word, episodes - is because we started at the NDRC which is an accelerator program here in Dublin and it took up a good bit of time. It took more time of Julie, my co-founder, than myself, her being the CEO, so a lot of it was about understanding your users and your customers better and doing a lot of presentation prep because part of the goal is to get you further funding, so the NDRC takes a piece of the company, they give you some money and some mentoring, and office space until you outgrow it. So it’s been really good but it also has taken up some of our time and also put some external pressures on us that we weren’t really expecting. So we we’re putting pressure on ourselves anyway but there was a bit more of a time constraint on getting closer the shipping the product. Obviously, until you’ve shipped your product, you’re not really a product, and we needed to get some space to work on that but when you have a set time, the three-month accelerator or incubator - I’m not sure which one you’d really call it - when you’ve got that set three months, you’ve got to show a certain amount of progress before the final investor day, so you can validate that your idea has merit and that you really have a business. And we’ve continued to work on the product and we’re closer and closer, and I think we’re just a couple of months max, I hope, away from our open beta which open beta is really just, we’re launched, but we’re still going to call it beta because it will be rougher where we want it to be when it’s V1. The product were working on which I don’t think was our core focus back when I started this is called Medit, you can find out about it at medit.online. It’s a mobile platform for healthcare providers. Just one second there and I will tell you what our actual blurb is which you can find on one of my most recent posts on Instagram. You can follow me at dave.albert at Instagram, so Medit is a knowledge sharing platform for medical professionals helping them to learn from the collective experience of the medical community, discovering quality content recommended by peers and shaped to their needs by AI. So we’re finding all the medical information at learnings from journals, blog posts, articles, news media, social media, podcasts, videos, everything that we can find related to what healthcare providers would want to know. We filter that with machine learning and use peer-to-peer recommendations so that the overwhelmed healthcare providers can get their information as fast as possible. We’re starting with iOS to begin with and then we’ll move to Android and web-based. So we’ve got a small team, and so we’ve had some ups and downs. There’s Julie, myself, we have a couple of part-time developers and one part-time developer who is now pretty much full-time on the development side, we have a marketing person, and we had a data person. Unfortunately, this would be his last month, so that’s a data science type person. It seemed go but things are always fluctuating in a startup which is part of why we’ve had so many ups and downs, or at least I have. So personally, I’ve had some - not really health issues but there’s been some mental stress and just worries that have come along, and so I’m not taking great care of myself. I’ve gained some weight. Not a bit as active as I was used to at cycle from home to Symantec and back everyday when I would go into the office which was three, four days a week, sometimes five, of course, and that was 11 km, 7 miles each way, so 45 minutes each way of exercise which I no longer get. I’ve started hot yoga and that’s amazing and I feel so much better when I go but I’ll get to stages where I get busy with work and I forget to keep going, and then a month goes by and I feel terrible, both body and mind. So I’m trying to take better care of myself, eat healthier food, and go back more. Your mental health is a really strange thing where it can take a huge toll on all aspects of your life if you’re not staying on top of taking care of yourself. So we had some issues that happened in the team, I mean, not interpersonal such as that, but one of our developers got Malaria which is just wonderful - I mean, not really, I mean, it’s terrible for him but he’s fine, but we lost him for a few months, then he had some issues with a flooding, and so we didn’t get any - we lost him for like, gosh, I guess it was almost two months, but he’s back now and he’s only part-time but still, he has a big impact, as everybody does in a small team. Another team member had some family issues and wasn’t with us much at all for a few weeks and I guess that really kind of stretched out to a month, and then just some random just sicknesses. I mean, nothing serious but colds and flus, and things like that. So when you’ve got a small team, small issues actually turn into big issues. There was a bit of a break there, sorry about that. Just as in typical fashion would expect, the day that I decide that I’m going to do it raw, there’s a big thing going on in the house that wasn’t expected. There’s a huge rain going on, surprising in Ireland, I know, right? And my wife came back from taking the kids to school and everybody was drenched, so I had to help her get some new clothes for the kids. So let’s see if I can remember where I was, sorry about that. So yeah, we had some issues in the team, health-wise and family-wise, and things like that, so our productivity slowed. Also, you know, we’re all kind of learning new skills. So I know how to program, I’ve done it for a while, I’ve been kind of the team leader, I’ve been a mentor, but it’s new to be the architect, the team lead, the PO, the scrum master, all the things that are required to move the product forward. So I’ve got a good idea, at least on most parts of the application, on what we’re doing with the product and how we’re going to build it, and how things should be done, but those things are in my head and to get them out of my head and into Trello, which we’re still using even though I have the that Trello argument in myself all the time, although a few new updates to Trello, it’s getting better - how I get those out of my head and into Trello, as I said, without removing all of my productivity. So that’s a new learning experience and I still haven’t gotten it right. We’re still refining our processes, we tried doing stand-up chat and Facebook Workplace. That worked okay but then we all got pretty lax about just ticking the box of yeah, I update my stuff but that didn’t really give anybody any ideas of what was going on and there was no real interactions, you know, when do you think this will be done? What do you need to get that done faster? So we lost a bit of momentum there which now, we’re doing a daily video chat, stand-up, though today, we’ve had to skip it because a bunch of people missed. That happens occasionally, but there’s no need to have it just to have it if the majority of the team can’t make it. I have to check and see what happened when I had to cut off but I think I mentioned that we’re losing our data guy. We have a new person as an intern who’s looking into the data, and hopefully, that would be turned into a full-time team member. I’ll update on that in a future episode, hopefully with good news. So, we’re making progress. I’m really happy with where the app is headed. It’s huge steps are made intermittently, so it feels like we’re not making any progress, and then all of a sudden, something happens, like we released our extended alpha, our first extended alpha and the changes we made after that from the feedback improved the app 1000%, still loads to do as I said.
So some of the other things that are really great at all so challenging about how we were with the NDRC would be the - we get credits with AWS and Azure which is fantastic because the last thing you need is to try to finetune all your expenses on hosting while you’re building something, so they invest in you assuming that you’ll be a long-term customer. AWS credits are solid, the Azure credits are unbelievably generous. So I did an episode about how we were using the DigitalOcean, unfortunately, because the credits will be moving to AWS and Azure, because free when your burning runway is much better than, cheaper than it will be in two or three years. There’s a few odd things with the AWS credits, so I don’t know - well, you can’t respond, in a typical conversation, I’d say I don’t know how much you know about AWS, but reserved instances are cheaper than on-demand instances so that just means that I will have this instance for X amount of time a year or three years. You can’t use your credits for a subscription to reserved instances which means that we have to use on-demand or a reserved instance with no upfront pay which is less expensive or less - it’s more expensive than if you paid 100% upfront. The problem with that is we don’t have enough of a billing history for AWS to trust us to go with a no upfront fee reserved instance, so we’ve got to go with on-demand. So that’s kind of pushing me more towards the Azure realm because the credits are so generous that we won’t have to worry about reserved versus on-demand for the full three years, whereas with AWS, we’re probably going to burn through that credit just with our three Mong9 servers. So I don’t know, it’s a weird thing that you never think is going to be one of the toughest bits about being a CTO to start up. It’s getting out of other people’s way, worrying about finances way more than you ever thought you would, and bizarre quirks that you have to work through, like this AWS vs. Azure where it’s easy to decide what to do technically but what to do financially is not always the same. So that gives me a better understanding of decisions that have been made in companies I’ve worked for in the past and I guess once you’re in the shoes, you have a different respect for what other people have had to deal with.
I think that’s all for this episode. Thanks for joining and please subscribe and rate the podcast, if you’re going to give me five stars, of course. If not, let me know what you like, what you don’t like. You could follow me on Twitter at dave_albert. You can follow me on Instagram at dave.albert, and not just follow me, I mean, I talk to everybody who interact, so I’m more about engagement than follow what I say. Most of the things I post or things that I would like to see from other people, not just broadcasting random stuff, at least I try not to. If I don’t find it interesting, I try not to mention that and I’m more about trying to find connections with people that are like-minded than just promoting myself. So I don’t know if I mentioned in the first episode but the reason that I’m doing this podcast is that I wish it had been around when I was thinking about this for years before doing it. So I hope to let you know what not to do or maybe you’ll also hear that I’m going through the same things that you’ve been through in the past and hopefully, it brings back good memories, but you eventually got through and not poor ones. You can also email me at [email protected] All these things will be in the show notes. Thanks for listening.
Until next time, remember, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.