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Being Technical isn’t “Binary”: Shipyard Cofounders’ Coding Journey, Part 0

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This is a blog post written by Mark Webster from the Shipyard team. Mark and his co-founders are learning how to code through Codementor’s Featured Star program, and this is the first blog post chronicling their learning journey with Codementor.

Putting things in mental boxes, or assigning labels to them, is how our brains try to make sense of chaos. And there are few places that are as full of chaos as startups are. This is why we try to stick the founders of startups into one of two boxes: are you technical, or not? But in startups, as in life, the truth is a lot grayer.

But First, A Little Background

In 2011, I started a company called SideTour along with my co-founders, Vipin and Minesh. We raised capital from prominent investors. A little more than two years later, we were acquired by Groupon. The three of us worked for the “Big G” for about two years, but then we all started to get the itch again and felt ready for the challenge of building something new.

We also knew how much we’ve enjoyed working with each other every day for the past four years. It’s rare to find a group of people you love working with. It’s rarer still for that group to make the decision to walk away from lucrative, promising careers to start a company. And not once, but twice. Even with wives and mortgages and kids. Lives don’t often line up like that. So we decided, as a team, we’d all leave Groupon to get to work on the next adventure.

Three Different People, Three Different Skill Sets

The three of us all bring something unique to the table. And judging from past experience, they complement each other pretty well.

Vipin has a background in consulting, sales and business development. He excels at doing deals, driving sales and building teams. As the CEO of SideTour, he was the one primarily responsible for raising the money, recruiting the team, building the culture, and selling the company.

Minesh spent his pre-startup days in finance, specifically in private equity for high-growth companies. At SideTour, he was in charge of operations and finance. He developed the financial models, managed our performance, and made sure all of the little things (such as employees actually getting paid and contracts getting negotiated) were taken care of.

The best way to sum up my background is the proverbial “jack of all trades” (a term which I hate, but serves as a useful label for people to understand what I do). I can design, code front-end work, write copy, and generally figure out most things marketing-related (SEO, ad campaigns, etc.) The three of us would agree I’m the most technical among us. But my skills stop short of actually being able to code. For example, I can build a custom WordPress site as a prototype, but it will mostly be a copy-and-pasted together hack job.

Getting More Technical

When we decided to get to work on building something new, we were also making a bigger decision: to devote our lives to building things. And with software eating the world, we all wanted to become “more technical” though we each have different starting points. For Vipin and Minesh, that doesn’t mean becoming full-fledged programmers, but it means developing a better understanding for the craft of building software. And for me, it means being able to build web apps. I don’t foresee myself serving as a lead developer of any business venture anytime soon, but being able to program would definitely help me be a better product owner.

Why a CodeMentor?

There are a ton of ways to learn to code. Schools, online classes, digging through various tutorials. Personally, I’ve tried a bunch and regardless of the quality of the content, I’ve never stuck with it. Vipin dipped his toe in some online classes a few years back, but dropped off with the time constraints of managing a startup. We all agreed we needed the accountability a mentor would bring. We needed to know that someone would be giving us homework, and by our next mentoring session, we would have to show up with that work completed, or feel like jerks showing up empty-handed. We wanted a coach to keep us on track, to keep us honest, and who we wouldn’t want to let down.

Help Make Us Accountable

We’re just getting started but in an effort to keep ourselves accountable, we’ll be blogging our experience along the way. If we fail to stick with this, we want that failure to be public. To help keep us on track, follow us here to stay updated on our progress.

Codementor’s “Featured Star” program works with proven entrepreneurs that have never been as technical as they may have wanted to be, and within eight-weeks, takes them from zero to being able to build something real on their own.

Interested in being a future Featured Star? Get in touch.

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Josh David Miller
Josh David Miller
startup advisor, speaker, CEO. More than mildly obsessed in seeing founders succeed. I only use my powers for good.
Every day, I get to work with startup founders as passionate as I am about building great products. I'm the CEO of Mindbox Studios, a custom...
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