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Biotech Startup Developer: Codementor is a Security Blanket

–  May 12, 2014
Maximilian Maksutovic, Biomeme Developer
Maximilian Maksutovic, Biomeme Developer

Biomeme is a startup developing a smartphone attachment that can perform realtime DNA analysis, and is backed by Mark Cuban and Dreamit Ventures. Product systems will sell for around $2,000, but the company is hoping to bring it to drugstores around the world for around $200 in a few years’ time.

Just a few applications include tracking diseases, testing food and water for pathogens, and serving as a detector for bioterror agents.

Maximilian Maksutovic is the software lead for Biomeme responsible for  iOS, web, and Arudino development.

The Challenge

Right now, everyone’s looking for a mobile PCR (polymerase chain reaction) machine, and that’s what we make. We allow anyone to do PCR with a smartphone. It could potentially save millions of lives, and I’m extremely lucky to be part of it.

I came on last June with some serious iOS development under my belt. I’m mostly self taught, and I have to deliver features with a very quick turnaround under very demanding engineering challenges.

Stackoverflow was helpful at first. But then I started having problems like: “We need to capture data off the iPhone camera,” or “This thing connects via Bluetooth to an Arduino microcontroller – how do we do that fast and efficiently?”

Codementor was a godsend. I could spend a little money – completely in budget for our startup – and get a direct answer to a problem I couldn’t handle on my own.

There was nobody who could answer my Stackoverflow questions and there was no material on the web.

Enter Codementor

I found Codementor through AngelList and thought it was brilliant. I’d been stopped before by problems that I wished I could just pay someone a hundred bucks or so to solve.

One example was a Bluetooth pairing issue I was wrestling with. We use a BLE-enabled microcontroller in the device. I was trying to run hardware A, but hardware C would turn on, and I needed a way to cache the identity of our Bluetooth card so they could pair.

The library Apple uses in the iPhone is called Core Bluetooth, which I had no experience with. I posted to Codementor, “I’m having issues with Core Bluetooth – I need to cache the identity of my bluetooth card to allow future pairing.”

Within a half hour, I had three expert mentors ready to help, which was exciting because this feature needed to be delivered in just a few days.

The next problem was how to capture data off the iPhone camera. I was having a core issue with synchronizing and coordinating the insertion of that data in a variety of arrays.  The expert mentor, Dalton Claybrook, solved the problem in 15 minutes.

 The Impact

For startups, time is money. Every minute I’m not coding features, I’m wasting time and I’m not delivering a better experience to our customers.

In this situation, Codementor is a security blanket.  Without Codementor I’d have to do a lot of networking to find a friend of a friend who I could pay hundreds of dollars to do consulting. Or I’d have to pray to God that I could spam Stackoverflow enough for someone to answer my question.

Instead I can go on Codementor and receive help for a specific problem that I would have neither time or knowledge to solve, so that I can deliver the necessary features on time.  With Codementor, I could go from being stuck to talking with a live domain expert in under a few minutes.

It’s also a way to learn. Janusz, my most recent mentor, didn’t just identify my amateur Objective C mistake. He wanted me to understand how not to do it in the future, and he made sure I fundamentally understood the concept.

Until recently the choices were that you do it all yourself, and you suffer, or you pay someone else a lot of money to do it, and there was no middle ground.  Codementor is that middle ground.

Dalton Claybrook

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