Charlie's Back!

Saturday, 29 September 2012

A personal ramble...

I got a subtle indication today that a fellow techie/entrepreneur, who has recently stepped back from a company that they founded, is back. I don't know them, and I don't know the circumstances of their departure (it's a matter of huge speculation in the community), but as an entrepreneurial techie, I feel a certain empathy for what they've probably been going through.

After the announcement that they would be stepping down from day to day involvement in that business, they ceased all activity on social networks, including their own company's, and to be quite frank I was beginning to worry about them. Before this they had been prolific, averaging dozens of posts a day across all mediums.

Their venture is one of my favourite places on the web. I hit it dozens of times a day, whereas Facebook and Twitter just get a couple of checks typically. They've founded a great place. It's evolving all the time, and I'm sure commercial pressures are a big part of that, and may well be behind the changes in the executives.

I've been involved in the development of dozens of web sites, and software products over my career, and you invest a lot in them. To create something great and then to surrender it is a terrible thing. It's almost like a bereavement, or at least a lost love. To help fund ventures like this one I recently took a one month contract to help develop the web part of a product. When I got there I found it was fundamentally failing, due to unambitious architecture on the mobile software, and ended up rewriting the whole thing during the pilot. I saved the project and before I knew it I had been there a year, and completely overhauled the software and created an architecture that I was truly proud of. It was almost perfect. I have no doubt that the project could not have succeeded within it's budget without this effort, and to be honest it was a work of love rather than economics. So you can imagine my heart ache when the time came to hand it over and move on.

In previous years I have invested a lot in other projects, only for time to be called when changing economics caused investment to stop before the commercial success could be realised. More than once I've just walked away and questioned whether it's worth investing so much of myself in projects. I even once took a sabbatical from software development entirely for a year, after a project I invested a fortune in was made obsolete by new technology.

So I have some experience of how this person might be feeling, even though it seems commercially they will realise a huge reward for their efforts eventually. Whenever you invest in creating something, whether as an engineer or a creative, it hurts when commercial reality takes control away from you. You get wiser each time, but the pain never goes away. If you didn't invest emotionally you'd never be able to create great things.

So, after a break, I always inevitably come back and work on the next project. I wait to see what this person works on next, but for now, I'm glad they are back and they seem to have taken a fresh perspective.