Here I go

— March 6, 2006 at 11:39 PST

As of last Friday I'm no longer working at EarthLink. I'd been there for two years, which is the shortest time I've ever spent at a company (almost 9 at Apple was my longest). I'm leaving on good terms, no hard feelings or tweaked noses on either side. The simplest explanation is that the environment I was hired to work in went away, so my job ended up going away too.

The people I worked closely with at EarthLink were, in general, great to work with and I appreciate the time I spent there. But I have to say I've grown frustrated with the experience of working in a big company. I've worked at startups with from 20 to 200 people, and at big corporations with up to over 100,000 employees. Gotta say, for me smaller is better. I don't like being a tiny cog in a humongous machine. I don't like big-company processes or politics. I don't like having my success or failure be less dependent on my own competence or performance than on decisions made by people I never met without any awareness of the effect of their decisions on my efforts.

I was employee 13 at one startup, and around number 200 at another. I loved the small company feel of things, the intimacy of the work environment, the way I felt like what I did mattered so much more. Mostly I liked the sense of ownership, responsibility, and effectiveness.

You may see where this is leading. Yes, it's time for me to put on the entrepreneur hat and start my own business. I could be quite happy working at someone else's small company, but I'm at the point where I want to take on being responsible for the whole show.

I'm lucky enough not to have to confront the situation of wanting to start something but being clueless about what to do. I've got an idea for a business that has been keeping me up at night and boring my friends silly as I brainstorm features and kick around plans and scenarios. I'm also lucky enough to have some friends who are pretty savvy about high-tech business and they've given me some good feedback, as well as some confirmation that my ideas and plan are worth pursuing. So here I go.

It's way too early to be talking about what I'll be doing, except that it's going to be an internet business and I'm developing the software using Ruby on Rails. I wanted to wait until I was severed from my job at EarthLink to get started on the development to avoid any issues regarding ownership, so it should probably take a couple months to get to the point where I have something worth showing in public. I'm pretty sure it won't take more than three or I'm doing something really wrong. Stay tuned.

In the mean time, I got a copy of Guy Kawasaki's The Art of the Start and dove into it over the weekend. I'm registered for the Getting Real workshop at 37signals at the end of this month, and Rails Conf 2006 in June. (And I'm thinking about Canada on Rails, but not sure if I can manage that much travel.) And most importantly, I'm working on putting together a small team to make this happen. Anyone know a good web developer in San Francisco? :-)

For being a bit of a cynic, I'm feeling quite optimistic. This is going to be an interesting year.

6 commentsbiz

  1. chris holland2006-03-06 16:18:04

    Kick@ss, Josh :) Looking forward to see your work.

  2. Dan Shafer2006-03-06 16:40:39

    Way to go, Josh. I wish you lots of luck.

    Guy's stuff is always really good but not very deep. Whenever anyone asks me for advice about doing a start-up, I tell them two things. Don't do it unless you just can't stop yourself. And read two books: First Break All the Rules and The eMyth.

    I'm in Monterey but I spent all my serious Web years in SF. I'll put out some feelers for web developers among my old CNET colleagues if you like.

  3. Hunter2006-03-06 16:52:36

    We met at the Pasadena workshop. Good luck man, it's a fun ride.

    BTW, the 37sigs 'Getting Real' workshop is great. You'll really enjoy it.

  4. Eric Knapp2006-03-06 19:53:25

    Good luck to you from another studio alumnus. I would love to do it to. I am going to RailsConf too and I hope we get a chance to meet so I can hear about your progress.


  5. Marcus2006-03-14 10:48:46

    Art of the Start was decent, but I'd have to agree with Dan, the e-Myth revisited is excellent. I'm also a huge fan of Seth Godin--if nothing else for his uncanny ability to get the creative juices flowing and the motivation levels through the roof.

    Best luck! I've been considering doing the same thing you are. I'm also somewhat of a cynic when it comes to new web ideas, but I'm still looking.

  6. Josh Susser2006-03-15 11:04:36

    Having finished Art of the Start, I have to agree that it's a light read. There were some good ideas in it, though, so it wasn't a waste of time. I'll take a look at those other books too - Amazon is going to love me this year.

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