Why I Founded Iterate

I never felt at home working for other companies, because of all the inefficiencies I witnessed as an employee. I’ve always thought there’s a better way to execute.

Large companies seemed crippled by their own regulations and approval processes. For example, changing the color of a button could require a scheduled build more than a month away. One month and 3 layers of management approval to change the color of one button?

Additionally, it seemed that 90% of the employees are there just to get a paycheck and counting down the hours until the weekend. These employees spent the majority of their day at the water cooler, dreaming of retirement, not genuinely curious about their craft.

I don’t mean to undervalue the process or lump every corporation into this category but in my experience, this is more often the case than not.

Aerospace

I majored in Mechanical Engineering and Physics and thought these skills would provide me with the knowledge to contribute to something meaningful and exciting like building rockets. My first and last corporate job was in the aerospace industry where I learned that university ambitions and real-world employment are far from the same thing. For good reason, the aerospace industry is governed by massive amounts of regulation. Literally every bolt design goes through an extended review process.

It’s not all bad, having a single-minded focus on one particular bolt, and testing it rigorously has a level of zen. Still, I didn’t want to wait 5 years to see a bolt, that I ultimately had to select out of a pre-approved catalog, used in the field.

Many of my colleagues looked miserable at work, or were there just to kill time and feed their families. This surely is a noble cause, but I just couldn’t bring myself to accept that I’d be working at the same company for 45 years, making very little money, only to hate nearly every minute of it. Without passion or purpose in the work, I just couldn’t motivate myself to do it.

Faketown

One Easter, a college friend invited me to her place for dinner. There I met a fellow who showed me www.habbo.com. It was the most amazing experience I had ever seen. Until this point I didn’t even know that you could have real-time interactions on the net. I was so excited by what I saw, that I decided to quit my aerospace job and buy books on Director / Shockwave, PHP, MySql, ASP, and Java with the intent of learning to program and trying to one-up the Habbo Hotel experience. This culminated in my first startup, Faketown.

Faketown was successful on many levels. We raised some capital, attracted about 500K users in a short amount of time, albeit we were hacked often as I was a novice programmer at the time.

Ultimately Faketown had to shut down but in the process of trying to cut costs we moved our entire platform to AWS. In fact we were one of the first beta S3 and EC2 users. The skill set developed from porting our platform from custom infrastructure to AWS paved the way for Iterate.

Iterate

After unwinding Faketown, our initial investors started asking me to help migrate their portfolio companies to the cloud. Before long AWS was on fire, and so was my workload, so I started hiring friends to assist.

After consulting with many Silicon Valley startups, I realized that not only had we developed a knack for cloud infrastructure, but also in bringing products to the finish line.

Many companies we consulted with were repeating what we came to call the “Frankenstein” mistake. A Frankenstein product is bloated with a bunch of “wouldn’t it be cool if” features, has no clear direction, and is full of decisions that amount to just guessing what the customers want.

I can speak with some authority on this since we made the same mistake with Faketown. Knowing how to allocate resources to a given project is an art and skill that can only be honed with experience and failure. Sure, some folks might get lucky, but we’ve found that clients who keep a focused product have a much higher chance of success and waste a lot less money.

These days, Iterate offers a wide array of services from AWS infrastructure to web and mobile development, but it’s all built with the same methodology: Make a hypothesis, build in a straight line to test that hypothesis, and if the hypothesis is wrong, change your hypothesis or build in another direction. Building in every direction for every “cool” idea will lead you straight into chaos. As any good developer knows, controlling chaos is a huge part of the job.

Conclusion

There is no shortcut to being an entrepreneur, and the path certainly will not be linear. If you think you can do something better and have a passion to do it, then you should just do it.

We take great pride in our service and bring years of experience to the table so that you can avoid the same mistakes we’ve made building and launching applications.

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President and CTO of iterate.co

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Lance Sanders

Lance Sanders

President and CTO of iterate.co

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