austin entrepreneur

Portfolio: UberHour Online

Posted in Uncategorized by efalcao on April 3, 2008

UberHour is a little project started by Howard Rauscher. Along the way I joined him in helping to develop the idea. Recently we put up UberHour Online, which is a really neat online implementation ofย  very popular power hour game. It uses the recently released YouTube API with the website and backend riding on rails. Check it out!

Life Changes

Posted in Uncategorized by efalcao on January 11, 2008

After it became clear that Evenlevel was down in the dumps, it became time to regroup. I think that my wife and I genuinely mourned that fact that so much time and sacrifice had been poured into Evenlevel and it ended up not working out. One day I woke up and had to figure out what to do next. Do I keep consulting and work on a startup on the side? Do I get a boring job and work on a startup on the side? Or do I go back to a startup and beef up on my skills and contribute?

EJ also had to hit the job market post-Evenlevel. He found a great job at a startup very quickly and had multiple offers thanks to the story of Evenlevel as an interview tool. This steered me towards option #3: Contribute at least a few years to a startup, regroup and build my skills.

I had several interviews and had three offers on the table within a few weeks. I felt very fortunate to have three very different offers on the table:

  1. A 9-month consulting gig that paid very well. This afforded me more time to figure out what my next step would be and the work was going to be fairly easy. They used ASP.NET.
  2. A full-time position at a startup where I would be a more senior developer. They were doing ASP.NET and were looking to focus in areas in which I have a lot of experience (on-page search engine optimization, client side performance optimization, etc). They used ASP.NET.
  3. A full-time position at a startup where I would be the lowly developer on the team. They built their product on rails.

I think that given these three choices, there really wasn’t a choice at all. I chose a developer position at option #3. The company is called Fiveruns and the product is enterprise server management for rails. This has been my golden opportunity to do rails development full time, to really master an emerging framework and language, and to belong to an elite team of individuals.

I couldn’t be happier. There is something special about being surrounded by elite developers. I think it’s so important at this point in my career to not be on top. I could have been on top at option #2, but the amount of learning that I could accomplish in a day would be low. I would simply be taking plays out of a playbook. At my current employer, my skills are going to keep growing at a strong pace for a long time.

In terms of development philosophy, Fiveruns is also a very important fit. I have been doing .NET development as my paying job for many years now, but I have always been using open-source software for my personal projects. This is my chance to emphasize my passion for FOSS and to really hone my skills. I have also been given the opportunity to work full time with a MacBook Pro, a real treat ๐Ÿ˜‰

In my heart of hearts I’ll always been an entrepreneur, and I’ll almost certainly start a new company years down the road. But for the time being, and for the foreseeable future, I’m ecstatic to hone my skills and be a part of a great team whose products I really believe in. I’ve always read that venture capital is an investment in people and I am really seeing that in the team at Fiveruns.

Given my post rate, I’ll see you in March ๐Ÿ˜‰

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What I Learned

Posted in Uncategorized by efalcao on October 16, 2007

I starting thinking about an Evenlevel post-mortem blog post. Each day that goes by it looks like we’re going to be able to relaunch with a different twist on things, so technically a post-mortem is not appropriate. Lets just call this “what I’ve learned…so far”

If you want to learn at the fastest pace in your life, start a company. I was one of the earliest employees at my previous job, and I learned so much; but I’m thinking that nothing holds a candle to starting a company yourself.

Ruby on Rails is developer bliss.

If you want to have fun coding, enjoy elegance and simplicity, there is no better framework.

Rails can also help you deliver a web application in less time

I can accomplish things in a minute with Rails that used to take me a whole day. It’s amazing how simple it is to build your data model and scope out all your controllers. The most time consuming part for me is still front-end (html + css) coding (actually, not so much the code, just settling on something that looks decent and is usable).

Outsource your IT infrastructure

Evenlevel is hosted on theplanet. This is fine, but for the next iteration we’re going with Joyent Accelerators. I spent too much time worrying about DNS servers, backups, etc. No More. Not only that, but Joyent costs less. I realize we weren’t going out and buying servers and colocating, but that was something we were going to eventually have to contend with. I really appreciate how you can scale with Joyent easily from day 1 (Just add more accelerators and BIG-IP load balancing).

Bootstrapping is really really hard

Save money or raise seed capital then quit your job. It is way too hard to burn the midnight oil or be a weekend warrior: Everyone suffers.

Tweaking performance pays off

Within a day of setting up nginx with gzip compression and page caching, Google starting crawling 10 times more of our pages. Two days after that, our search traffic quintupled. Not only did we reduce our bandwidth utilization and give our users a more enjoyable experience, but Google started loving us within a day.

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Why I Don’t Want to Be in Silicon Valley

Posted in Uncategorized by efalcao on October 12, 2007

The top talent may be in Silicon Valley, but you’re living in a bubble

The majority of today’s startups serve obscure purposes that average people don’t care about. I’m tired about reading about one-off, gimmicky AJAX re-hashes. How many twitter-alikes and online data storage startups does the world need?

If there is so much talent in Silicon Valley, why are so many of the ideas so awful? I think the community breeds the culture of crap-shoot, quick-flip businesses. Some do pay off, but where is the true value in the majority of these companies? Evenlevel failed, but it was a novel application of technology to a relatively untouched sector and our goal was to save consumers lots of money on their vehicle purchases.

Being outside of the regional startup bubble will help to keep my ideas grounded in reality. A good example is Vidoop with their secure image grid. I really feel like they thought up something truly new and I wish them all the best. Where are they located? Tulsa, Oklahoma. It’s companies like Vidoop that keep the overall bubble from bursting.

There are plenty of rich people here, too

You need money for startups. Austin, TX has money. Maybe it doesn’t flow as freely and there isn’t as much of it, but is that really a bad thing? Startup Darwinism.

California is expensive

I am a product of Southern California. Born and raised, lived there for 22 years. My huge Portuguese family lives there and I miss them a lot, but I’ll probably never move back. I could move to Silicon Valley and probably do really well, possibly doubling my salary. Too bad my quality of life would drop considerably.

First off, the cost of doing business is a lot lower in a place like Austin, TX. Lower rents, lower salaries, lower taxes, lower costs to bootstrap.

I feel like if you have a good home and your finances aren’t causing you to spit out your $4.00 mocha as you contemplate $3.80 gas prices, you are a lot better off when it comes to your venture. Unstressed, happy employees and founders coupled with longer financial runways lead to better companies.

Bottom line

Overall, I am very hopeful that Austin, TX will become a bit more of a software and consumer internet town. You’re already seeing some players in Austin: uShip (my former employer), pluck, thoof, spiceworks, etc.

Writer’s Block

Posted in Uncategorized by efalcao on October 12, 2007

Waddaya know. It’s my first post and I have writers block. I’m thinking this does not bode well for me and this blog. Might as well start with an introduction:

My name is Eric Falcao, I live in Austin, TX and I’m an entrepreneur. Might as well mention at this point that while it’s not finalized yet, my first startup just failed.

Creating this blog is a way for me learn, pick up the pieces and move on to my next project. I’ve got lots of opinions and convictions, feel free to discredit them since I’m 0-for-1.

I’m hungrier for success than ever. Time to start the journey over again…

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