2011 on my own

Today is officially the one-year anniversary since I left my day job in order to start a company. Wow. What a year.

First off, I can confirm that working on a startup is like living in a time warp. This was easily the shortest year of my professional life. It is funny thinking back how much time I thought I was going to have without my day job “in the way”. Heck, I even thought I would have enough time to keep up with this blog (I’m still working on that!). It is a very strange feeling to know that you’ve worked so hard and been through so much, and yet have barely gotten started.

To that extent, it is worth acknowledging that starting a business from the ground up is truly hard. This is as expected but, having been through it for a year now, I must admit that it is a very different kind of “hard”. On one hand, you have to literally create something from nothing; you start with no concrete direction, no momentum, and virtually no resources. On the other hand, it is painfully obvious that the world is full of opportunity and it is up to you to make the most of it. The odds are completely stacked against you and yet there are infinite ways to try to cheat them.

So how did things go this past year? In short: as well as I could have hoped. I learned an incredible amount about myself, starting a business, and — believe it or not — even software development. There are so many blog posts I could write about what I learned this past year, so stay tuned! I spent a tremendous amount of time and effort on activities that seemed to go nowhere but I was also fortunate to have a few great opportunities come my way — including one that came very close to generating a substantial amount of income. That opportunity didn’t work out, but another did, and I think it will actually turn out for the better in the long term. In the end, I am happy because I achieved my most important goal for the year: I was able to find my direction and lay a significant amount of groundwork for a long-term, sustainable business.

Moving forward, I am building ExactByte (my company) into a social media technology company. Thus far, we’ve created products that make social media more accessible. I am also very interested in leveraging social data for business applications. Our first solution will enable businesses who deal with compliance and legal concerns to better embrace social media. We’ve built some amazing technology and have a really exciting market opportunity ahead of us. I can’t say much else about that for now, but if you are in the RTP area, please come out to the Launch Day event in Durham on January 12th to learn more.

So… one year. Wow, I still can’t believe it! People often ask me, “How long are you going to try starting your own business?” I usually respond nicely with a vague answer, but here is the honest truth: I’ve known from day one that this is not just some experiment to try to escape the real world for a little while. It is an opportunity to fundamentally change the way I spend the rest of my life. Things are off to a good start and for that I am very thankful.

One year down, and many more to go.