7 Years of Building: Products, A Team, A Company, And Myself

A little over seven years ago, I started a business doing what I love — building apps. It started small. $50 WordPress project on Craigslist small. I didn’t know then that this dream of mine, building things, would turn into my life’s work.

Over the years I’ve spent building this company, I’ve learned by watching, reading and talking — but mainly by doing. By doing I mean burning my hand on all of the entrepreneurial hot stoves until I got things (mostly) right. I want to leave you with some lessons I’ve taken away in my seven years of blood, sweat, and tears at Rose. I hope something here inspires the next entrepreneur on the brink of something great.

You can’t survive the long desert of toiling for years unless you love what you’re doing. If you’re going to dedicate years of your life to something, you had better be sure you love it. You also have to be honest with yourself. If you fall out of love with what you’re doing, there is no shame in cutting losses and doing what you need to do to feel happy and be fulfilled.There have been times I wondered what I was doing and whether it was worth it, but I always returned to the tech and why I got started in the first place.

During the growth curve of Rose, there isn’t a job I haven’t done or a hat I haven’t worn. That wasn’t always for the best. As the firm grew so did my “job description.” I became manager, HR Supervisor, Salesperson, Lead Engineer, Design Director, Chief Snack Selector, Janitor, and a million other roles in between. While that ethic of being willing to be flexible with what your “job” is on any given day is important; what I realized quickly is that by being a jack of all trades, I was a master of none. As a founder it can be hard to delegate and even harder to admit that you don’t know what you don’t know. Focusing the scope of your role as a founder and executive is key to the success of any endeavor.

This one is simple. You have to hire the best people you can find. They will make your life easier and your company better. The trick is knowing how to find and evaluate people and there is no easy way to do that because the target keeps moving at fast-growing companies. The right person for a job at 5 people might not be the right person for the job at 15. I’ve found that finding sharp people who are ‘roll up your sleeves’ type folks can roll with the punches and adapt to fast-changing times.

The first few years of my business I always felt like I was the kid in a room full of adults. This pushed me, but didn’t make certain conversations any easier. Learning how to not be hesitant to send invoices and having hard client conversations had to be done because my company was worthy of the work we were winning. Once you’re in the room, nothing else matters. You are in the room for a reason and you have to own that and take any opportunity that comes your way.

Becoming happens somewhere in the process of doing. The doubts about whether success will come, or the doubts about whether you’re good enough, in those moments is where you find yourself and your business. There were many late nights, hard decisions, failures, and successes in the last seven years, but I would not choose to change any of it.

Infrastructure Older Than You Is Powering Your Remote Work

American productivity is being saved by smart architecture-is your internal infrastructure up to par?

Vinton Gray Serf is an internet pioneer and often referred to as one of the “fathers of the internet”

Remote work is a decidedly modern phenomena, especially in the scale it currently exists. It was not planned for. as black swan events cannot be. As COVID-19 swept the country and one by one governors and mayors ordered non-essential employees to go home and shelter in place. As a result, hundreds of companies scrambled to become enabled for remote work. America went from a country where only 45% of businesses had formal remote work policies to 100% remote in about two seconds flat. The transition could have been significantly rockier. While you might hear of companies who had to purchase millions of dollars of laptops, IT departments flooded with helpdesk tickets from people who had never accessed VPN, concerns about the security of video conferencing systems or the challenges of balancing a full house with a full time job. One thing you’re not hearing? Connectivity issues.

All of that silky smooth video showcasing the Zoom 1990’s Macy’s family picture backgrounds is thanks to an infrastructure that was designed over 50 years ago by Vinton Cerf. There were a few groans at the onset, but quickly global providers were able to seamlessly manage the shifting of loads and surges without seeing a major outage. In the US alone, peak traffic was up by near ⅓, with major metropolitan areas seeing surges as high as 60% above normal. Name one utility that could handle that level of increase without seeing massive outages. You can’t, because utilities were not designed to withstand nuclear war. The internet — surprisingly enough — was. However, nuclear war or pandemic are not required to take the lessons of Vinton Cerf and apply them to your own infrastructure choices. Doing that is perhaps more important than ever as the scramble continues to bring previously not digitized services — such as small business loan processing — online. Underlying protocols of the internet’s infrastructure adapt to shifting conditions, working around trouble spots to find efficient routes, and managing glitches in ways that make sure you can access your spreadsheet (or your cache of cat gifs) from the cloud while tens of millions of other people do the same.

To break it down further, if you want a system that is always (or almost always) up consider the following best practices inspired by Vinton Cerf in your architecture decisions:

  1. Architect for uncertainty: When building systems for scale, you can’t anticipate every eventuality. You have to bake uncertainty, resilience and redundancy into your architecture to account even for ‘acts of god’ like COVID-19. Netflix for example has a tool called Chaos Monkey that randomly shuts down services in production to constantly test system stability and resilience.
  2. Simple > Complex: A simple, stable system always outperforms a sprawling and brittle one. For enterprise and large scale systems it is sometimes challenging to boil them down to their core but that’s the job of the systems architects. Identify common processes/uses and abstract them out into simple, reusable services.
  3. Favor protocol over oversight: Humans break things. Always. When building systems, you have the opportunity to create your own tiny world that can be scrubbed free of human error (thank you QA!). These systems don’t live in a vacuum. They’re often used by and governed by humans. Humans who are breaking things right now even as you read this. If you take that into account and simplify human involvement in governance by creating both technical AND governance protocols you can reduce the instability of the system over time
  4. Consensus over mandate: The wisdom of the crowd is greater than the wisdom of individuals (see Wikipedia and the Internet…for the most part). Bringing the power of smart, invested people to solving challenges is immense but it is hard to do this with mandates. Fostering open discussion and driving for the best solution for all can be a powerful driver of system stability and resilience.

Insights By

Evan Rose, Founder of Rose Digital, Evan Rose has been building web and mobile applications since 2009. His focus is on usable, performant application interfaces. He attended the Harvard University and graduated with a degree in Social Anthropology. Evan has launched two venture backed startups, is a board member and investment team member of NFTE Ventures and chairs the Harvard Club Tech and Entrepreneurship Panel. Most recently he was a Senior Presentation Layer Engineer and Mobile Application Architect at Razorfish.