Monday, February 6, 2012

The Cowboy Returns

I always considered myself as a cowboy developer and then, when I began a start up, a cowboy entrepreneur. Not that everything I did fell apart (although some say the systems I wrote did) but I felt a fraud because I never tried to push myself as some business guru – it sort of happened by chance.

Back in 2000 myself and my then business partner, Jason, wrote a number of websites to try things out. One of them, my wife Julies idea, became the rip roaring success that was FriendsReunited. Lets not go there – it was 12 years ago and the story has been done to death (well it was then) and quite frankly in this age of Facebook and Twitter it seems like a lifetime ago when Tv’s were in black and white. I get introduced to people now as its founder and people smile politely like they would to an elderly relative, say ‘That’s nice’ and then quickly change the subject.

I don’t care one iota mind – we had a great time, sold for a tidy sum in 2005 and sailed away into the horizon (well I would have done if I had bought a boat)

My deal had a 5 year non compete – which is a long time and considering at the time we were into social networking, dating, geneology, classifieds, and the job market – it meant I had a choice of going into the web porn industry or internet gambling. I’m not bad at poker but didn’t fancy the idea of the other one.

So, enforced retirement. I could handle that quite nicely as the kids were very young. 5 years turned into 6, and apart from a few start up investments along the way I completely removed myself from all tech industry and internet based talk.

Fast forward to summer 2011. Suddenly I got a strange urge to dip my toe back into the fray. A couple of start ups took my fancy and I before I knew it I was back. I found a few nice little investments that sounded fun and off I went.

I’d like to think that things had changed. Yes technology had developed so much, I now realize that if I actually needed to get a job back in my profession as a developer I was actually unemployable. Shame. And yes a new generation of eager, young and motivated entrepreneurs had sprung up in my wake.

However the tech startup industry, hmmmmm. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great businesses out there, its just a matter of wading through all the shite. And the valuations and the money being invested – does no one remember the boom and bust of the turn of the millennium. I do, and saw the crap and carnage that went on.

But then what do I know – as before I am now the cowboy angel investor.

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