Entries from September 2007 ↓

A Conversation with Joel Spolsky

I relocated from Los Angeles to Connecticut a few months ago, and a few of my geekier friends joked that I had to meet Joel Spolsky and Paul Graham before I came back to California.

Joel is in the midst of his 21-city FogBugz World Tour and one of his first stops was in New York City, where I saw him demo FogBugz 6.0 two weeks ago. In fact, in the picture at the top of Joel’s post about the session, you can barely see my head peeping out over the guy with the black shirt and white stripes on the left side. Those stinking paparazzi never leave me alone.

FogBugz 6.0
The demo went well; it wasn’t spectacular, but it was a good 40-minute overview of FogBugz’s main components: a wiki, forums, bug tracking, and scheduling. But it didn’t need a big flashy presentation – the application itself is seriously impressive.

Continue reading →

The Inside Story of a Small Software Acquisition (Part 1 of 3)

My startup history goes back a few years.

In 5th grade I sold comic books to my classmates at a 30-40% markup. I was a voracious marketer; I handed out homemade flyers, created checklists so customers could see “at-a-glance” which issues they needed, and even started a subscription service. Whenever kids in my school had extra money the first thing they thought of was buying comics.

In 8th grade I sold candy at a 500-800% markup because kids couldn’t buy it within walking distance of school. I made money hand over fist, and quickly learned that you should re-invest your profits instead of purchasing DJ equipment that you think will make you cool, but will actually collect dust in the back room of your house because you never spend the time to perfect your cross-fade.

In high school I wrote a booklet about comic collecting and sold it through classified ads. Technically I broke even, but realistically I lost money on the 50+ unpaid hours I spent researching and writing. This was the first business I launched “in the wild,” and I learned a lot about what it takes to market a product in the real world (i.e., to someone other than my classmates).

During college I sold $5,000 worth of comic books on newsgroups and eBay (this was circa 1997, when eBay was still black and white and so slow you had to snipe 40 seconds before the auction ended or your bid wouldn’t hit the servers in time). This business funded my entertainment expenses for two years. I had many Silver Age books that were some of the few copies for sale on the internet at the time.

Continue reading →

Write-up on TechieCrossing

TechieCrossing, a technology job site, just published a nice write-up on me as part of their Tech Star series (complete with a color photograph). An excerpt:

“At the University of California, Davis, Rob immersed himself in a formidable double major in computer engineering and electrical engineering. He had decided early on that he did not want to pursue programming; in fact, after his C++ (mid-level programming) class, he swore he would never write code again.”

You can read it here.