A Special Geeklist Exclusive Guest Blog post by Chris Matthieu
Nodester :: OpenSource Node.JS PaaS
Nodester was my third bootstrapped side-project startup to be acquired. I was working for Voxeo Labs, the creators of Tropo - a public/private cloud communications platform, who had acquired my second startup called Teleku. When Node.JS first came out, it was a natural fit for asynchronous communications applications. We started building demo apps using the Tropo APIs with Node.JS but had no where to host them. I sent coupon requests to Heroku and Joyent for alpha hosting accounts but they were not responsive to my requests (or tweets). So I did what any entrepreneurial-minded developer would have done – build a solution myself and open source it. I took 2 weeks vacation over the Christmas 2010 time period and started hacking.
At first, Nodester (AKA NodeFu back then) was just intended to be the first open source Node.JS PaaS solution. I posted the link to Hacker News and it literally blew up with press coverage by Mashable. When I saw things starting to go viral, I informed Voxeo’s CEO about my latest hack and he suggested that Tropo sponsor my hosting fees so that they could use the platform and in turn contribute back to the Node.JS developer community by offering free Node.JS hosting for everyone. On the heels of this news, ReadWriteWeb published a story about Nodester and Tropo, It was not planned but worked out brilliantly.
OpenSource :: Rules
Since Nodester was open source, I tried to lean on the open source community as much as possible. As developers raised issues, they were encouraged to send pull requests with the fix. People have different expectations between closed source and open source projects. Open source projects allow people with more expertise on areas of the project than you participate to deliver an even better solution than you could have made alone.
With the help of the open source community (specifically @DavGlass and@DanBUK), I learned about Linux chroot sandbox securing of apps. I would also like to thank the following developers who have contributing to the Nodester project over the years: @_Alejandromg @Eschoff@Marcosvm @Abraham @MichealBenedict, @Crp_underground@AdamKumpf @Krwindham @Akavlie @eldios @Tenzer @Eocampospy@Fgnass @JP_pinilla Yawnt @WeAreFractal MintPlant Ckknight@Arvidhahldev @stephanepericat and @Kev_nz. As of late,@_AlejandroMG has been my wingman on this rocketship ride and has proven himself to be an amazing Node.JS developer, thoughtleader, and most patient support engineer. I would work with any of you again in a heartbeat!
Nodester :: Acquired
Upon accepting a new career opportunity with Bechtel, it became clear to me that I
could no longer support the growing demands of our successful open source project
and free hosting service. I looked at the various leading PaaS providers out there
and it became clear that the only one with our vision and mission was AppFog. They,
too, were very excited about taking over the Nodester project and ultimately adding
our realtime websocket technology into their CloudFoundry platform.
This partnership between AppFog and Nodester will give our Node.JS developer community the very best public and private PaaS hosting solution as Node.JS continues to grow and extend into the enterprise. I am very proud of our accomplishments and have made many new friends throughout this endeavor. Links to the press coverage related to the Nodester acquisition:
Nodester started out as an open source project to scratch my own itch and it turned into a business which ultimately was acquired by AppFog. Nodester definitely exceeded my expectations. In addition to adding another successful company exit under my belt, I also met so many cool and talented people along the journey which made this endeavor worth every minute.
Be religious about backing up your databases. Track more metrics than you think you need. Focus on horizontal scaling early in your design sessions. Leverage Twitter, blogs, and IRC as much as possible to build your community. Leverage a PaaS provider (like AppFog) for hosting your side-project idea and let them worry about the day-to-day backups, uptime, and scaling.
Leverage Twitter and Facebook for getting the word out about your product or service. Use YouTube and your blog for getting screencasts and write-ups about your product or service. Use GitHub for tracking issues and wikis related to your open source project. Use IRC and Google Groups to support your developer network and customers.
There is no better time to start a business and no better way to test your idea than a side-project. Starting a company takes a TON of work and 80% of them fail within the first year. Through a side-project, you will find out if your idea is good enough while you still have a safety net. If you are one of the lucky ones, you will have a business with customers and revenues before you need to leave your job to focus full-time on your new idea; otherwise, you can go back to the drawing board and pivot or start a new side-project until you have a hit on your hands.
Most side-project ideas do not need investors/funding. They need one or more people with the necessary skills to turn the idea into reality and the ambition to work evenings and weekends on their dream. Just do it!
My name is Chris Matthieu. All three of my acquired start-up companies were bootstrapped subsidiaries owned and operated by GetVocal, inc, my Arizona-based technology company, which made the exits easier. Reflecting back on these deals has generated a few questions and thoughts:
- Does this make me a serial entrepreneur?
- Does this make GetVocal an incubator?
- What’s next?
I enjoy the excitement around a new idea and opportunity. I love the branding side of the business so much that I have hundreds of web domains and can’t write a single line of code until the project has a name. I love solving new problems that have not been tackled by other companies or projects. I love the notion that my idea has the potential of changing the world. I love the excitement surrounding launch day. I love meeting new people throughout the life of the project. I love coding but equally move the marketing and sales side of the business. Finally, I love negotiating the exit deal and watching my project take on a new life under someone else’s vision.
Luckily this process seems to continue repeating itself. It’s a great time to be alive!