How I Built My First Tech Startup

Grople is the easiest way to find help on anything you need by leveraging your social graph.  I’m excited to announce that Grople is graduating into public beta. I’m a biz guy, and this is the first application I have developed myself. Here is why and how I did it.

Running a tech startup as a business guy can be tough. Your role is to communicate vision and strategy, recruit and retain, and take care of the cash. And change the toilet paper at some point. But it can be frustrating, when you’re a product oriented guy, not to be hands-on the product.

So a month ago, like Nate Westheimer (director of NY Tech Meetup) or Vinicius Vancantis (founder or Yipit), I decided to learn to hack.

So, what should I work on?
There’s a sector I find fascinating right now: classifieds. Usually, we see online/mobile products disrupt offline ones. Now we’re seeing 2nd generation disruptions: online services disrupting a whole online sector.

Here are a few examples of services I’d bet on:

Zaarly is super funky, it’s an app to make you my b*tch. I want something and I’m ready to pay for it. If you’re nearby, give me what I want (product, service) and you’ll get the money.

Skillshare allows anyone to teach something he’s good at. Check Mike Karnjanaprakorn’s presentation on the learning revolution, which mirrors Fred Wilson’s Hacking Education leitmotiv.
Josh Schachter, with Tasty Labs, is also working on something that could bring people that need something closer to people that can offer it.

What all those new services have in common is that 1) they put the emphasis on the demand and not the offer, and that 2) they leverage specific aspects of our graphs, as geolocation and immediacy for Zaarly, skills and education for Skillshare.

Here comes Grople!
When I moved back to France, I did my best to improve the startup ecosystem in Paris. For instance, we launched Start In Paris, a monthly gathering that mirrors the NY Tech Meetup now welcoming over 350 entrepreneurs and engineers every month, and I created FrenchtTech, inspired by NextNY mailing list.

Sharing info, knowledge and services among startups is something I’m passionate about. And here comes Grople: it’s the easiest way to find help amongst your peers. You create a grople telling what you need, and people can join, or offer their help.

Here is a good example: I’d love to get a quick and dirty “PR for startups” training with folks I respect, like Roxanne Varza or Colette Ballou. And I’d actually pay $20 for it. So far, 10 other beta testers are interested in that training.  And it might happen soon.

This is what Grople does: it creates ad hoc groups of people around temporary or persistent common needs.

How did I do it?
Vinicius Vacanti and Nate Westheimer describe it well – the basics are straightforward: commit to it, start small, ask for help.

I started about a month ago, and the result is a working MVP that’s simple enough to collect user feedback and about a ton of metrics.

The process I followed was simple: get up and running on a good development environment, understand the basics of object-oriented development, basic tutorials and ruby gems, and getting up and running on API and mashups.

The most important thing is also to ask for help, simply. What I take back is that syntax is simple – but best practices are difficult to recognise and learn. So leverage your developer peers.

What’s next?
I have a lot of features and improvements lined up in the pipe. But firstly and mostly, I need you to tell me where Grople is going. So test it and tell me where we should go next.
If you’re in the same situation than me, frustrated biz guy going tech, don’t hesitate to ping me – I’ll be happy to help as much as I can.