Hello, Entrepreneur. (And Consultant.)

The last time I changed jobs it was the spring of 1999, in the glory days of the dot-com frenzy. I decided to leave my job at an enterprise software company that shall remain unnamed (but it starts with “O” and ends with “racle.”) Enterprise software was not where my heart was. I thought about joining a startup and I talked to a bunch of them, but they all said the same thing when I asked about their business model: we’re not making any money but don’t worry, we’ve got millions of customers.

I knew we were in a bubble. Don’t get me wrong—I’m no soothsayer and I couldn’t tell you exactly when the bubble would burst, but it was clear it would. So I joined Intuit, the only company I interviewed with that was actually making a profit.

It turned out to be a pretty good choice.

The nearly 12 years I worked at Intuit were amazing. The QuickBooks team warmly welcomed me. I worked with fantastic people. I became the tech lead for the UI Toolkit team. I worked on a lot of elegant little touches that make the user experience more delightful, like a better quickfill (autocomplete) control. I trained engineers on how to build great user interfaces. I stayed there til 2005 when I decided to try something new, but Intuit is such a great place to work that I just transferred to another group. I moved around a couple more times, always staying in the Small Business Division, and since 2008 I have been doing web development in Intuit’s Grow Your Business division. This is the group that makes Intuit Websites.

I recently decided the time has come again to change jobs. But this time is different. Instead of looking for a job as an employee somewhere else, I’ve decided to do something I’ve been thinking about for a number of years: I am becoming a software entrepreneur and consultant/trainer.

Both? Well, yeah—I’ll be spending 30 hours a week consulting and training (focusing on Ruby on Rails and JavaScript) and the remaining time starting my own business.

My Startup

During my “entrepreneur” time I am creating a website with tools and community for small real estate investors. I am an investor myself, having bought houses and condos in Southern California, Arizona, and even Melbourne, Australia. When I got started with investing I was willing to invest anywhere in the U.S., but I had one big question:

Which market should I invest in?

The answer depended on what was I looking for in a real estate investment. Some investors look for equity growth, others for cash flow. Some look for a market on an upswing, others for a market in a trough. Some look for job growth, some for immigration, some for vacancy rates, and on and on. The thing is, all this data is available for free from the U.S. Government but it’s really hard for a small real estate investor to find. And once they’ve found it, it’s also hard to collate it and get a quick answer to the simple question of which market to invest in. Real estate agents can be helpful but unless you happen to find one who specializes in finding investing opportunities around the country, they won’t really know what to recommend. In that case they’re likely just to tell you that their own market is a good one to invest in.

So a few years ago I started working on a web app to solve this problem and recruited my friend Ed to help out. Think of it as Kayak for small real estate investors: you give it your criteria, drag some sliders, check some boxes, and it shows you the results. Except instead of showing you flights it shows markets. It’s fast and easy and you don’t need to pore through thousands of lines of data from government reports. The web app does all that for you instantly.

Working on the app was fun and we got a lot done over several months but it was hard to find enough time for that when we also had full-time jobs and families we wanted to see. But now that I’m consulting 30 hours a week instead working 40 hours a week, that leaves me more time every day. So I’m working on the app for real estate investors again.

I’ll make an announcement here when it’s ready to try. Subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss it. (Go here and click the Subscribe button in the right hand column.)

My Consulting and Training Business

To keep the lights on I am also doing Ruby on Rails consulting and training. I can make web apps work great on mobile phones and desktop browsers with a single code base, scale Rails apps, and a bunch more. See my About page if you’d like more info on my services, and my Contact page if you want to contact me about work.

I Like Stuff That’s Fun

I’m already having a ton of fun and I’ve barely started. It’s great to be working with Ruby on Rails full-time, controlling my destiny, and creating my future. And I’m really enjoying my first consulting gig.

Stay tuned.