Category Archives: Bryan Antigua

That Gut Feeling

After spending 8 weeks out here, I’ve come to really appreciate following your gut feeling. I come from a city in southeast Pennsylvania where most people follow traditional paths to become doctors, lawyers, bankers, etc… Not many follow the life of an entrepreneur and very rarely is it pushed on people.  However, I always had this gut feeling that I should just go ahead and try it. At the mere mention of pursing the start up life style, my parents freaked. Of course, who can blame them? They want what’s SAFE for me (becoming a Doctor). This, however, doesn’t always match with what’s RIGHT for me. Against my parent’s and my greater judgment, I chose the start up lifestyle. Honestly, I truly believe it was the right choice. With this experience, I’ve come to truly trust my gut instinct.

I’ve come to realize how much an environment really shapes your judgment.  When I was at home, leaving to work on my start up seemed so scary.  I had zero clue of where it might go, or how I’ll end up. Now that I’ve spent time here though, all those worries have disappeared. Its not so much that the mystery of my start up future has changed, but rather how I view that mystery. Traditional jobs offer security, they offer an ease of mind. Start up are a completely different monster. After talking to so many entrepreneurs, though, I’ve come to embrace this mystery.  I’ve realized worst case scenarios are really unlikely. Even if things go really bad, in the end it’s a learning experience. An experience you can use to better the next outcome.  With that in mind, I look forward to the mystery because in the end it only betters my experiences.

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Working on a Night Train

I’ve have spent countless hours at our Dogpatch home. It’s safe to call it a home, considering I’ve spent about 70% of my time there , and the rest is split up between my rental home and a few other places. I’ve spent anywhere from 8 hours to 30 hours at Dogpatch.

One thing that always amazes me is how much your environment can really expand/suppress your mental state of mind. I would spend countless hours trying to solve a problem at my usual DPL desk, and just struggle to find a solution. Then I’d take a break and more often then not, I’d reach an epiphany while doing something menial like going on my run.

After several mid-run epiphanies, I’ve decided to alternate my work place. So far it’s been great! My usual routine has been to go from: the basement, to upstairs, to a conference room, to a different conference room, to finally my rental home.

At first, I was a little wary. I’d find myself shifting too much, and not getting anything done as I try to warm up in my new space. After a couple strategies, though, I’ve found a good pace of change, and my boosted productivity is proof!

Whether it truly is the environment, or maybe the break that have to be taken for the relocation, I find that this routine really helps my thinking. 

Getting Harder,Better, Faster, Stronger

We’re very close to launching Tivly bug-free! Along the way though one question always kept bothering me. Is it better to build fast? Or is it better to build strong? Of course plenty some people can do both, but most of us find ourselves making trade-off between speed and efficiency. This time around I think I mainly leaned toward speed, and we built a very functional product in only 25 days. As awesome as this is , I find myself doubting if pushing for so much speed was the right decision. We are basically at that finish line. Since we built with so much speed, though, I find my last couple days here fixing numerous bugs.

These bugs also seem to just multiply exponentially.  I fix one, and seven more arise as the “fix” causes more issues.  I wonder if going at a more steady pace might have alleviated some of the bugs we have now.

Then again I hesitate to think that , because one of our strong points as a start up is the ability to make decisions so fast, and thus get to a product faster than a large company.

In the end, I realize this is a somewhat transient problem. As an entrepreneur acquires more building skill, it not only improves his proficiency at coding, but also their foreshadowing abilities. I guess I’ll just have to keep on building.

When Do I Put the Book Down?

Being in Silicon Valley, I’ve heard non stop talk about the next big language or web framework. You hear all this excitement about Rails, Django, Node.js, Clojure, and tons more. This got me to thinking, where is the line where you stop reading and actually pursue one of these languages?

I always find myself second guessing my choice because language X solves a future problem better than language Y, but the problem I have now is the issue language Y easy solves. This constant struggle lead me to learn several language at a very, very broad level.

Fed up with it, I just picked one and stuck with it regardless of what I hear ( to be honest, so far, most retorts on my choice are usually very small issues). I think it was the right decision. Even though I find myself figuring out problems other languages might have solved easier, I think what I gain in solving said issue far surpasses the constant language change.

The whole point of my job is to find solutions to our problems. Changing to a different language or framework, while it might save me reinventing the wheel that one day, probably hurts me in the long run. It defeats the purpose of learning a language because you don’t learn the nuances that language carries. Nuances that you procure only because it was something you noticed in a particular solution. From my experiences so far, by sticking to two language I start shifting my thought from “what can’t this language do?” to “What can this language do for me?”

Being Pretty Gets You Farther

We recently successfully re-launched our splash page and I find it amazing how much visual perception plays a role in information processing.

From my experience with the previous page, people liked the product, but only after it was explained to them. Now every time I show the page I get a “WOW”, and an immediate sense of excitement is noticed.

            One of the residential entrepreneurs we regularly meet even mentioned “It’s better to have a great design and nonworking code, then the other way around”.  As much as I wish it wasn’t true, he’s right.

            The reason why I’m torn is because I’ve been mainly dealing with the backend of our product. In my head, I know exactly how things work and the true beauty of how everything interacts. With this I come more to appreciate the subtleties of a product, and not its prominent flash. We may all be using the same API, language, design pattern, or whatever, but the reality is most people (at least in this field) think vastly different from one another. Even though you use the same outlets, you end up with these completely different, unique solutions to, more often than not, the same problem.

            To me, where the true beauty lies in all of this, is still a bit of a struggle. To be honest, this “inner” website beauty  idea been a pretty recent stand point. I’ve always loved sketching and to this day, it is still a favorite past time. That’s why I’ve always been highly appreciative of the job a graphic designer has. They have the ability to bring out innate emotions in your work, that words just can’t express.

In the end I’m pretty split on the decision and I don’t really think I’ll ever stick to one side. For now all I know is that it’s very frustrating to pour your heart into a working product, and know that internally it is a complex and beautiful work of art, but have it dismissed only because a button didn’t look “flashy” enough. One lesson I’ve learned this summer is to pretty much either suck it up and spend more time on visual design or just pay for a beautiful design because no matter how pretty the code is on the inside, the outside is what truly sells people.

Paying Your Dues

I was at a kick off party recently and one of the heated topics we had among ourselves was the idea of putting in your hours as a programmer. One of the trends we see a lot with start ups is that the founders usually have years and years of experience at very prominent companies. I can’t count the number of times I’ve read a Tech Crunch article that starts with “ex-Googler [insert name] launches …”.

The people discussing the topic, however, were a mixture of sapling versions of these entrepreneurial archetypes(i.e. big company entrepreneurs and straight out of college entrepreneurs). We had several who were working for large companies, and even more that, with only a few years of programming, have devoted themselves to the start up lifestyle. Being at such a young stage, none of us really have a strong stand on the position. The reality was that any of us can switch tracks at any moment and not really suffer any real consequences.

Personally, I found myself siding more and more with the big company entrepreneurs. From my view, big companies offer a security that start ups don’t have. By this I don’t just mean funding, but they also offer business segmentation and mentorship. Since big companies are so segmented, the business side and the technical side are usually very evidently split.

As a young programmer that’s something that I truly come to value. This split allows me to focus on gaining technical experience and not focus so much on the business aspect of a project.

I’m a big follower of having many tools in your tool box when it comes to programming.  After two or three years at a big company the technical side won’t be an issue for your start up and instead you can free up time for the business aspect. To me, that seems like the ideal route.

What’s with the Rain? (Week 1)

Since the moment I landed in SFO, this has been a nonstop thrill ride of excitement. I ended up subletting  a place in Mountain View, so I get to experience even more of the start-up culture. I like Mountain View especially because of the awesome trails I keep finding around the area. One thing every one tells me though is that it NEVER rains, and 24 hours into being here, it happens!

Work has been a blast from the get-go. I keep getting all sort of advice for our start up, and slowly but surely every step we take Tivly becomes  more and more concrete. Not only have I already gotten advice from several VC, but there are plenty of start-ups upstairs that have given us a wealth of information, not just with the start up but the social scene here in general, which is pretty awesome.

Speaking of which, I’m the technical lead for Tivly, so I get the pleasure of doing fornt-end as well as backend programming, which has given me a pretty thorough view of how a website is ran. More updates soon to come!