5 years ago, I was bored

I wrote this to a friend five years ago, a few weeks after I had quit my job to embark on the crazy ride that has been Parse.ly’s founding story.

You said to me, “I am glad that you left because you sounded unhappy there.”

But you know, I wasn’t exactly unhappy.

I was just bored.

I’m eager to work on my own stuff. I had a good work environment and I learned a lot. I was making money, had flexibility about hours and work from home, and was respected on my team.

But I had a couple of realizations. First, I didn’t see a future for myself in financial firms. I just don’t like their core business enough; in fact, I think their core business is somewhat superfluous and that financial firms should be way, way smaller than they are. They should make less money, have less power, etc.

Second, my specific project had this split personality. On the one hand, it wanted to be this cutting edge framework to really empower application developers throughout the company. On the other, it was a lost project — lots of code, lots of ideas, but no solid product and no real customer.

It’s funny how memory gets cloudy over time. I don’t even remember one of the motivations for my leaving being frustration with the lack of an open source culture at the BigCo I was working for, but here it is, in my Memex, my e-mail archive.

Finally, they had been striving against the internal political tide with an attempted open source project for more than a year, without any real resources committed or steps taken. In that time period, other open source projects have come out (Google Protocol Buffers and Facebook Thrift, in particular) which are in basically the same space as our project, but had a huge headstart and way more credibility thanks to the reputation of the sponsoring companies. I just realized continuing to work on this was a dead end.

In the end, you just have to do what makes you happiest. You only live once; why live a boring life?

Yea, starting a startup now is risky, but so what?

We may be starting from zero, but we know where we’re going.

Sure, all we have for “a business” is a slide deck and an executive summary. But that’s enough to start to carve out a direction. We are currently applying for seed capital from accelerator programs, but we’re not relying on that coming through. We know we can use consulting money to pay the bills.

We probably won’t even have a usable web-based prototype until months from now. I already have some backend code that’s experimental — using things like NLTK, the Natural Language Toolkit & Princeton Wordnet & feedparser. There’s a working web crawler, that has been downloading articles for weeks and building up a news article database, and some experimental web frontend code written in Python, but none of this is particularly functional yet.

I may not really know what I’m doing, but at least I’m doing something that feels like it may be meaningful one day.

We’ll see where it goes.

Indeed, we will!

25 employees, a healthy business, billions of monthly data points processed on behalf of thousands of dashboard users. Hundreds of media companies as customers. And all because, five years ago, we were bored and wanted to work on something that mattered.

Here’s the best part: we are just getting started. Much more growth to come. Here’s to the next five years! Onward!

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