I accidentally started my first software company during the recession of 2008. People were losing their jobs, neighbors were losing their home, it was the worst economic time I knew. Here’s the interesting back story.
I had been working at a life insurance company as a software developer, working in the basement all the way in the back in the furthest cubicle where no one could see me. Yet I had to wear dress pants, dress shirt, and a tie everyday to work. I also had to drive 2 hours everyday for this pleasure.
Being a developer there, back then, felt more like a service department. Developers weren’t the stars they are now (at least here in Indiana). We were just the guys and girls that were there to fix “it”, whatever it was. When things weren’t going right we were to blame, and there wasn’t a big celebration when we got it right either.
In 2006, I got really sick to the point where I couldn’t work and I had to take FLMA. Doctors didn’t know what was going on. I lost about 40 pounds, it wasn’t looking good. I wasn’t looking good either. I was 6’1″ weighing in at 160 lbs. This was when the idea was born and it was my wife who brought it up to me.
I freelanced and did plenty of side hustles for years starting in college — well that’s not true I started in 3rd grade selling candy in school, then in high school selling beats and studio time in my basement music studio. However, In regards to websites and technology, I started in ’99 in college as soon as I learned to build my first website. Could I make the side hustle a full-time hustle?
Back to 2006… I didn’t move forward with the idea of doing my own thing immediately, It took about year for the idea to take hold. Before I went out on my own, I tried to get a better job, naturally of course.
So now it’s 2007 and I interviewed at about five to six companies here in Indianapolis, and for some reason couldn’t land the job.
My last interview was at a successful software consulting firm. Here’s the story: I’m interviewing with the co-founder (I’m pretty sure), we were about 15 minutes in when I abruptly said, “okay, well this was great”. I got up and shook his hand and walked out of the building. It was the most awkward thing. But the truth was, I was tired of trying to prove myself, when I knew I had what it took and I was frankly tired of rejection. (my rejection limit apparently isn’t that high, I’ve heard way worse stories)
After that day, it would be the beginning of laying the groundwork for starting what was initially called Reborn Software Solutions, but later became Reborn Code.
So in March of ’08, thanks to my boss at the time, I was allowed to work half time for 3 months, then go full-time in June. So this gave me time to try to build up clientele.
I’m going to be really honest here, I knew nothing about what I was doing. Here’s the proof…
A few other things happened during this time. I had my 3rd child on January 3rd, 2008. My kids were now, 4 years, 2 years, and 6 months old. I barely had any savings (for real) and no retirement or family inheritance. My wife wasn’t working at the time because all money would go to child care anyway. So it wasn’t worth the hassle. With my new full-time freedom, I only worked about 4 hours a day by choice to enjoy my new life. In summary, what really happened was, I went full-time as a freelancer.
Starting in the worst financially crisis I knew in my lifetime, having no savings, and really having a bad plan to start with, I had every reason to fail, but for some reason I didn’t. The main thing I had going for me was that I was good at what I did, I had a small but strong network of friends / associates who were entrepreneurs, and just enough hustle. And thankfully it worked. It wasn’t easy though.
Here’s the interesting thing that helped me along: I got to work with and directly for other entrepreneurs, founders, innovators. If there is one group that will invest in a down market when everything looks bad, it’s going to be this group. I wouldn’t trade the work I do with entrepreneurs for anything other type of work I do. This is a group that constantly believes they can change the world, which is the first step to actually doing it.
I’m writing this for a couple of reasons.
Sharing my story could help someone. I’m hoping to bring a little glimmer of hope possibly(?)
We’re going through a tough market. If I made it without any plan and any money and only a laptop (purchased with credit), there’s a good chance you can too. It may look very different, but I believe you can do it. (I have way more hardship stories coming in future posts if you don’t think this is hard enough)
We’re going through a down market now. I’m working with entrepreneurs who are still investing in the future. I’m also working on my own venture (AfterSchool HQ) as well. I’m worried about what’s going to happen and why in the world am I always risking everything. BUT, I’m still optimistic about the future and I hope you are too. It’s people that believe good things that make good things happen.
As for what happened to Reborn Code. I ended up running the company until mid 2016. At it’s peak I had 3 employees and about 10–14 contractors working for me. I’ve never calculated it, but I’m sure the company brought in between $1.5M to $2M in revenue (not profit) over those 8 years. I had some very rough times in-between though, and some things I truly regret, but ultimately it did what it was supposed to and got me to the next level.
I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to drop any questions or comments below.
12175 Visionary Way Suite 710 Fishers, Indiana 46038 812-805-0451 firstname.lastname@example.org