When I signed up for UIT, deep down I knew I was going to be there to learn programming. I really wasn’t interested in starting my own startup but yet the program I applied to had “Startup Immersion” in the name. At the beginning of my year at UIT Startup Immersion I tried to keep an open mind and see if I’d be fitting for a startup co-founder. However, I feel like the more I learned about startups the more I realized they were not for me.
But how am I doing in the business side of UIT program? I like to think I’m doing okay. All the other students have proper startup ideas for the business class to work on, and unfortunately for me I did not for some time. But after some thinking I actually discovered that I had an idea sitting right in front of me. Back tracking to the first major project I did at UIT, I made chat app for gamers to discuss their favourite video games with friends. And for the second major project I made a service app where gamers can create their own profile to meet new friends and create teams to organize meet ups and competitions. So I decided for my business I would combine both of my coding projects to GamerPals!
GamerPals is just name I gave to a mock business idea I have that combines both aspects of my chat and service app. I wanted to use this idea because it solves a real problem that I had, which is: it’s hard to find the perfect gaming friends. A few years ago, I only played single player games. But it’s only now that after I found some nice and relatable people to play games with that I finally enjoy playing multiplayer games with other people, not only that but it did improve my social life and skills.
I find it funny that it’s also a problem that I see many other gamers have but they don’t even realize it. For example, in the game of Grand Theft Auto 5 there are about 5 difficult but very fun special missions that give the highest reward to the player. However you cannot start any of the missions unless you have exactly 4 people in the mission lobby. So for a normal player they’d have to find a public lobby that can contains up to 30 people, start one of the special missions, invite any of those 30 players and only hope that at least 3 people join. It does seem plausible, right?
Well that task could be the most difficult thing in gaming today. Imagine this, you are a professional hockey coach and you are tasked to manage a hockey team in which you have to beat a junior hockey team (Like the Screaming Eagles). Again, plausible right? Except all the players on your team are selected at random. And I mean completed random out of the 7 billion people on the planet. One player could be a 12 year old kid while another could be someone who doesn’t even speak english. See how difficult this could become? This is exactly the problem that Grand Theft Auto suffers from. The community is so large and varied I cannot even imagine it’s average player.
I see countless players complain on the game’s subreddit that completing any of those special missions are impossible to do when inviting random people from the game. When I encountered this problem myself, I set out onto the internet to find some gaming friends, and I succeeded by looking for people who are encountering the same issue. But there wasn’t this one big platform that’s super popular, and that’s well known to have a respectful and active community. So my idea is to fix exactly that.
Flexbox and Frogs
The last assignment we worked on was playing around with a game called Flexbox Froggy. Its for learning flexbox, which is a set of features added in CSS 3. Flexbox makes a lot of interesting changes to the way we can position elements on a page. The frog game is really well designed, and its a great way to learn flexbox
The general idea is that you can position everything without needing to know the exact dimensions of the page. I’ve had a lot of difficulty in the past dealing with CSS and vertical positioning. Thankfully flexbox adds commands that automatically position them correctly (justified, or centered, or between, etc). I like the changes quite a bit and I think ill be using some of it going forward. Unfortunately its not responsive, unless you use a lot of media tags.
The way I feel about flexbox is this: we have been learning lots of different frameworks and packages that rather than replace the language we are using, simply add to it. When I was in computer science rather than learn about frameworks or libraries we just learned different languages that did certain things better. Now we are relearning CSS and JS because of features that are being added in CSS 3 and ES6. Many of those changes are simply things that other frameworks were doing, but built into the language.
This seems to be a bit of a trend were some of the languages we are using are just improving themselves. It definitely won’t remove the need for Frameworks, but it feels like the languages are trying to work in features that are considered core these days. (i.e Flexbox is replacing some things that Bootstrap would have done in the past).
This week in class we learned about Flexbox. Basically, Flexbox is a CSS layout mode where it ensures that all the elements on a page fit in the proper, predictable, and even no matter the screen size. Flexbox is an improvement over the normal block model as it doesn’t use floats.
So far, Flexbox seems very simple to use and it looks like there are plenty of documentations for anyone to use. This one, for example, stood out to me because it has very good visual representations of Flexbox so you can understand it very easily. Another one, from w3schools, I liked because it has the “Try It Yourself” buttons where you can try and test out any HTML or CSS right in a small part of the website.
We were given a tutorial / game called FlexboxFroggy to help learn Flexbox by using it. I thought this was a pretty neat and clever tutorial. Even when I got stuck in it the hints were very helpful. The last challenge was the hardest as it had you use everything you’ve learned in the last 23 challenges up to that point but I was able to finish it without any problems.
From what I’ve learned so far about Flexbox I feel it will be extremely useful. Sometimes while using the box model in CSS aligning elements exactly where you want them while having an even amount of space between them would be very tricky. I love the fact that we were told about this because one of the things I do find difficult is having applications be mobile friendly as many elements on all my applications so far get very squished on smaller screens. This will no doubt be fixed when we work on our mobile app project here at UIT.
- the action or process of setting something in motion.
- “the start-up of marketing in Canada”
- a newly established business.
- plural noun: start-ups; plural noun: startups
- “problems facing start-ups and small firms in rural areas”
Start ups are hard. In every way imaginable, they can crash and burn before they even take off. And even if they do gain some traction and make it out the gate there’s still the constant up hill battle and struggle to be not only relevant but be a valid product in your respective market. I don’t think there is a single person who got it 100% right the very first time. And if they did this blog isn’t for you.
Taking on a role of starting a making a start up is not for the faint of heart. It takes hard work, perseverance, vision and patience.
Leave a job, make a job.
If you’re going to start a startup you’re going to need time. Let’s face it if you’re serious about starting your own business you’re most likely going to have to leave the business you’re currently working at. You may get by with doing nights and weekends at the infancy stage, but once it starts growing you’ll probably have to make a choice. Steady employment or follow your dreams, with the chance of being as broke as MC Hammer.
Money money moneyyyyyy
Just like that old proverb, Money makes the world go round unfortunately the same is very much true in the startup world. Networking is a huge way to invest in yourself and your company. It definitely pays off to network, go through all your funding options and try to secure the best fit for your startup.
The start up song
Let’s be honest a good start up is like a great band. It can be the best, ahead of it’s time with extremely talented individuals. But if you all hate each other and have different agendas you can end up the same way as Van Halen. It can be tough if you’ve never had to manage people. When it comes to hiring a person, you also need to consider their cost to the business, their culture fit and how they’ll work as part of your overall team.
Companies copy companies. If you have a great idea be prepared to have a response if a competitor copies it. They may have more money, better UI, and more man power. Stay ahead and try to think of ways that you can stay on top. Despite the media making it glamorous and making your own hours, while being a boss. You probably won’t have any free time until you retire. If you want a successful business.
-Apple reimbursed Tim Cook $56,923 in 2014 for unused time off.
-Walter Robb of Wholefoods has accumulated 2,703 benefit hours since he joined Whole Foods in 1991, reports Bloomberg. That’s $613,824 he could cash in, according to his 2014 pay rate of $227.09 per hour, should he choose to actually redeem years of unused vacation days.
Make a plan
Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth. -Mike Tyson
I love that quote. And while a lil crude it is very true in the startup world. Make a plan, a backup plan and a back up back up plan. Try to deal with the unknowns, will I be able to draw a paycheck, will customers like/need my product. Do I have an exit strategy, how long will I be in buisness for, how long till I see a profit. They really don’t have an immediate right answer, but being able to have some way to deal with them when they arise can definitely help.
Everyone Wants to be a boss
It’s fun to be the boss until you have to enforce something. Sooner or later, you’ll have to come up with the rules your business follows, from how many vacation days your workers get to what the proper protocol is when filing a complaint about a coworker. These details aren’t fun to create, and they aren’t fun to think about, but they are necessary for every business.
Where we’re at
These concepts are only some of the things we’ve talked about and tackled at UIT. We’ve discussed ideas about being relevant in industry trends. That we need to be new and be relevant and grow not only in our local markets in Atlantic Canada, but across the globe.
The tech education scene is growing. I’ve only lived here a few months and I see more and more fellow nerds the closer I look around. I’ve found myself seeing more and more people in the same boat that i was in before UIT. Passionate about tech, and no where to go. The tech industry and education is growing here. You may not see it clearly on the surface. But if you dig a little bit you will find startups like Bid Squid, or click to order are right around the corner. The biggest challenge in the tech and econdev agencies is that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. There’s too many hands in the pot and the message becomes blurred. If I wasn’t attending UIT i’d have no idea about half the sandbox programs, incubators, YMCA, and other government programs available. The federal government wants to see growth. WE want to see growth, a lot of these programs are pretty much begging you to take the money, or just apply and check things out. The public just needs a bit more transparency.
UIT can only do so much to grow the base here. It will take everyday people to go ahead and take a step forward. There’s no clear answer and or clear message. I think like a startup, it will take time. We won’t see change for a few years or maybe even a decade. But whether we want it to happen or not the markets will change locally and globally. And many of us are already starting to see that change.
Work on BidSquid has been going pretty steady. We’re aiming for a beta launch for next week. As of the time of writing this post, the first release of BidSquid – the minimum viable product – is pretty much ready to be used by buyers and sellers. There is one major component that needs to be sorted out: the payment system. I’m in the process of setting up Stripe for payment.
Using Stripe requires us to have a verified SSL certificate on our server, to ensure that our site is secure for our users. Having the SSL certificate we need requires that our business is a registered one. That’s something that we’re in the process of dealing with, but it’s kind of a bottleneck right now. Everything is relying on it in some way or another.
We’re going to be using Stripe Connect to connect payments between buyers and sellers. The only problem is that the sellers currently have to go through a complex signup form, requiring them to supply information that they might not even have, as an independent seller. This definitely doesn’t make sense for BidSquid’s model – We want to give our users the ability to place a listing within 30 seconds. Getting paid from our site shouldn’t be so tedious.
Luckily, Stripe Connect has something called “Managed Accounts”. What this means is that basically Stripe gets out of the way and lets us do all the payment interaction with the buyers and sellers. The caveat being that BidSquid is liable for chargebacks and credit card disputes. Stripe also takes another 0.5% per transaction with Managed Accounts. It looks like that’s just how it’s going to have to be.
BidSquid should be efficient. That’s what we’re all about. I wouldn’t be happy with forcing our users to go through a tedious signup experience.
Where we stand
Before I bring up the tech community in cape breton i’d like to mention a few things;
- Nova Scotians pay the highest taxes
- Halifax has the biggest population in all of Atlantic Canada
- over 60% of Nova Scotia lives in the greater Halifax area
- In Atlantic Canada, by the year 2020, 1/3 Canadians will be a senior citizen
- The total number of people in Cape Breton is as of the 2016 census was 132,010(making 15% of NS) people and has a 2.9 % decrease in population since 2011.
- Cape Breton is also moderately a conservative business market, historically, fishing ,forestry, coal and steel, the two former, being almost non existent since the 80’s.
You may ask why I bring these points up. Does that mean I believe there is no hope for the tech sector in Cape Breton. Absolutely not. It just means we need more programs to grow our base, to stay competitive. Everyone in Nova Scotia has a friend, family member, or know one of our young people that has gone out west. We’ve seen what’s happened when we lose our younger work force. We’ve seen that oil is not a dependable source for our market, nationally or globally. We need something viable stable and keeps us growing in today’s market, the more green the better.
Many communities globally are shifting from industrialization (like Cape Breton) ,replacing coal with code. We should start introducing code to high school students (more abundantly) if not younger grades. Movies and media has portrayed the lone coder as some rock super star, but i believe while it is great to have an entrepreneurial spirit. There’s nothing wrong with having a RRSP or savings to fall back on, with a stable 9-5 job making over 60k a year and can be just as rewarding. Technology is only going forward not backwards in today’s society. The more education we bring to Cape Breton, the better our community, and province will be because of it.
Trade coal for code.
The global market is becoming more and more competitive. We are feeling the shocks even here in atlantic canada. We need to stay ahead, and current. We need moree pivoting away from industrialization. We need to be less conservative in our approach, and bring tech education into public schools as much if not more as trades are. I’m glad I learned how to make a shelf in shop….. but I think if I learned HTML, and CSS would be just as gratifying and probably more relevant. Better late than never I guess!
I had the privilege to actually mention a lot of these things in our school. We had a conference that discussed tech education in Cape Breton. Check it out!!
Andrew MacDonald and I have been toiling away over the last few weeks at the business and product of BidSquid and have been making great progress. I posted a blog over there giving an overview of our idea. Head on over and let us know what you think!