Why I’m joining Lambda School.

Michael was a studio painter.

For ten years, he had provided for his wife and daughter by selling his artwork. It wasn’t a lot of money, but they had scraped by, and he loved it. He got into tech hoping to provide more for his family. When I interviewed him for a designer position at Relevance, a small software consultancy where I worked, he was working at a local web design studio where they paid him $100 for each Wordpress layout he completed.

He was hungry, quirky, talented, and very very fast, trained for speedy design by a few years…


What to do when your todo list won’t do.

That’s *actually* me writing on the whiteboard, probably bringing forth another Shining Idea.

It happens all the time, without anyone noticing.

You’re excitedly working on the Shining Idea, that one you came up with during a whiteboard session. It’s going great. And then suddenly it isn’t. What’s next? Who’s working on what? Are we done yet? How much is left? Are we on track? Are we working on the right things? Who knows?

You see, you’re not dealing with a simple list of tasks any longer; the Shining Idea has begotten a Project. A Project with dependencies, shifting priorities, deadlines, ambiguous scope, stakeholders, and multiple contributors.

Your todo list doesn’t speak Project. Checking…


After five years building a tech startup, a respite

Sunrise over Kure Beach, NC // April 2019 // I’m behind the lens, not on the bike. Unfortunately.

It’s like a drug. Ask other founders. There are few things as exhilarating as starting a company. From the whiteboard full of ideas to the first dollar of revenue, it’s a wild, wild ride. And like any good ride, sometimes you need to get off and catch your breath.

In June of 2014, a friend and I stood in front of one of those whiteboards. We’d been working on several different ideas full-time for months. A few had even made it past that first dollar of revenue, but none of them were getting the traction we had hoped. It wasn’t…


Real estate and the return of the relationship

Everyone knows the story.

Back in the Real Estate Dark Ages, there was an MLS book. That’s right. An actual physical, printed-on-dead-trees book containing all the area’s listings. Every few weeks, it showed up at your local real estate office. Agents gathered ‘round, poring over The Book, searching out the perfect home for their customers.

Then the Internet arrived and all of that changed. Listings previously locked in printed pages accessed only through your local real estate agent now flickered across every screen in the country. Anyone can find their dream home, online. The information freed, the consumer wins.

This…


The easiest way to grow your business is to talk to people that you already know.

Every real estate agent I talk to gets 70–90% of their business from their personal relationships and referrals. And yet, when it comes to growing their business, this is the last area that they consider investing their time and money into.

Everyone is focused on chasing cold leads. And the Zillow cash register goes ka-ching…

Here’s three simple reasons why you should market to your network:

#1 Higher conversion rate. You’ll have ten times the conversion rate over working with people you’ve never met before.

#2 Huge untapped potential. You already have thousands of contacts that haven’t been nurtured into…


Long raises cost you now in Focus. Long raises cost you later in Time To Traction. Raise as fast as you can.

Hooray! It’s closing day!

Today we closed with the last investor for a $750k seed round for First and I got to thinking about the costs associated with raising money. Sure, there are legal fees, the time devoted by one founder to focus on fundraising, and the infamous “top idea in your mind” cost. Everyone says it’s better to get fundraising over with as quickly as possible and now, through experience, I can say that I wholeheartedly agree.


I have a confession: my neighbor mows my lawn.

My neighbor and her husband are in their fifties. She works part-time and he’s retired. She first started mowing it two years ago when our first kid was born as a way of helping out a pair of overwhelmed new parents. But it’s been two years, and she still mows it for us. She says she finds it relaxing. I’m definitely not going to argue with her. Except to force her to take a pan of brownies from time to time.

Relaxing? Well, I can kind of understand. …

Jess Martin

Engineering Manager, @LambdaSchool. Co-founder, First.io. Bringing web products to market. Building tools for a better tomorrow.

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