Slowing Down and Learning

The Startup Move I’ve Never Regretted

This story dates back to the earliest days of RJMetrics. The company — and by “company” I mean myself and my co-founder, Jake Stein — was far enough along that we had quit our day jobs. Unfortunately, it was not yet far enough to have a real product, funding, or customers. In other words, the pressure was on.

In those days I was singularly focused on shipping code. As far as I was concerned, it was a race against time to release a product that would generate revenue and keep us from going belly-up.

However, when I look back at the startup chaos of that time, one thing I did in those early months always strikes me as odd: I put down my keyboard, picked up a book about MySQL, and studied my ass off.

MySQL Training

So I went into full-on college student mode: Flashcards. Notebooks. Sample tests. After several weeks of intense study, I went to a testing center in South Jersey, took a formal exam, and received a MySQL Developer Certification (these exams are now offered by MySQL’s owner Oracle).

All that time I could have been writing code, shipping features, and bringing us one step closer to that elusive first sales demo. Instead, I took the time to stop and look around, and I’m glad I did. My energy was better invested in furthering my understanding of the most important tool for my target market and target customers.

When it was all said and done, my entire view on the space and opportunity had evolved. We decided Jake should go through the same process, even though he was not a developer, and the value it created was immense and persists to this day.

Direct Value

  • Faster development — Since RJMetrics used MySQL as its own core database platform, I immediately became better-versed in how to design an efficient system that could run quickly and not break the bank with hosting costs.
  • Thought leadership — This newfound expertise made it possible for me to participate in the MySQL community forums, establish a voice in the market, and publish blog posts like this one, which still drive traffic to our site to this very day despite being written almost seven years ago.
  • Better team — Knowing what to look for made me better at interviewing engineers and appreciating the depth of knowledge someone might bring to the table when it came to databases and data analysis.
  • Increased sales — Jake’s performance and confidence grew with his SQL knowledge, as he increasingly felt like he had a level of expertise that could extend as deeply as necessary when speaking with a more technical prospect.

Indirect Value

For the last seven years, this deep connection to our product vision has kept me excited about building our company. I remember those early days studying in my attic with great nostalgia. Chasing that sense of curiosity and adventure is what keeps my head popping off of my pillow every morning to this day.

CEO at @RJMetrics, Improviser at @phitcomedy, usually talking about startups, running, or rap music

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