Reflections on start-up life week one

I have been a little busy lately, what with finishing up at PwC and now launching into BinaryPlex. I make no promises, but I’d like to try and make this a weekly habit, to review the progress and what’s happened.

Firstly, to reflect on leaving PwC after 15 years — it was nothing like what I expected. I thought I’d feel more… emotional I guess. But it turns out that walking out the door and saying good bye was an easy transition. With all the preparation that we’ve been doing over the last month or two, it was simply a major milestone down allowing the new adventure to begin. I’ll miss the people but that’s the great thing about people, you don’t have to say good bye to them just because you’ve left the building.

The weekend was pretty relaxed before the first day of BinaryPlex. One thing that’s very clear to me is that this is a marathon, not a sprint — burning myself and my family out before I even start won’t cut it. That’s not to say I don’t work on the weekends either (I spent a fair bit of time coding yesterday while it was wet outside), but on weekends it’s not to the exclusion of the family.

Monday came and we got straight into it. The first item for the day was a massive sprint planning session, working out the first set of milestones on the way to our beta release. We’ve really challenged ourselves (well we think we have anyway!) to heed the lessons we learnt from those who’ve been before us and shared at BootUp Camp. The lesson we are listening to the most at the moment is “Focus” (Mick Liubinskas of Pollenizer).

We went through all our photo-shopped designs and tried to get it back to the one critical screen (it turned in to two) that we needed for the Darebin sprint (note on the sprint names in a moment). This was a fantastic exercise and we took a long time (almost four hours) to complete and categorise all the functionality and place it into the release. Even after three to four months in planning, we still learnt lots through this process on what is critical to HiveMind and its operation and goes to show that you can’t replace face to face.

As far as sprint names go, I like a good name for a project — it’s more memorable, you don’t get confused about Sprint 2 vs. Sprint 3 (or 26 vs. 27) but you don’t want to waste time thinking of them either. We are naming ours after the train stations on my train line, starting with Darebin (my station) and working back to Melbourne. The only minor concern as an AFL fan is that we can’t finish on the Collingwood sprint, I just can’t do it.

Tuesday was architecture day. Perhaps it depends on how you think, but I’m very visual and creating a block architecture of HiveMind went a LONG way to even further clarifying what we are trying to achieve and sped up the communication between Alex and I as we could point to the components we meant. It gave us a common vocabulary to discuss and understand the components. From this, the modules for HiveMind were then laid out and the testing framework setup. Not too bad by Tuesday afternoon. It also became apparent early on that we’d need a Message Queuing architecture as well and this has been factored in now.

Alex then pushed ahead with the coding, throwing out the prototype work that had been done and now re-writing that into production code. The vast majority of the core engine was completed by Friday (don’t get excited though — there is a lot around the edges).

There’s also been marketing and administration tasks continuing as well — we’ve met with the accountants and have almost finished signing off the various documentation needed. I continue to read widely, looking for people doing similar things, learning and contributing to blogs (one of the most effective ways to get sign-ups on our beta page is to make a meaningful comment on a related post).

We’ve managed to get along to a couple of events too, one I really enjoyed was attending the Securus Global christmas party in Melbourne. I’m friends with and worked with their founder Drazen in Sydney many years ago (almost 15 — when I first joined PwC!) but we’d lost contact until we recently re-connected through Twitter. It was great to meet some real tech brains (security geeks tend to be like that), practice pitching HiveMind in a friendly environment to people that have a strong bull-shit detector and of course catch up with Drazen as well.

To help move our timelines forwards, we’ve been looking into out-sourcing our designs to take the photoshop work and turn it into both a unique look and feel and get the HTML / CSS done while we keep moving on the Engine. This has meant briefing and talking to a few design agencies as well.

So it was an action packed and extremely productive first week.


  • Freedom to make decisions and move fast.
  • Ability to “do it right” — we haven’t skimped on testing or process, but we’ve picked the best ones for the job we are doing.
  • Excitement about getting started.
  • Securus christmas party and meeting some great people.
  • My new iPhone — yes an indulgence but I’m in love with it. After missing my BlackBerry it’s great to be back on air again while on the go.


  • Wasting my time going to Hive on Tuesday when it had been cancelled. My fault for not reading the updates correctly, but too much to do to waste time going to an event that wasn’t on.
  • Telstra cancelling my mobile phone number in error. It was an incredibly stressful couple of hours running around to get it re-instated. Lesson learnt — ring them, don’t go to the Telstra Shop (waste of time and no help at all).

If I could change on thing / goal this week?

  • Not enough focus on customers last week — some networking but we need to get around to our beta sign-ups and start communicating.