John Omar Serial Builder

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Powwow Progress Report - Week 1

Mar 21, 2017

I'm starting an internet company and detailing the entire process: cost of development, time invested, people involved, features added, marketing strategy, revenue, and more.
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My Background

I started a company called Bitfountain in 2012. We began as an iOS Development agency in New York City, but quickly transitioned into teaching iOS development online. Our community grew to 110k students, and we ran the company while traveling between places like Berlin, Barcelona, Paris, Portland and Melbourne. Business insider wrote a little about us and I was interviewed on Mixergy. Check those links out if you want more info on the Bitfountain story.

Right now I am in Berlin, but in the process of moving to California.

What is Powwow

Here’s the problem: you’re building an online course like Bitfountain, or any kind of online community, and you want to engage your users. The common solution is to create a Slack group and send your users there. But that’s not good for your business! Why are you sending your users to another app? They should be engaged on your site, not spending time in another company’s app.

On the other hand, you don’t have the time and resources to build a full featured chat app into your website. You need to focus on growing your community! That’s where my app comes in.

Powwow is as easy to integrate as Google Analytics (copying and pasting javascript snippet into your site), and it is built for organized community engagement like Zulip.

Ownership breakdown

I'm developing the product with my good friend and former Bitfountain designer, Khari Slaughter.

We started a Wyoming company called True Thing LLC. Khari owns 40% and I own 60%.

Why did we start an LLC in Wyoming, and why an LLC instead of a C-Corp?

Bitfountain is a Wyoming LLC too. That state makes setting up a company extremely easy. We have a registered name, company address, agent, and employee identification number. The entire process took like 15 minutes online, cost less than $100, and we were officially in the state's company registry within an hour. Our EIN arrived the next day via email.

Many startups open as Delaware C-Corps. That's a great option if you know you want venture capital because C-Corps are structured with shares and vesting schedules. We aren't sure we will want venture capital. We might, but as of now we intend to bootstrap this business.

Since we don't need a corporate structure, we want to avoid corporate taxes. LLCs are great for bootstrapped companies because they allow taxes to pass through to the owners. That means that all profit generated by True Thing LLC will count as our personal incomes, and we will be taxed accordingly. If we want to convert the company to a C-Corp to take on investors, then it won't be too difficult or expensive. Facebook did it :)

True Thing - we really like Drake.

Tech Stack

The front-end of the app is being built with Vue.js. It's a JavaScript framework like React, except it outputs a smaller compressed file. That's important for us because our app is going to be embedded in business owners' sites. It needs to be lightweight.

For now we're using Firebase on the backend. It will scale for sure, but we could be limited by costs once usage increases. It's the perfect database for us because it is realtime.

Firebase just introduced cloud functions, so we can actually go a long way without our own backend code. Cloud functions will even allow us to do things like securely accept payments with Stripe. Super cool! When we do need server-side code, we'll be using Clojure.

Next steps

This update is a little light on progress since we just started a few days ago. Next week I'll post about design concepts and progress on development. I'd also like a running list of costs we are incurring. Maybe a spreadsheet or public google doc.

Question for you

Do you get the idea behind Powwow and the problem it solves? I'm hoping to come up with a one-sentence description of Powwow. A description so clear that people will say "Ah that makes total sense!" Suggestions are welcome. I respond to all emails from my mailing list, and am active on twitter for now.

Get on the mailing list for future progress reports.

Until next week.