Open source technology allows undercapitalized entrepreneurs to bootstrap their way to success. Such was the case with Casting Frontier, an LA-based technology company used by leading casting directors in Hollywood. Joey Rubinstein launched the business in 2007 for under $5,000. Today, Casting Frontier has 400,000 members showing double-digit growth year-over-year since its inception.
"The Casting Frontier is a company that has done a great job building upon existing code, and it's enabled them to get there faster, cheaper and with a greater sense of what their road map looks like," says tech thought leader Jennifer Diamond, Director of Creative Services, Mashable.
We spoke to Joey Rubenstein, Casting Frontier's founder and CEO, for a lesson in best practices.
1. Be extremely picky in choosing your development team. "Bootstrapped tech ventures live or die based on their programmers. Although open source languages are potentially very powerful, they need talented and committed team members who are both able and willing to unlock the potential of these technologies," says Rubenstein.
2. Plan your basic architecture carefully and in advance. "Bootstrapped tech companies do not have the luxury of reworking various versions and permutations of their core technology. As a result, getting the first version as close to perfect as possible is key."
3. Build a team based on continuous change and fast learning. "Technology is a very fluid and dynamic game with new languages and advances coming online constantly. In order to take advantage of these advancements towards a company's success, the company needs a team of unabashed fast learners who can quickly incorporate new languages and/or versions of languages and leverage these to advance technical architecture."
4. The tail does not wag the dog. "Although it is necessary to rely on a technical team, don't fall into the trap of blind reliance and/or settling for a less than ideal attitude where developers are concerned. Many owners of technical startups fall into the trap of running their business based on the whims of 'star developers'. An effective C.E.O must be ready to challenge any employee who does not support the company's agenda."
5. Learn as much as you can about technology even if you are not from a technical background. "You don't have to be a programmer to effectively run a tech startup, but it is vital to have more than a rudimental understanding of the technologies."
6. Utilize open source technologies as much as possible. "Open source languages will enable your company to develop its platform at a fraction of the cost of utilizing proprietary languages. The use of open source will enable you to move at a greater speed. By utilizing open source technologies, you are tapping into global human resources and this is key to building a nimble and efficient operation."
7. Build your architecture in stages and not all at once. "Many upstarts fall into the trap of what I call continuous beta. They keep piling on features to their application before release and never actually get to the point of launch. It is far better to do one or two things very well than many things not very well."
8. Have a strategy for quick triage after launch. "Once an app hits the real world, all of its failings/shortcomings will become clear in short order. It is imperative that it be simple enough to enable rapid triage to problems that will invariably become exposed after launch."
9. As much as possible, try to program one cycle in advance. "As new versions of operating systems are released, new problems with your architecture will be exposed. A smart tech startup will always be programming with beta versions of these operating systems in advance of their release."
10. Have an open and effective dialogue with your end consumer. Rubenstein says: "Some of the most important ideas come from those who actually use it on a day-to-day basis in the real world. This is particularly true when it comes to B-to-B systems. Having an open dialogue with your end-user will enable you to gather valuable information and improve your applications. Suggestion boxes, questioners and focus groups are all effective ways to achieve this."
Disclosure: Casting Frontier had been a client of Mr. Finn in 2013.