Learning a Hard Lesson

Sorry for the long break in posts. It was not planned, but a lot has happened over the last month.

Last week the company I have been with for over 5 years had a massive layoff. My co-workers were told 40% of their overall employees were let go, though I have not been able to verify that anywhere. I do know I was let go, along with a lot of other good people. There were lots of managers and long term employees let go. It seems they were looking to cut costs so they cut higher costing employees, but really who knows. They obviously didn’t worry about losing all of that knowledge. I survived three other layoffs while I was there but I couldn’t get past this one.

They did give me a decent severance though. I am still technically an employee for 2 months (though I don’t have to work), so I get all of my benefits through September, and when they give out their bi-annual bonuses (yes, they are still giving bonuses along with the layoffs) I will still get it since I will technically be an employee at that time. At the end of my 2 months I get a severance payment of 6 weeks pay.

So I have 3 1/2 months to find other employment. My first thought was, hey! I have this idea for a startup! Maybe I can get someone to invest in it and I can start working on it full time. That would be incredible!


I haven’t been looking into finding investors at all. My whole idea has been to bootstrap it, building it up with my own funds on the side. What are investors looking for? When are they willing to invest? Is there any chance I could find someone?

My wife has a good friend whose husband has a lot of experience in startups over the past 2 decades so I asked to meet with him and get his advice. I pitched him my idea, asking him what he thought of it, whether it was viable, and would there be a chance to find investors.

He liked the idea of it, but had some questions. One had to do with the business model. Would people be willing to pay to watch videos when they can watch videos elsewhere for free (or with ads which would just be paying with time)? I thought they would if they knew the money would be going to a charity or nonprofit, but looking at it more objectively I don’t think they would. So I have modified the model to something more realistic (more on that in a later post).

The big takeaway from this meeting was that investors want to see a product that already exists and has traction, already has a customer base that is growing and shows signs that it could grow a great deal more with investment. Where I am right now is still way too risky. I don’t have a product, no customer base in place, no traction at all. And who am I? (This part he didn’t say but I have read about this) I have no track record with startups. This is my first one so how would anyone know whether I would follow through? If it would be any good? Even for a minimal investment that would be too risky.

So the advice I got, which was very good, was to find another job, one that isn’t too demanding that pays the bills, so that I can have the time still to develop and build this business. Then keep at it. Get the site built, run some test cases to refine it, and start developing traction. Then I can look into finding investors and only then could I afford to hire myself and leave my steady job.


So now I have a little over 3 months to find a job here in Austin, Texas. I’m in IT so this is a great market. I have just never had to go through the modern IT interview where you are tested at length, both online and in person on a whiteboard. I want to go back to having a software developer job but it has been years since I did any real development, and I don’t think I could get past the interviews.

So I plan to take the first month of my Vulcan exile (sorry, Star Trek reference) and study, study, STUDY! I bought a book a while back called Cracking the Coding Interview, by Gayle Laakmann McDowell. I am going to work through that, brush up on my Java and Linux skills, and whatever else I can find. During that time I will also survey the market and start tracking job postings and companies I might want to work for. When the time comes I’ll start applying and hopefully interviewing.

So if anyone has any advice, or needs a good Java developer, please let me know! I’m eager to hear!

I’ll have one or two more posts on bootstrapping my startup but then it will be all about finding a job. I have to keep my family fed and a roof over our heads, and in this weather I need that A/C too! Once that is settled I can get back into the bootstrapping.


Creating a Company Logo

A couple of months ago, just after I had finalized the company name, I thought about creating a logo. I would need one eventually for things such as social media, business cards, and of course the website. I could try to create one myself or find someone I know who makes them.

It was around that time that I had started listening to a number of podcasts. I had recently gotten the iPhone 7, having switched from the Galaxy Note 4, and found the wonder of podcasts again. I had used to listen to them occasionally a number of years ago but had since stopped.

I searched for any podcasts that had to do with startups, entrepreneurship or small businesses. I found a number of them and started listening to see which ones I would like. They included: Mixergy, The Small Business Show, Foundr Magazine Podcast, This Week in Startups, Lean Startup and the No Sleep Startup (if you have more suggestions or comments on any of these I’d love to hear).

I’m not going to get into any of the specifics of these podcasts at this point (maybe later) but what is pertinent to this post is that while listening to an interview on Mixergy I heard about one of their sponsors, Design Crowd (you can save $100 with this link thanks to Mixergy).


The way the sponsors are introduced is not by commercials, but by the host of the show talking about his experience working with that product or company, otherwise known as a testimonial. Its a much more effective way to promote a product or service and seems to be rather common in the world of podcasts. In this case the description of DesignCrowd seemed good and was what I was looking for, so I took a deeper look.

The way it works is after you create an account you create a project or “brief” and specify what it is you want. You need to describe the business or whatever it is you need a logo for so that the designers have something to go on. You can give them your ideas, any sketches you have made, or anything else that might help them design the perfect logo for you. Then the contest to see who can make the best design for you begins.

Within a day I started to get a few, but not all that many. One thing that turned out to be important was that I hadn’t committed to paying anything, and the designers knew it. While the contest was going on I eventually made a commitment to pick a winner and pay them. Suddenly I was getting entries from all over the world: South Africa, Philippines, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Peru, Serbia, Brazil, Pakistan, Australia, Indonesia, Belgium, Paraguay, Vietnam, Malaysia, Austria, UK, US, Netherlands, Kenya, Cameroon, Jordan, Sri Lanka, Germany, Sweden, Argentina and India.

The vast majority of them were good, some very good. I could tell that a number of them were designs that they had come up with previously and just changed it to my company name. They were good, but not what I had asked for. Some got very creative and were definitely trying for what I asked for, but had gone off on tangents that I didn’t care for.

I received 183 designs over the course of the contest. Many of those were the exact same design from the same designer, just displayed on different surfaces, or using different color schemes. Frequently the designers would send me a message within the app asking for comments or input. It was a way for them to get noticed.

I eventually went with ironically the very first design I received, before I had committed to paying. It was from prodesigns99 in India. I really loved their concept and it was completely unique among the 183 entries. Before the contest was over I asked them to make a number of small refinements to get it just right and it worked out really well.

So here is the final logo I selected from the contest. I think this is also the first time I have revealed the name of the business on this blog as well, Parandama, LLC.


The word “parandama” is an Estonian word that means “improve” (and also “repair”, but I like improve better). My father is from Estonia so I liked taking a word from his birth language. I found out later Parandama is also a Hindu boy’s name that means Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu means, from one source I found, “all pervasive.” I think that can apply to the site as well, so I found meaning with the name from two sources.

This is where the tag line “Improve Yourself” comes from, and actually it is a shortened version of the full tagline I intend to use, “Improve yourself and someone you care about.”

The idea behind the logo is somewhat obvious. Your path is up the stairs to a door that leads to better things. The colors of the stairs and the door make up the colors of the visible spectrum, and the white inside the door is what happens when all of the colors blend together. The site will provide many different means of improving yourself as well as helping you help others. More on that to come.

I would definitely recommend DesignCrowd. I had a great experience and got a great logo out of it.


Hosting on Amazon Web Services (AWS)

A few weeks back I posted “So What’s the Business?” and briefly discussed hosting my site in the cloud as opposed to trying to build my own infrastructure, and I touched on the serverless option as well, but I didn’t go into depth at all. Now I’d like to do that a bit regarding hosting.

There are thousands of options for hosting a site in the cloud. Just do a web search on “web hosting” and there are thousands in the United States alone. There are the big companies, smaller ones, and probably even Trump’s 400-pound guy has a server available to host your site.

But seriously, there are a lot of options to choose from. I am going to be hosting my business on one of these options, so it is vital that it has these qualities:

  • Dependable
  • Reliable
  • Can handle large fluctuations in traffic
  • Excellent support available
  • Great documentation available
  • Good community of users
  • A good track record
  • Mature in its offerings
  • Ease of use
  • Affordable
  • Familiar
  • Has serverless capabilities

I’m sure there are more but this is what comes to mind right now. If I am going to have my business completely dependent upon another business to make sure it is always available and operating properly it had better be damn good.

This list, especially the last one regarding serverless, leads me to the big company options: AWS, Google Cloud or Azure. Having gone to the ServerlessConf I learned a lot about what is available.  AWS is the most mature, though the others are catching up. I got to work with AWS during my workshops at the conferences, I have worked with AWS at work and I have been studying it via LinuxAcademy for which my current job is providing an account for training. I feel comfortable with AWS and am impressed with it. Also it meets all of my criteria.


If you are interested to learn more, this is a good chart of the three with links to their various offerings (I got the table here).

Microsoft Azure Amazon Web Services (AWS) Google Compute
Available Regions Azure Regions AWS Global Infrastructure Google Compute Regions and Zones
Compute Services Virtual Machines (VMs) Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) Compute Engine
App Hosting Cloud Services
Azure Websites and Apps
Azure Batch
Azure Scheduler
Logic Apps
Amazon Elastic Beanstalk Google App Engine
Serverless Computing Azure Functions AWS Lambda Google Cloud Functions
 ALM & Code Editor Azure Visual Studio Online AWS CodeDeploy None
Container Support Docker Virtual Machine Extension (how to) EC2 Container Service

Container Engine
Container Registry
Scaling Options Azure Autoscale (how to) Auto Scaling Autoscaler
Analytics/Hadoop Options HDInsight (Hadoop) Elastic MapReduce (EMR) Google Cloud Dataproc
Government Services Azure Government AWS GovCloud None
App/Desktop Services Azure RemoteApp Amazon WorkSpaces
Amazon AppStream
Object Storage Azure Storage (Blobs, Tables, Queues, Files) Amazon Simple Storage (S3) Cloud Storage
Block Storage Azure Blob Storage (how to) Amazon Elastic Block Storage (EBS) Persistent Disk
Hybrid Cloud Storage StorSimple AWS Storage Gateway None
Backup Options Azure Backup Amazon Glacier Google Cloud Storage
Disaster Recovery Planning Azure Site Recovery None None
Content Delivery Network (CDN ) Azure CDN Amazon CloudFront Cloud CDN
Database Options Azure SQL Database Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS)
Amazon Redshift
Cloud SQL
Cloud Spanner
NoSQL Database Options Azure DocumentDB Amazon Dynamo DB Cloud Bigtable
Cloud Datastore
Caching Azure Managed Cache (Redis Cache) Amazon Elastic Cache None
Data Orchestration Azure Data Factory AWS Data Pipeline BigQuery
Cloud Dataflow
Networking Options Azure Virtual Network Amazon VPC Cloud Virtual Network
Azure ExpressRoute AWS Direct Connect Cloud Interconnect
Azure Traffic Manager Amazon Route 53 Cloud DNS
Load Balancing Load Balancing for Azure (how to) Elastic Load Balancing Cloud Load Balancing
Administration & Security Azure Active Directory AWS Directory Service
AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM)
Cloud Identity & Access Management (IAM)
Multi-Factor Authentication Azure Multi-Factor Authentication AWS Multi-Factor Authentication Cloud Identity-Aware Proxy (IAP) (Beta)
Security Key Enforcement
Monitoring Azure Operational Insights Amazon CloudTrail Cloud Console
Azure Application Insights Amazon CloudWatch Stackdriver Monitoring
Stackdriver Logging
Queueing Azure Service Bus
Azure Event Hubs
Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS) Cloud Pub/Sub
Notifications Azure Notification Hubs Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS) None
Secure Credentials Azure Key Vault (Preview) AWS Key Management Service Cloud Key Management Service
Compliance Azure Trust Center AWS CloudHSM Google Cloud Platform Security
Management Services & Options Azure Resource Manager Amazon CloudFormation Cloud Deployment Manager
API Management Azure API Management Amazon API Gateway Cloud Endpoints
Automation Azure Automation AWS OpsWorks
AWS Config
Compute Engine Management with Puppet, Chef, Salt, and Ansible
Automated Image Builds with Jenkins, Packer, and Kubernetes
Search Service Azure Search Amazon CloudSearch None
Analytics Azure Stream Analytics Amazon Kinesis Cloud Dataflow
Cloud Dataprep (Beta)
Email Services None Amazon Simple Email Services (SES) None
Media Services Azure Media Services Amazon Elastic Transcoder Cloud Video Intelligence API
Machine Learning Azure Machine Learning (Preview) Amazon Machine Learning Cloud Machine Learning Engine
Workflow Azure BizTalk Services Amazon Simple Workflow (SWF) None

Free Tiers

All three of them have free options that allow you to do development and test without paying anything or at least very little. Here’s an article that compares the three free tiers.

I however am interested in AWS specifically and this is their free tier. Some last for just 12 months and some are always free.

Where I Am Now

So far I have been using AWS mostly through my own study. I am currently working through this book and will share what I learn in future posts. As I go through the book I am going to design my site so that once I get through the book I can start implementing it. I hope to have a basic version of the site complete by the end of August.


Deciding on a Company Name


So far this has been absolutely the hardest thing I have done for this new business. I spent countless hours over months trying to come up with a name. I’m happy with my final choice but I could have done without the pain of finding it.

Domain Name

Since this is going to at least initially be an online business one of the most important aspects of the company name is can I get the right domain name for the website. In case you don’t know, the domain name is the “google.com”. There can be only one site using “google.com” and it is owned by Google (or maybe their parent company Alphabet). So you can’t use it. You must find your own.

When are you ready to start checking names, find a site where you can see if your name is available. Two sites that I use for checking are GoDaddy.com and Register.com, but there are plenty of others out there in the series of tubes.

State Laws

There are also laws prohibiting you from using the same name as an existing company in the state where you create the business. You might find that your name is unique to your state, but it might exist in another state and then they might have the domain name you want, or something very close to it that would confuse potential customers. Forgetting about the domain name, if both of your companies are national you will no doubt have conflicts. Make sure your name is unique.

When you have a name picked out, check with your state government to see if your name is available. It most likely will be your state’s Secretary of State’s office or web site where this can be found. You should be able to do it online, though likely for a small fee. When you’re ready to formalize your company name you’ll have to do it here anyway so you might as well get to know their site.

Finding a Name

Before you even try to figure out the right name to call your business you are limited to what it can be. Don’t fret. The 26 letters of the English alphabet can still be formed into all kinds of interesting names. You just have to work a bit harder to find the right combination of letters.

Descriptive vs. Implicative

In my mind there were two main types of names: descriptive (like weather.com) or implicative (like amazon.com).


A descriptive name tells you exactly what you will find on the site. When you go to weather.com you won’t find the latest film releases or stock prices (unless they have branched out and I don’t know about it). You will find the weather. The name tells you what they do.


An implicative name doesn’t lend itself immediately to what it is, but gives you an overall feeling of what to expect there. With the example of amazon.com, I see dual meaning. There is the obvious “A -> Z” that they make clear in their logo above, meaning that you you will find everything from A to Z on their site. But there is also the word itself, Amazon, which makes you think of the Amazon rainforest. That area, according to Wikipedia, “comprises the largest and most biodiverse tract of tropical rainforest in the world”.  So if you want to find a type of living thing, odds are you’ll find it there. So, like the rainforest, if you are looking for something to buy, odds are you’ll find it at amazon.com.

Get to Know Your Competitors

You absolutely MUST get to know who your competitors are before you start your business. At this point though you need to know them to avoid similar names. Keep a list of them handy as you go through the process to make sure you avoid them or anything like them. Jot down the domain names they use too.

Naming Process

Come up with a process that feels right for you. Try brainstorming names and write them all down. Try descriptive ones first as they would be easiest and move to the implicative names if you want.

When you have some that you think aren’t too bad then first look up possible domain names. The domain name doesn’t have to be exactly the company name but it is good for it to be very close. Keep a record of what is available and what is taken. Put some thought into what suffix you want to use as well (that is what I call the “.com” or .org”, what it really is is the top level domain). When you pick one it is a good idea to go ahead and buy the other top level domains as well to protect your name so others can’t come up with sites with your name and steal your traffic. This means if you pick a domain name of “xyz.com” then you should also buy “xyz.org”, “xyz.net”, etc.

When you have a name and a domain name set then check with your state (the state where you intend to form the business). If it is available then you are good to go! If not, start over.

Final Thoughts

I thought I had a name at least three times before I finally picked the one I have gone with. Just remember to be sure about your name before you open for business. It is a lot easier to change the name before than it is after. After you open if you change your name you lose your name recognition and have to possibly pay for a lot of renaming costs. Be sure before you go live.

Good luck and happy naming!

Symphonia’s Serverless Insights for June 15, 2017

“Welcome to the latest issue of Symphonia’s Serverless Insights newsletter. Our mission is to bring the benefits of Serverless to both our clients and the industry at large, and we’re excited to share our latest thoughts with you…..”

There is a lot of useful information in these newsletters and I will share them as they come out, or you can subscribe for yourself here.

If you know of any other good resources please let me know and I’ll consider adding them as well!