So What’s the Business?

So far I haven’t given much of an indication as to what the business is going to be. That is intentional as I plan to build up to that as I build the business. But I will give you some hints as to what my idea is and I will definitely detail how I plan to build it.

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The business will initially be strictly online and something that anyone can find something to enjoy, learn from, and even profit from. It’ll also give you a way to give to your favorite charities or other non-profit organizations in a very creative way that will entice others to give as well.

Given the business will be online, I obviously have a website to build! Good thing I’ve been involved in that kind of work for quite a while now. But the tools I plan to use are very new, some are just being made available and not fully mature. Why would I risk a new business on untested technology?

As the name of this blog reveals, I am bootstrapping this new business. What exactly does that mean? I am not getting any outside funding, its all what I can put into it myself and what I can earn from it that will keep it going.

As a result, I need to keep expenses as minimal as possible. With a website there are definite costs, such as hosting, scaling, storage, support, etc. These costs can vary quite a bit, so how to minimize?

Hosting on Home Servers Option

I could do what used to be done, buy or build my own server and host it at home. I’d have total control over it but then I’d also be the sole support of it. Also what happens as the business grows (hopefully)? Do I buy more servers to allow it to scale, more storage as the needs grow? Where does that end?

Maybe this would be something I would want to do eventually when the business can afford to operate its own infrastructure with full support and personnel, but that is a long way off. There has to be something else.

Hosting on the Cloud Option

How about the cloud? This is a mature technology now and I have had multiple years of experience working in it. There is no equipment to buy or maintain, just pay for the virtual machines and services that you use. Someone else makes sure it is always up and running and is there to help when you need it, plus you can automate it to quickly scale as the load fluctuates. I wouldn’t want my website going down right when its getting busy or running at full capacity when no one is on it.

This sounds much better but there is a small problem. When you create virtual servers in the cloud to host your application, you pay for it 24 x 7, as long as it is running and you ALWAYS want it running. As your business grows you’ll need more servers, and that cost will increase. Is there any way to get these costs down?

The Serverless Option

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What is serverless? Does this mean hosting computers without a server? NO! It does not. You still have to have a server, hopefully multiples of them as your business is booming. What it means is that the details of the server are abstracted away from you. You no longer have to manage it, you don’t have to handle the scaling, you just have to use it (and of course monitor it).

And you only pay for exactly what you use!! If no one is visiting your site (hopefully that’ll never happen) then you don’t pay for it to be there. It’ll still be there when someone visits.

But to get the full benefit of this technology you have to design your site to take advantage of it. The old monolith apps of days gone by (well, today still) won’t give you any benefit. It’s all about microservices baby!

I’m going to delve into each of these topics over the coming weeks, and also talk about a couple of conferences I attended to learn about all of this: ServerlessConf and OSCON.

For now though I have to finish packing. I have to head to the airport in an hour! Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend everyone!

Forming the Business

Last night I began the process of officially forming my business. Woo hoo! Its about to become real 🙂

Choosing a Name

This can be the most difficult thing you have to do. Really. What is so difficult is that, if you intend to have a website, your domain name has to be available (mybiz.com). I can’t tell you how many names I have thought up that were so amazing, so original, so creative, only to find someone already owned it.

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So you start looking into variations of the names you like, different spellings, cute blending of words, foreign words. You get very familiar with Thesaurus.com since there has to be a similar word to my favorite name that means the same thing but is available. There just has to be…..

I can’t tell you how many iterations I went through trying to find the right name. I thought I found it a couple of times, only to either have it shot down by people I know or to find another site with almost the exact same name that does something similar enough to potentially be a problem.

All I can say is keep trying. Don’t settle. Yes, you can always change it later but the longer you wait the harder that will be. If you do it after you open your doors for business it will be even more difficult because then you introduce rebranding.

Don’t let it cripple you though. Work on it a little here and there. You never know when or where inspiration will appear, and when it does WRITE IT DOWN IMMEDIATELY! Then check to see if the domain exists. I use GoDaddy.com but there are plenty of sites out there from which to choose.

Once you find one you like and is available let it stew in your mind for a day or two. See what others think. When you come to the conclusion that it is good then go get that domain for a year. Don’t commit to more since you still might change your mind, but at least you’ll have it.

Business Structure

The first question I had to ask myself, though I had already decided, was what form should the company take. Should it be a corporation? A sole proprietorship? A partnership? A Limited Liability Company (LLC)? I decided on an LLC and here’s why.

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The owners of an LLC, also called members, have limited liability. This is a big deal. The owners are (mostly) shielded from any personal liability. So if someone goes after your company, they can’t try to get your house too. In Texas it seems that courts have ruled that limited liability can be bypassed if there is fraud or misrepresentation, so I’ll have to avoid any of that (but of course!)

The owners of an LLC are able to choose their own management structure, even manage it all themselves. There is no board of directors, no one else dictating what you need to do or how you need to do it, just the owners. Since I want to make sure that as the business grows I am able to keep a firm grip on it this sounds good to me.

The owners of an LLC are also not required to adhere to any rigid rules as to how the business operates, as do corporations. There are no requirements for holding specific meetings, taking minutes, etc. Though it is a good idea to do these things, as an LLC I will have the flexibility to define it as I choose.

Finally, owners of an LLC can choose how the business is taxed. They can be classified for taxes as a partnership or a corporation. If a partnership, then it all flows through to the owners and is much simpler. If taxed as a corporation, then they get double taxed, where the business gets taxed on profits, then the owners get taxed as well. So its a partnership for me!

Where to Form the Business

So I know what type of business I want. Now where do I create it? I live in Texas so my first thought is form it right here in my home state. But wait, I have heard there are states that are better for this, that have added benefits if you form there. Specifically I have heard that Delaware is the best state. Where should I do this?

If I set the business up anywhere but my home state of Texas, where the primary address of my business will be (specifically my house), I would then have to register my business with the state of Texas as a “foreign entity”. Taxes would then be a more complicated issue (and more costly), and that is one thing I would definitely like to keep simple! So I decided to just form it right here at home. This pic below is Lady Bird Lake in Austin, when I was out on a walk recently. Such a beautiful city!

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How to Form the Business in Texas

So I applied to form the business in Texas (There is a more detailed description of what to do here, though I will take you through a little of it). You can do that here:

Texas Secretary of State

You have to create an account and give them credit card information. The reason for the credit card is that there are fees to do some things on the site, such as searches. And one search you have to do is see if anyone else has your business name already registered with the state. There can be only one! You can do this with the “Name Availability Search” at the top left of the menu. I think it costs $1 to perform the search.

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To apply your new business with the state you need to submit a Certificate of Formation. To get to that, in the image above under “Reservation * Formation * Registration Documents” select the type of business structure you are forming, which for me was “Domestic Limited Liability Company (LLC)” and then press “File Document”.

The next page you see will be what you see below. Select “Certificate of Formation” from the drop down list then “Continue”.

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From here just follow the directions. There is a $300 fee for this, but you won’t have to pay it until you are approved.

Obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

EIN Assistant Link

The next step was registering with the US Government. This is absolutely necessary to be able to open a bank account for your business, to pay taxes (yes, we have to do that) or to have employees (hopefully, eventually). You can do this online here. But remember, do this after submitting the application to your state and do it during the specific hours that they don’t tell you about until you have completed three or four pages of the application 🙁 If you are doing it after 10 pm Eastern Time then it will kill your application and you’ll have to start over later. It is a painless process though and fairly quick.

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Now what?

This is where I am now. As far as forming the business goes my next steps are opening a bank account, putting money in it (hmmm, need to get some of that), and creating an Operating Agreement. I might get into all that in a later post.

For now though I have to get ready to head out of town. I’m heading to Los Angeles to help celebrate my aunt’s 80th birthday!

Welcome to the Journey

Though this is my first blog entry it is by no means the beginning of the story. I have notes in Evernote dating back to late 2013 though I know it goes back a while before that. Having a business is something I have thought about for a very long time, though only over these past 4 to 5 years has it all started coming together. It has taken a lot for me to get to even this point.

My name is Ron Rabakukk and I live in Austin, Texas. I’m a senior software/devops engineer working remotely with a team in Oklahoma City, OK. My family, including our dog, moved here nearly two years ago from Oklahoma City.

My 81-year-old father and his dog moved in a few months after that. My Mom passed away back in 2009 and my Dad had been living alone ever since. Having him live with us just made so much economic sense. His activity has increased and his diet has vastly improved too. Its fortunate we all get along so well!

Our youngest daughter is in marching band at her high school and I am very involved with it as a volunteer. The band runs the concession stands at all of the home Varsity, JV and Freshman games as a way to raise money and this coming Fall I’ll be running the show!

Writing all that makes me wonder how I am going to find the time to do all I need to do to start this new business. I’m going to get a little help from family and friends, but the vast majority of it will be all on me. I know I will find the time because of one thing, I want this. I have what I think is a good idea (and so do the people who know about it), I think it will succeed and it lends itself to a slow-paced, bootstrapped startup. This is going to happen, one way or another.

The picture below is of me when I was about a year and a half. I like to think of this business as being in a similar state: very young, full of promise, currently sleeping but soon to be awakened.

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Over the coming weeks I’ll mix in posts on how I got here and what I have planned. I certainly don’t have all of the answers and will no doubt make many mistakes along the way, but through this blog I hope find others who have similar interests who can occasionally offer encouragement or guidance and I can document what you have to go through to bootstrap a startup. Welcome to the journey!