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Code Story on Smash Notes

Code Story podcast.

March 13, 2020

How does a startup go from the back of a napkin to an MVP? Code Story brings you in-depth interviews with tech leaders, digging deep into the vision and critical moments of the people putting it all on the line in the name of a great idea.

Hosted by tech entrepreneur Noah Labhart, Code Story is a periodic window into the startup world. In their own words, startup veterans share what it feels like to disrupt an industry, how to recover from critical mistakes, and what it takes to build – and lead – a team that has your back.

Episodes with Smash Notes

Startups are full of uncertainty and hard work. The path forward is murky and often uncertain. is trying to fix that by offering a full-spectrum of startup services, including help with business planning and launch, mentoring, funding and more. Their vision was born when their own startup nearly failed, turning the founder Wil Schroter into a teacher, a coach, and an advocate for startup education.

Updated on March 13

Building on the early tech he learned, Jon Buda became a ruby on rails champion - building his projects using the back and front end components of the language. Having created a Spotify like music platform - way before Spotify existed - he gained large experience in what is required to host and process audio files. While working at Cards Against Humanity, he created his second podcast hosting solution in time to host a single.. and very popular podcast. This solution would come to be known as

Updated on September 30

Through a chance internship in LA, Jonathan Perichon made his way from France to the United States. In doing so, he fell in love with the culture and opportunity. After working for a startup requiring background checks for its users, he saw first hand how antiquated and slow the process can be. After about 6 months, he and his co-founder set off to build an API driven solution, facilitating the submission, reporting and workflow of background checks for candidate workers… and much more. 

Updated on October 31

Recently, I had the pleasure of chatting with Jürgen Strauss on the InnovaBuzz podcast.

A quick note about the end of Season 2 and the start of Season 3... soon.

A resident of Amsterdam, Daniel Gebler found his way into tech through an artistic route - through creating demos, combining visuals and music through technology. A husband and Dad of 2, he enjoyed rock climbing, but mostly bouldering indoors - though he loves to go out in the trees with his friends when he can. After leading R&D at Fredhopper, he took several years to do research on large scale systems. Coming out of his research in 2015, he joined Picnic - the online supermarket delivering groceries directly to your home, free of charge.

Nine years ago, Dennis Lunev moved from Russia to the USA. He likes to polish his skills in archery and throw axes. Previously, he was a software engineer attempting to build SaaS solutions that didn't quite pan out. Afterwards while doing integration consulting he saw the need to connect payment gateways to HubSpot, so he set out to build DepositFix - a way to directly integrate Stripe and PayPal into the world's most used CRM.

A few weeks ago, I got to have a great chat with James Deeney on the Meet the Podcasters podcast. In this episode, we talk about Code Story and how we craft the narratives for the stories. We dig into the editing, the workflow, and the inspiration that started it all.

Mubashar Iqbal, AKA Mubs, has always been a maker. Having built 85 side projects, he is no stranger to launching new products, being inspired by his love for Product Hunt, he got the idea to create something with the same mechanics, but for podcasts. On a train ride home, he started to build pod hunt, a place for podcast lovers to submit and vote on new episodes,
solving discovery around episodes over entire podcast shows.

Growing up in a small rural city in Germany, Dominic Obermaier was not exposed too much when it comes to computers. After studying computer science in college, he was hooked. A frequent reader of ancient philosophy, he likes to hang out with friends and play board games, specifically long-lasting games such as Arkham horror. Obermaier started a company with his college friends with the goal to broker data from connected devices, and not just a few, but millions following his very own standardized IoT protocol MQTT. This solution is now known as HiveMQ.

Kyle Campbell is a native Canadian and high school dropout growing up in Nova Scotia. He's been working with technology since he was eight years old. Learning computers, building websites, and even starting an online record label. A husband and a dad, he loves the outdoors, camping and motorbikes, and frequently hits the trails with a group of tight-knit campers. After moving into entrepreneurship post-high school, he worked his way up through the ranks of several companies in the Vancouver area, and founded his own companies along the way, one of which got acquired by Zillow. Post that Kyle started to consider the current complexity of the infrastructure and DevOps landscape, Cloud, Kubernetes containers, et cetera. So he set out with the mission to make DevOps successful, easy to use, and bring developer tools to where development happens by enabling developer shortcuts.

Recently, I had the pleasure of guesting on Harry Duran's Podcast Junkies. In this episode, we talked about technology startups, communication skills and formatting podcasts for length, production and promos. I was able to share my insights on entrepreneurship and how my podcasting skills have transferred over to Veryable, my startup company. Enjoy the episode. Link to the episode:

A mother of 2, Desi McAdam understands the needs of a parent. She graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in computer science, and loves to roller skate - and may have participated in roller derby a time or 2. Fast forward several years, she and her co-founder were meeting to figure out how to create a co-working space with childcare. In attempting to do this, they came up with the idea for Nanno - an on-demand platform for connecting parents to vetted, quality sitters.... when & where they need them.

A Maryland native, Rob Moore quickly found himself in the UK studying game theory and behavioral economics. A lover of travel, he has been able to live the digital nomad life and see a number of amazing places. Post-graduation he started doing data visualization work for several different companies. He noticed the difficulty of going from a core product to a sellable SaS platform. Internalizing dry principles and learning the pains of smaller product value delivery, he built Floom to be the startup as a service tool, enabling small SaS businesses away quickly to productize their products.

Andrew Overton is a finance grad from Howard University. He spent 3 years after graduation, in investment banking. After a while, he desired to work in tech and joined Graphiq in Santa Barbara to learn the ropes. During that time, he obtained his masters in CS from Johns Hopkins, and fulfilled his life long dream of working for Apple - specifically, on Apple Music data pipelines. Married to his wife Jessica, he is a family centered dude, looking up to both his brother and parents. And outside of tech, he loves to read and practice Ju Jitsu to blow off steam and practice thinking a few moves ahead.  During his career, he had the idea of saving his own family's story somehow, but drug his feet on the idea. In 2019, he committed to making progress and validated the idea - in fact, it was at this point where he connected with his co-founder, Amelia Lin, and set off to create a robust product to capture stories from your loved ones - through an easy interface, all in one place, and saved in audio format. It's like getting a personal podcast of your Grandma's childhood stories. This is the creation story of Saga.

Adrienne Bolger grew up in the midwest, and moved up to Boston to attend MIT. She is a lover of running, and was a jujitsu martial arts coach at the institute. Growing up, she loved art and math, and found her way into computer science, trying to find the intersection of both. Bolger interned at Pixar, and tinkered in robotics and medical devices. Eventually, she founded Bloc Health, which aims to solve healthcare credentialing, and the pains associated with moving yourself, your practice, or even working, in another state.

Jack Rhysider is a veteran of the security world. He likes to explore, rather it be through street cycling, empty buildings, alleyways - or just getting outdoors. He grew up with conspiracy theories, but found himself drawn more to a truthful scandal over the former. Having watched some of the biggest events in history come and go - bubble, bitcoin boom, etc. - he felt the increasing presence of an entrepreneurial itch. In the early days, he created some blogs and websites, using some well known web tech, and cultivated a love of podcasting and storytelling. Not able to find the right podcast in the info sec arena, he decided to give it a shot on his own. Fast forward to today, his podcast - Darknet Diaries - is one of the most well known podcasts available, topping the charts with its weekly release of hacking true stories. 

Jason Tan started his love of tech back in middle school, when his Dad showed in the wonders 0f connectivity through dial up internet. After taking some beginner programming classes in high school, and graduating with a CS degree from the University of Washington, he found himself drawn to crating powerful abstractions within software, to produce outcomes for users. Though previously a hardcore video gamer - playing such well known games like Diablo 2 & 3, he has since moved on to dabble in freestyle rapping & singing. And in 2006 post college, he worked for startups in Seattle, like Zillow and Optify. Finally, in 2011, he moved to San Francisco to start his current company and go through Y Combinator. Through some discovery, he figured out that a large area ripe for innovation and disruption was fraud. He then set out to build Sift, a product to power digital trust and safety, empowering companies to unlock revenue without risk.

Steven Naimark started out his professional career as a clarinet performer. Through his passion for performing, he grew not only as a musician, but as a person, finding joy in the discipline required for his craft. After not enjoying the teaching aspect of music, he began looking for something different, to help separate him from music... to provide clarity. Along the way, he fell in love with web development and made a universe change to do it full time. Eventually, he started building a solution to totally modernize the water utility space, called Ziptility - a platform providing asset, task and inventory management for water utilities.

Thane Brimhall has been passionately building tech for over 15 years. He started by programming his graphing calculator in High School. He has built solutions for prominent startups, such as Weave Communications, Divvy Pay and Simple Citizen. A long time gamer, frequenting platforms like Dota, he made efforts to create his own games. Through these passions - tech and gaming - he created a treasure hunt using augmented reality. He quickly learned what his clients really wanted, which was augmented reality through the web. This is the creation story of Seek.

Erin Karam was a kid interested in everything. She played music, she was into sports, and... into computers and programming. She continues to have well rounded interests today, running marathons, coaching her kids sports teams and teaching them to play music. Being from a healthcare family, she was always looking for purpose, and doing a job that meant something.. and 5 years ago, she jumped onboard to build Prepared Health, after latching on the story and vision of the company. She set positively impact the world - by enabling the real time exchange of information between health care providers and home health professionals.

Early on in his life, Ryan Graciano aspired to be many things - law, writing... and eventually coding, of course. Fun fact, he is an accomplished dog trainer. focusing on animal behavior modification - and more recently, has gotten into powerlifting. Despite his love of analog activities, he got started coding right after college, and tried to avoid joining IBM... yet, still did, through an acquisition. After a few years of growth, he met a group of entrepreneurs who had an idea to provide credit scores to millions of users... for free. This idea would eventually become Credit Karma.

Born in Monroe, Louisiana, Dennis Cail has been involved in the tech world since he started in the Navy. After serving in the Navy, he obtained his CS degree and an MBA in Finance. A family man and father, he realized he was having limited success in getting money returned to him, that he lent to friends and family. Ten years later, he set out to solve that problem, to hold people accountable to return lent funds, and remove the awkwardness for the lender. This solution became known as Zirtue.

Matt Senter grew up on a small farm in rural North Carolina, dreaming of being a game programmer. A Dad, a husband and musician, he keeps extra busy besides being a startup founder. After selling his prior company CosmicCart, he and his co-founder wanted to make it easier for people to get into cryptocurrency. Having experience with products like Ebates, they decided to build Lolli, which is a rewards platform for shopping online... except the rewards are given in bitcoin.

Growing up in the bay area, George Deglin has always been in the middle of the Silicon Valley action. Having both parents being engineers, he was influenced to study Computer Science at Berkley. During that team, he co-founded a startup in the education space. After building this company up, he parted ways to start his next venture. This next venture led to the discovery of the vision for OneSignal - the most widely used Push Notification and marketing platform, sending over 5 billion messages a day.

Zach Moreno is quite the renaissance man, being an artist, designer, author, developer... and a loving husband. He has interned on the Chrome team at Google, building extensions of DevTools and as a big believer in AngularJS, he wrote a book about deployment essentials of the language. After attempting to record a sci-fi drama, he found that the conventional remote audio recording tools didn't produce a good quality recording... so much so, that he decided to build SquadCast - the best way for podcasters to record awesome sounding remote conversations.

Courtland Allen grew up totally opposite of his twin brother, Channing, but influenced by him nevertheless. His family was rooted in entrepreneurship, and as such, Courtland was heavily inspired to build and run his own thing. After going through Y Combinator and trying out different startups, he landed on the idea for Indie Hackers - and it checked all the boxes for what he wanted to work on. He spent three weeks, and built a community for creators who want to find freedom in making a living for themselves online.

Next week, we will release Season 2 of the Code Story podcast. We've taken all of our learnings, paired with your feedback and our expanded network of tech guests, to expose you to more product journeys of the tech you know, love and use. And we dig deeper into he minds of those who built them, to uncover more about their tech, their products... their stories.

A few weeks ago, I sat down with Paolo on the Milestone Hackers podcast, and had a great chat about startup life, co-founding partners, balancing family & startup life and how to avoid fear. Enjoy todays bonus episode on the Milestone Hackers podcast.

I had the opportunity to chat with Noah and Ben on the Product Journey podcast. Every week they get together and talk about building online businesses, what's been going on and where they struggling at the moment. On the show, we talked about the startup I co-founded, Veryable, which is a marketplace of on-demand labor for manufacturing and warehouse work. We talked through the early days of Veryable and what it looked like to reach product/market fit. We also talked through execution and asked for my advice on how to execute well.

Early in his career, Brandon Hilkart shifted from a mechanical engineering focus to tech support for a school district. Through his exposure to IT operations, he drifted towards software and becoming acquainted with building startup solutions. While considering the purpose, legacy and impact of his work, he was approached by his co-founder to create something to alert parents of potential online dangers for kids. This conversation ultimately led to the start of a simple, yet sophisticated internet safety solution for parents and kids... called Bark.

A tech and science minded individual, Chris Slowe has spent 9 years with Reddit. Beyond being a tech executive with the company, he is a Dad and likes to work with his hands in the machine shop. When he put roots into the product as the first employee, he and the co-founders wanted to build a place to discuss interesting topics. Fast forward many years, Reddit is now the premier place for news aggregation, content rating and online discussion around interesting information.

For Bill Eager, his interest in tech paralleled his desire to play music. After attending music school, he became disillusioned with music as a day job and pursued tech - still moonlighting as a performing musician. As he pursued a role with a startup, he was introduced to the founders of Nomad Health - and instantly connected with the idea. He jumped on the ground floor, and created a marketplace to serve clinical nomads.

Throwback to one of our favorites from Season 1! Original released August 2019.

Through a chance internship in LA, Jonathan Perichon made his way from France to the United States. In doing so, he fell in love with the culture and opportunity. After working for a startup requiring background checks for its users, he saw first hand how antiquated and slow the process can be. After about 6 months, he and his co-founder set off to build an API driven solution, facilitating the submission, reporting and workflow of background checks for candidate workers… and much more.

Throwback to our very first interview! Originally released, June 2019.

For some builders, there is a moment where technical creativity is catalyzed. For others… it starts much earlier. Rylan Barnes has been working with technology since childhood, starting out by programming his legos to move, and all the way through college, where he built early marketplaces for trading textbooks and built physical, automated chess boards. When he started creating a solution for mobile phone barcode scanning, he had no idea the doors it would open and lead to the formation of his most successful product, venture… and exit – called ShopSavvy.

Coming from a supportive, entrepreneurial home, Blake Miller was introduced to the internet at a very young age - building websites for friends, and flipping digital businesses the same way people flip houses. Outside of tech, he is a competitive barbecuer, with a team of long time friends who create award winning BBQ. Highly involved in the Kansas City Smart City initiative, he created an award winning iOT solution around smarter living experience for tenants and more profitable infrastructure for building owners and managers. This solution quickly turned into the company known as Homebase.

Tech has always been a part of Aalok Shah's life. His father and mother influenced his tech interests and biomedical education. After working in nuclear medicine and supporting the special needs community, he found himself always drifting back towards tech and software development, hacking together websites and doing web consulting. Several years later, he was onboarded by the founders of EnergyFunders - a platform for investing in Oil & Gas - to help improve their technology feature set. The business took off, and they found themselves in need of a full time CTO - and Aalok was the best fit.

Growing up in Tel Aviv, Israel, Omri Mor learned to appreciate music, art, food and other sensory experiences. After selling his first company, he and his now co-founder got together to catch up… over some pita and hummus. They began swapping stories of problems they encountered in processing payments to their third parties - so many problems that they were both required to build their own. After taking some time validate a solution in the market, Omri set out to build Routable - a modern bill payments, payouts and invoicing system, enabling companies to speed up payment processing through a secure platform.

Along with being a startup founder, Dennis Steele is a family man and a triathlete. A non-tech grad from BYU, he went through a software development bootcamp - called DevMountain - to arm him with practical dev skills. He took this base knowledge, and he and his co-founder built Podium - a way for businesses to manage their online reputation, through one single platform.

Ben Milne grew up in a small town, and has had a pretty normal life. Raising a family, riding a stationary bike and funding startups through selling music gear, he has been in the tech world for a good while. His second startup started as a consumer product that you downloaded to move money between banks... without using credit cards or paying hefty fees. What he discovered was the thing they were best at was payment processing infrastructure... So he changed his business to focus on being a high performing, white label solution for enabling others to process ACH payments - and started phase two of his company, known as Dwolla.

Bernard Worthy loves to travel the world with his wife, spend time with his family and stay connected with his friends. Born and raised in Atlanta, he is a long time entrepreneur and technologist, spending many years in consulting and startups. Through some research and discovery, he figured out that community lenders were using multiple disconnected systems to accomplish important tasks . He set out to solve this problem - to bring all of these systems under one piece of software to make the loan origination process more efficient. This solution would eventually be called Loan Well.

Breaking news! We are going to 1 episode a week!

Eric Sharp grew up with a unique background. With vivid memories of growing up in poverty, he recalls being distinctly inspired towards education when his mother went back to school to be a teacher. She instilled in him curiosity and a desire to learn, which made a big difference in changing his life trajectory. Using this passion, he and his co-founders were motivated to build the vision for a SaaS learning platform called Degreed - enabling learners and businesses to build the skills they need for the future.

Growing up in an entrepreneurial home, Shelby Stephens felt enabled to pursue his own projects. He was brought up appreciating science and art, and studied engineering in College. After working for NASA, he decided to venture out onto his own, pursuing a new venture with his friend, doing video production work for hire. Fast forward 15 years, he and his co-founder are serving the production and project worker space by building Jolly - a social and professional network, designed for gig workers, providing reputation portability, connection opportunities and a marketplace to find work.

Andy Abbott has been a tech enthusiast for a long time, doing things that techies do. He built a BBS network so his friends could play games together, he created websites on geocities, and spent spring break on the beach… learning PHP. Post graduating from Purdue, he spent many years gaining a diverse set of professional experiences - from software to consulting to domain squatting to SEO to grocery shopping. Along with this, he built an active and successful Microsoft developer community in Chicago. After selling the company he co-founder, called BookedOut, he felt the pains of the contract review and diligence processes. From that experience, he set off to build Heretik, to enable the streamlining of contract review at scale.

After getting his masters, Jonathan Campos found himself working with clients, listening to their pain points, and creating software to meet those needs. He worked his way through a handful of startups and agencies, before landing at Bottle Rocket as the chief architect, growing their web and backend practice. Not too long after, a former boss reached out about an opportunity to up-level the ride sharing experience, focusing on simple billing, safety and control over the experience. This opportunity was to become the CTO of Alto.

A born creative, Alvaro Sabido loves to travel and continuously be learning. His engineering background led him to love anything with an engine, and having worked in a diverse set of companies through consulting, IT, radio and media, he became a natural problem solver, interested in innovating to make things better.  When seeing a picture of someone in the military holding a book up to a webcam, attempting to read to their child back home, he set out to create a solution to integrate a video chat and a children’s book – and what would eventually be called Caribu.

Now-a-days, people are introduced to software development through multiple avenues. And it’s pretty amazing how many other industries parallel the thinking and creative process of writing code – teaching, project management… even music. Sean Washington took an unconventional route into software, through writing music and graphic design. Since then he has been sprinting forward, as a full stack web developer and tech podcast host. His most recent adventure has been becoming the CTO and lead developer of the Design Kollective – giving him the opportunity to not only learn the platform – but to make it his own and define the vision for how to up level the product.

Podcasts are a great thing – the good parts of a radio show, the powerful snippets from an audio book, with all the content control of a topical news feed. Yet, there was something missing when Leah Culver tried to find her next episode to listen to, while training for her 1st marathon.

A gap used to exist in the world of music licensing. The quality of music available to project teams making promotional videos or materials was pretty low. And for those composing music, getting paid was an untimely event, where checks just sort of “showed up” in the mail. Musicbed set out to change that, by providing an online marketplace for music licensing. And in the beginning, Tanner Hearne took on the role as the first in house developer – with the job and goal to take the product to new heights, as a well engineered, scalable and secure platform.

For some builders, there is a moment where  technical creativity is catalyzed. For others… it starts much earlier. Rylan Barnes has been working with technology since childhood, starting out by programming his legos to move, and all the way through college, where he built early marketplaces for trading textbooks and built physical, automated chess boards.

The process of building a product can take many twists and turns, based on the path that is chosen. How do you get started? What tools do you use? And how do you build your product roadmap? There will be mistakes and issues along the way, how is your team going to respond? How do you build a team? And not just any team… a team that gets the vision, that follows your lead. What is the vision, and what does the future look like Ultimately – how do you take an idea from the back of a napkin to MVP to launch?