How to Hire a Great Developer

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Today, I listened to a lecture led by Peter Bell on General Assembly's live stream. Here are some important tips/takeaways:

So, what are the qualities of a great developers?

Thoroughness
Some developers can hack a theme on a wordpress blog, but can they handle testing, source control and documenting? Can their product handle extensions and future add-ons ,or will it break apart?

Passion for technology
Peter says, “If they don’t attend at least 1 meetup a month, don’t hire them”. They should have a network of professional developers they know. Being involved with other developers means they love what they do, and seek the company of others who share the same interest. A developer is as good as the limits of his knowledge. But what happens when there’s a problem he can’t solve? Who will he turn to if he needs to ask a question?

Passion for your business
They might know a lot about the technology, but do they care about your service? Do they understand the needs of your startup, and will work with you because the genuinely interested in that specific field?

Communication skills
Talking to the computer is much easier than talking to the executives or working well with others. A developer who can’t communicate well with others is like the greatest and newest gadget that can’t connect to your USB port.

What kind of questions should you ask to find a great developer?
If they answer the question they get 1 point, if you as a non technological person can understand their answer they get 10 points. 

What unit testing framework do you use and why?
It doesn’t really matter what the answer is, the point is that they understand the importance of quality assurance. Developers should write tests for THEMSELVES to make sure their code works.

What is your definition of DONE?
Are the thorough, do they take responsibility for the completeness of the tasks assigned to them?

What version control system do you use and why?
Your version control system is your safety net. It lets multiple developers work together on the same files. It lets them make mistakes and revert them easily. Peter Bell goes as far as saying, if a candidate does not have a GitHub profile, that’s a major red flag.

What frameworks do you use and why?
Frameworks are pieces of code someone else wrote that you can utilize for your own need. It’s not always good to use them. A good rule of thumb is that if a developer never used any framework, that should raise a red flag.

Have you read “The Lean Startup”?
If your developer is passionate about startups, he should have read that book.

How would you find a great developer?

Meetups \ Conferences
Choose them carefully though. Go to tech meetups that will not be crowded by business people trying to recruit a tech co-founder. Don’t pitch yourself, talk about your venture and ask “do you know of anyone who might be working on that?”, they might suggest themselves or refer you to other available developers.

Mailing lists
Try getting your job offer in a technical mailing list. Google for the mailing lists that are relevant to the technologies that you plan on using.

Referrals
Ask developers you meet that aren’t available to work for referrals, or you can even ask them about how would THEY go about finding a good developers, you might learn some new techniques or just get them into your state of mind in a way that will make them want to help you.



Hope you found this post useful. Let me know if you have any more suggestions on how to find that next great developer to work with you, right here in the comments section.

Your startup is a Squash game

Here at Wisepricer, we recently went on a short vacation getaway to Taipei, Taiwan (which ended up being more of a remote work spot than a real vacation, but I digress). We try to have a routine of physical activity while on the road, whether bike riding, rock climbing, casual gym or squash. In Taipei, we found ourselves playing squash quite often at the local sports center. One Monday as Roey (WisePricer co-founder and mediocre squash player) and I prepared to begin our game, I was struck by many similarities between the game of squash and startups in general. Roey and I spent a little while discussing it, and I would love to share our thoughts with you here.

 

image

Roey, my co-founder is getting ready to get his a** kicked (well, it’s my post, so I can say anything, however most of the time we find ourselves in a tight exhausting match)


It is not about how hard you hit, it is about how smart you move.
                A strong squash player can hit the ball hard, causing it to bounce further away from the wall - giving him an advantage over a weaker opponent. A heavily funded startup has that same advantage, with their strong financial backing, they can hit their ball (launch their product) further into the market than a less funded startup.  That kind of advantage is difficult if not impossible to confront head on. Here is where it pays to be smart. In squash, when playing against a player with a strong groundstroke, the key to negating that advantage lies in movement. Moving more frequently on the court itself and hitting the ball closer to the wall will force the other player to move closer to the wall as well and forces him to move outside his comfort zone. The result - the power of his swing is negated by the closeness of the wall. Sun Tzu writes in “Art of War” that “The Supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting” and that “All warfare is based on deception”.  As a startup, you cannot compete head to head with a better-funded startup in spending and expect to win. However, you can force them to compete in an area that they do not have an advantage in - you need to “underdo” them.  {For a great explanation of what is means to “underdo” I highly recommend you read what these people have to say here: http://gettingreal.37signals.com/ch02_Build_Less.php

Position and anticipation is the name of the game

As we discussed above, smarts will get you ahead more than brawn. In squash, I have noticed that in order to win points there are a few key legwork elements that you should be doing:

Position: Standing close to the center of the court puts you in an ideal position; you have the least possible distance to move to hit the ball. 

 Anticipation:  Think ahead, anticipate your opponents’ hits and move before he hits the ball. If you wait, you need to scramble to get to the ball, putting you out of place. Anticipating correctly puts you in position to hit a kill (a hard hit shot that ends a point definitively).  

In a startup, positioning and anticipation are just as important (if not more so). Putting your startup in the right place and at the right time (by properly anticipating the market) can be a real game changer. Regardless of the depth of your resources, funding or even talent - being in that perfect spot can put you ahead, you can literally stumble across that big client that puts you on the map. However, you need to ensure that you are anticipating the market (competitors, clients, partners, etc.) and position yourself to that you can seize the moment.

A little luck goes a long way.
                Despite all of your smarts, placement and anticipation there remains a part of the game that is simply luck. You can hit a “carry" or a "nick" (hits that usually the result of luck more than any real skill and which are usually unplanned), however, the result of these lucky mistakes can win you the game. 

One can claim that all successful startups have some degree of luck involved, and I would agree to a certain extent. However, I am also a believer in making your own luck.   Attend the right events, get featured in the right publications and approach the right clients and partners. If you are doing all of these things, you are putting yourself in a situation where “luck” is more likely to happen. After all, where are you more likely to stumble on that “perfect client”, at that top conference in Taiwan that all the movers and shakers are at, or in your local bar?

I am happy to have shared our thoughts with you, and we are looking forward to hearing some feedback from you. Now if you will excuse me for a bit, I am off to kick Roey’s ass in some squash…

A shot that is executed after the ball bounces once on the court. It is usually hit from the back of the court.

A ball that is not hit cleanly on the racquet

A ball that hits a crack between the floor and a wall after bouncing off the front wall - this is usually a winer

What The Beatles can teach us about Entrepreneurship

Through everything they’ve done, whether it’s their music, movies the way they expressed themselves, the Beatles changed the course of history with their imagination and exceptional innovation.
It might be dismissed by some nay sayers as a pop culture byproduct, but nobody can argue that their creativity shaped the form of the 60’ and is influential till this day.

I’ve been a Beatles fan since a very young age, thanks to my mother. Countless of books and articles had been written about that phenomena that lasted less than a decade. It seems like there is an endless amount of anecdotes and most of them are quite brilliant. I find the ones that go into the economical perspective of the band and the “Beatlemania” particularly interesting.
For example, did you know that in less than 2 weeks since the Beatles arrived to the US for the first time, Americans had bought $2.5 million worth of merchandise  One typical item was an ice cream sandwich called “Beatle Nut”, another popular one was a wig in the style of their haircut at that time (one newspaper described them as “75% publicity, 20% haircut, and 5% lilting lament”).

Besides the economic side of things, what I find interesting is the course of events that took place, and the innovation spirit (some of it attributed to experimentation with drugs). Some stories from that time can teach us about entrepreneurship, as running a startup is as unpredictable and exhilarating as leading a successful hippie era mega pop band .

Playing loud for the Germans
Not many know but in their early days, the Beatles performed mainly in nightclubs around Hamburg, Germany. Their Hamburg period was similar to that of an early stage startup. Struggling to survive, making almost no money and eating instant noodles (“Ramen profitabile”) but putting lots of hours into improving and being “out there”. Lennon said about those days - “We had to play for hours and hours on end. Every song lasted twenty minutes and had twenty solos in it. That’s what improved the playing. There was nobody to copy from. We played what we liked best and the Germans liked it as long as it was loud”.
Playing loud for the Germans is what every entrepreneur knows as that period when you try to market your product before you even built it. You pitch your idea and make changes according to people’s reactions. Your MVP looks like something you hacked out, but hey, at least you are not working for The Man.

Reinventing and merging ideas
In their songs, the group had shown originality and out of the box thinking. When covering other people’s songs they were sometimes taking a great idea and making it awesome. “Twist and Shout” was originally recorded by the Top Notes and become famous when it was performed by the Isely Brothers. A few years later the Beatles’ version of that song succeeded quite well, reaching #2 in the charts (it didn’t reach #1 just because another Beatles song, “Can’t Buy Me Love”, was at the top at the same time) and is to this day one of their most famous songs.
When looking around for ideas, it seems like all the good ones are taken. It’s not so often that we hear about a truly original concept that disrupts (apologies for using that cliche of a word) its industry, and even those great ideas are almost always derivatives and mash ups of prior ideas (we borrow, steal and transform). The ability to take a great idea and make it awesome is what differentiate a successful entrepreneur from a failed one. Dropbox were not the first to hit the market with cloud based sharing, Facebook were not the first social network and Buffer is all about making one common everyday activity (sharing to social networks) - magnificent.

Another great song that can be made out as an example is “A Day in the Life”. What’s unique about this song is the fact that it is actually two songs glued together by a spectacular bridge. The songs written by Paul and John were combined by a 40-piece orchestra improvisation.
That sort of hack is often seen in startups, where two different ideas can be merged to speed up user acquisition rates. At WisePricer, we have used a product we call WiseUPC to help online merchants complete the missing bits of information on their products (such as the barcode or Amazon’s unique identifier). Helping them improve their data helps us give them a better service when they use our main product, WisePricer. Our vision is to offer a wide set of tools to make the merchants wiser under one roof, similar to the way 37Signals help businesses collaborate and make decisions online.

Unity
When being asked whether he believes in God, George answered, “We haven’t decided yet”. That sort of example illustrates the strength of the Beatles that enabled them to act as one person. Unity is the key to any successful endeavor. Your startup will rise as you bring more awesome people aboard, and as more awesome people join, the more lucky you are to succeed. Keeping the moral high is a key element. A group of people that spends most of their waking hours together should be united to fulfill one goal, that is to make the startup succeed. The Beatles made it because they were united. Acted, dressed and talked the same, the group maintained their brand by setting trends together. Unity asserts power, and makes your brand memorable.

Inconsistency is fine
One day the Beatles set out to buy a Greek island where they intended to live and work among family and friends. They flew there, rented a yacht to show them around and spent hours swimming, sunbathing, singing 'Hare Krishna' and tripping on acid. They eventually decided against buying. They changed their mind but got to enjoy the ride anyway. As Paul put it, “Probably the best way to not buy a Greek island is to go out there for a bit”. In a similar way, when running your startup you might think you know where you are headed and what you want, but new facts present themselves each day and force re-framing of your mindset. It’s fine, and you shouldn’t get too worked up about it. Just remember to go out there and put your assumptions to the test. Keep in mind that it’s OK to be wrong as long as you enjoy the ride and learn from it.

Oh, and even though the Beatles didn’t end up buying an island, that venture turned out to be profitable. Currency exchanges from British Pounds to Greek currency and back, made them over £11K from that unrealized deal.

Hide Your Tagged Photos, even if they are appropriate.

By: MelissaE

As I connect with more people on Facebook, I am finding myself checking my own page before accepting their friend requests. Why? I am an adult, and am not ashamed of how I spend my personal time. You won’t find any drunken debauchery, risque outfits or makeout sessions in my photos. My photos reflect who I am; a happy girl who works hard, travels a lot and likes to hang out with my friends.

So why did I hover over my privacy settings all morning?

Facebook is a massive network of people with different agendas. Most people use their Facebook to connect with friends, some sell products and market, and others use it as a subsidiary network to LinkedIn, to establish and nurture business connections.

I use my Facebook for all of the above. But, as I start to get published on high traffic websites and our company influence grows, my personal life becomes more public. Deep down I feel the need to protect it, to keep some parts of my life private to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

We’ve all heard stories about people losing their jobs from things they post to Facebook, because they underestimate the breadth of their network, or are just plain stupid. From my work as a journalist, (and having common sense) I know what not to post about. Although I conduct myself in an adult manner, people can misconstrue anything.

For example, my pictures from the Giants parade in downtown SF could make people think I am a partier (because the whole crowd was drunk at 11am), even though I got stuck in it while walking to work. Keeping that in mind, I neglected to post that photo. I am finding myself becoming hyper-aware of my surroundings both on and offline. One picture could tarnish my company’s reputation as well as my own.

So, my photos are now officially stealth.

If you are unsure about what is FB appropriate for a young professional, check out some of these articles:

http://mashable.com/2012/09/01/social-profiles-job/

http://www.happyplace.com/10790/facebook-status-updates-posted-at-wildly-inappropriate-moments

http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/inappropriate-facebook-photos-result-australian-swimmers-sent-home-early-olympics

Appending a cost to your emotions

by Roey B

I’ve seen it many times. Some John or Jane Doe decide they are sick of this or that, and go on a personal vendetta. It’s typical when dealing with your government, your phone company, cable, internet service provider, or that prick who stole your parking spot.

Those people come across something they deem unfair. Unjust. They want their revenge. They want the people who overcharged, treated them in an undermining way or cut the line in the grocery store to pay for what they did.
We all want that when we experience the same situation. I guess some ancient instinct is wired in our brain in a certain way, as neanderthals the people who took revenge earned respect from their tribes. Revenge was sweet as it didn’t cost a dime back then. It was a way of asserting your power.
Today things are a little bit different. First of all, there are laws that prevent me from throwing bricks at windows. Second of all, there is always a hidden cost that is attached to an act of revenge.

Let’s say I suffer greatly from an overcharged bill. I will call my service provider and ask for a refund. In case this call is not a 1-800 one, it will cost me to do so.
The more I wait on the line (and the more angry I get), the more I pay. If the initial amount I was overcharged with was smaller than the amount I was charged for that call, that’s illogical for me to do so from a pure economical perspective.
If the service provider refuses to pay, I can have my “revenge” by suing. Even though I stand a good chance of winning (hypothetically), will the time and effort put into this be worth the amount of compensation I will get?
It’s a matter of how hardheaded you are. Or how much of a man (or a woman) of your principles you are. Sometimes it’s a wonderful quality to have, but again, looking from a pure economical perspective, there’s a price for acting upon your emotions, and it’s something to consider.

I try to make my decisions based on logic instead of emotions. When coming across a situation where I’m destined to pay for acting, and I’m expected to lose rather than gain, I’ll think twice before doing anything.

If you’re interested to learn how people make irrational decisions based on their instincts or emotions, read some of Dan Arieli’s books or articles. Dan studies the irrationality behind our decisions making process. His books are intriguing and had a great influence on me.

Just F***ing Smile.

by: MissMelissaSmileyFace

There are times (for some, more than others) where you are having ‘one of those days.’

You could have spilled coffee all over yourself[Melissa], forgot your Mom’s birthday[Eido], forgot your wallet [Arie] pulled an all-nighter [Roey], or just happen to be in a bad mood. Whatever the reason, don’t despair! Just f***ing smile.

The feeling of being overwhelmed is very common in the startup world, driving some to come apart at the seams. As professionals, we can’t afford to do that. We can’t afford to let our negative thoughts run away with our sanity.

At WisePricer, yesterday was a really hard day. I think we were all out of sorts from being hungry, tired, and overworked. But, this is a really important time for us, so we needed to stay positive.

So, last night, I decided to come up with a fool-proof strategy to lighten up.

1. Get a compliment. If compliments seem scarce, visit emergencycompliment.com (my daily affirmation).

2. Scream in the shower. Seriously, do it. You will end up laughing at yourself because it is so ridiculous.

3. Step out of reality for a moment and imagine your life is a movie. (How would Ace Ventura handle this?) “Alllllllllrightyyyyy then.”

4. Do something nice. Like letting your boss sleep (while simulaneously taking pictures of him to post on the blog). 

Whatever you need to do, get happy people.

How I Simplified My Life

by Roey B

It has been 5 years since I started simplifying my life. I didn’t know I was doing that at the time. I just moved to a new apartment in Tel Aviv, and being extra careful with my money, I decided I will not subscribe to cable TV. I can’t say I avoid it at all cost. I do watch some series occasionally, there are some exceptional ones out there (i.e “The Wire” or “Breaking Bad”), but choosing what to watch and when makes life much simpler.

And simple is a form of beauty. You can’t argue with the elegance of minimal architecture or interior design. Simple means easier to understand, cleaner, and leaves room for imagination.

I’ve done other things since, to make my life simpler.
A year ago I came across a (warning: cliché ahead) life altering book named “Simplify”. Written by Joshua Becker and based on his blog, it is a guide for decluttering your home and your life, filled with great advice and insights into the world of Minimalism.

The basic premise behind Becker’s book is that owning less will make your life better. He does not advocate giving up all of modern society’s perks and running off to live in the woods. It does however promotes realising the reason we collect and store so many items, and understanding why it serves a false need instead of making us happier.

I’ll share some of the ways I simplified my life over the years, and I hope it will get you thinking about your life and your material possessions in a different way from now on.


Owning no vehicle.
When I first moved to Tel Aviv I owned a car. Parking spots in Tel Aviv are a scarce resource. I had the worst since I lived in a neighborhood where most of the residents were families who owned at least one car. I bought a scooter instead (and later a motorbike), but even that got me feeling attached. Every time I wanted to go abroad for a long period, I had to ask a friend or my dad to take care of it, starting the engine twice a week and so forth.
Eventually I got rid of the engine two wheeler and started using public transport and the Tel Aviv hourly bicycles renting service to get around.

Canceled my gym membership.
I started running instead. I love running because you can do it anywhere you are in the world, all you need are a pair of running shoes (and even that said to be unnecessary), and off you go.

Gave away half of my clothes.
A year ago while moving out of my apartment, I went over my closet and realized I don’t wear most of what I own. I kept the things I love the most and gave away the rest. I don’t believe in neglecting your outer appearance. I also don’t think buying cheap outfits is the right thing to do. Instead, buy good quality ones that you love and that will last for years. When you buy a new jacket, get rid of the old one (do you really need two?). When you buy a new dress shirt, give away another shirt you seldom wear.

Lent all my furniture.
Having no place to live can be both freeing and terrifying  I’ll eventually settle for a nice spot, preferably in a tropical place with great coffee shops, high speed internet and warm people. But since last year, I’ve been living as a nomad.
I got lucky though. One of my friends rented the apartment after I left so I was able to leave all my crappy furniture and appliances there. It’s a win-win. I then relocated to Taipei, Taiwan (that story deserves a blog post of its own), got back to Israel to start up WisePricer, and am now in San Francisco. Who knows what’s next? anyway, I feel free to go wherever I want.

Stopped buying stuff I don’t need to impress people I don’t care about.
To live life the way I want to live them, which is to be able to live wherever I want, I need to keep the stuff I carry around to the bare minimum. Getting rid of the need to buy the latest gadget or a souvenir is not easy, but when your goal is to be able to fit your life into one suitcase, it’s totally worth it.
The souvenirs example is an important one. When you think about it, the value of the item you bought in a place you visited, or got as a present from a new friend, is in the memory of it. By having a picture of it, you’ll get the same effect, and carry less. Today I spend most of my money on experiences rather than physical items.

Being truthful whenever I can.
I read a great short book named “Lying" by Sam Harris. In an elegant way, he argues that lying is a burden in our life. Lying less will make your life simpler, period. The benefits of telling the truth far outweigh the cost of lies—to yourself, to others, and to society.

“Be true to your work, your word, and your friend.” 
~Henry David Thoreau  James Jeffrey Roche


Recap:
Keep it simple. It does not mean living spartan life. It means making sure we control our stuff rather than letting it control us.

“Simplify, then add lightness”. 
~Colin Chapman


Edit: this post had gone viral thanks to Hacker News

WisePricer takes StanfordU, and Gains Some Charisma

by Melissa E

As I jumped into the rental car to Stanford, I had no idea what lecture we were going to. eCommerce? Dev? Social Media? Nope. Our startup was attending a lecture about charisma.

“Isn’t that something you are born with,” I asked myself upon sitting down in the crowded auditorium. I guess not. According to Olivia Fox Cabane, charisma is a science of its own, with profound effects on people’s lives.

This particular lecture was prepared for a group of business-minded students, who sought to gain wisdom from Miss Cabane in order to win over their next interview, negotiation or other applicable interaction.

Simply put, no one is really born with charisma. It is a learned behavior, that is fostered in early childhood, but can be acquired later with the appropriate tools. According to Cabane, three main behaviors create and affirm charisma: Presence, Power and Warmth.

Automatically, I was intrigued. How can you be powerful and warm at the same time? Do these seemingly non-coalescent behaviors only occur in super humans? And I digress.

Presence
Presence isn’t simply the way you walk into a business meeting, it is what you do when you communicate with others. Have you ever had a conversation with a client and drifted off momentarily? This lack of being present is called, “incongruence,” and can deter your potential client from trusting you. Cabane contends that we need to fight against this by making our customers feel important. “Focus on their eyes, make them feel intelligent and interesting,” she said. Basically, act like you are on a first date, everytime.

Power
This behavior does not imply dominance over others, but rather communicating your belief in yourself and your business. It is communicated through body language, showing how comfortable you are with yourself. “Power is the perception of your ability to affect the world around you,” according to Cabane. The biggest obstacle in projecting this power is our perception of ourselves. Low self-esteem is the culprit here, and stems from either shame or incorrect beliefs about ourselves. Cabane’s advice is to minimize the importance of negative views of ourselves.

Warmth
The ability to empathize with people cannot be faked. This element of charisma takes the most effort for those of us who try to leave emotions out of business. If you fake being friendly or warm, people know. “When people see embarrassment, coldness or criticism, they think it is about them, “ Cabane said. In this case, we need to ‘rewrite the reality’ of the situation, so no negative thoughts interfere with the connections we make with others. This cognitive reframing allows us to choose the version of reality that puts us in the best mental state for our interaction.

Although this is just a brief overview of her art, her charisma emanated through the room. I left feeling enlightened, hyper aware and a bit self-critical (eventhough I wasn’t supposed to).

It reminded me of her opening analogy about the interchange of personas between Norma Jean and Marilyn Monroe. One quiet and reserved, and the other, full of spark and charisma.

It teaches us that regardless of who we are, we can always decide who we want to be.

Dear Fortune Cookie Customer Service, 
Can you please specify the exact date so we can update the financial spreadsheet?
Thanks,
WisePricer

Dear Fortune Cookie Customer Service,

Can you please specify the exact date so we can update the financial spreadsheet?

Thanks,

WisePricer