Curebit stealing the design (and assets!) from 37Signals is prompting this post. But its been in the making for a while.

Terms like “starup junkie” or “startup dude” or “serial entrepreneur” are just so sexy right now (or maybe always have been in SV for a while) that young entrepreneurs get this feeling that they are invincible, above everyone/everything else and that anything/everything is fair game. Ripping off a contractor, screwing over an employee, plain reneging a signed legal contract, buying services that they have no money in the bank to pay for etc. etc.

Hustling is one thing. Ripping people/ideas/IP off is another.

People make mistakes, but as is obvious in this latest (Curebit) case the entrepreneur in question has no qualms, tries to justify the means and is least bit perturbed. See this twitter thread:!/davemcclure/status/163310899376041985 (with Dave McClure playing referee…. he happens to have recently funded Curebit).

Everyone will make mistakes, but own up to it, say an unconditional sorry and move on. I think every entrepreneur needs to go through ethics training. Thoughts?

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Tools for any agile web/software startup

by Sumit Chachra on April 3, 2011

Having worked at/with multiple web/software startups there are a certain set of tools I’ve gotten used to leveraging to save time and $. Some of these tools didn’t exist even 2-3 years back, so this list might / will get stale pretty fast!

The list that follows assumes these things:

  • Time is money (duh!).
  • Speed is everything (at least in a startup).
  • Humans are expensive, machines are cheap.
  • The “cloud” is safe, and everything is going to move there. If you’re a “cloud” startup and don’t buy into it, then go live in a cave.
  • Your “startup” can afford $100-200/month of costs using these online services that make your team productive.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the day, should we jump right in?

  1. Google Apps – Please don’t waste time using MSFT outlook, or dreamhost, or Godaddy for your email needs. Setup a Google Apps account, it takes less than an hour (at max). You get 50 users for free, can’t beat that.Its safe, fast, Gmail rocks, Google docs works, wiki is barely usable.
  2. Servers – Use Amazon EC2, Slicehost or Linode. If you’re new to server administration then stick with Slicehost or Linode.
  3. Github – Source control is important. Its so important that Subversion doesn’t cut it. There I said it. Bitbucket (mercurial) would be the only other thing thats even remotely good. Trac/Assembla/running your own git/svn server etc. are all bad solutions!Notice I am not saying “git”. I am saying Github. It gives you permissions, ssh key based access, easy branching, commenting on code, reviewing merges, integration with 25 external services etc. Its a no-brainer.
  4. Ticketing / issue tracking – There are many options here. On one extreme is Pivotal Tracker (a steep learning curve). In the middle are the likes of Fogbugz. On the linear/boring side are Assembla or Lighthouse app or even Basecamp todo’s!I really like Pivotal Tracker, but only if you’re a truly agile startup with realistic deadlines and goals. I find it useful even when working on a project alone (instead of in a team).
  5. External Monitors etc. –  Every developer should have a dual monitor setup (minimum of 21″, ideally 24-27″), a fast machine and a chair to sit in that costs around 4-5 hours of their salary/pay-rate. Anything less than any of this doesn’t cut it and you’re pinching dollars where it matters least. Really.
  6. Payment Gateways –  There are lot of (shitty) options out there. On one extreme you can go with Paypal. Thats a reasonable solution from a setup perspective. Sadly their API’s (still) suck … a lot!If you’re ok with getting your own merchant account setup etc. I highly recommend using Braintree Payment Solutions. They have amazing customer service, a well written/thought out API and an API wrapper written in most popular languages (Ruby, Java, Python, PHP etc.).
  7. Online contracts/NDA’s – If you’re hiring employees, contractors and vendors you’re probably going to be signing a ton of paperwork! Do your brain a favor and use Echosign. It makes getting contracts, NDA’s, I-9 forms signed a breeze.

I’ll limit myself to these 7 things. There are other problems like invoicing (solved by Freshbooks), CRM (solved by 37Signals Highrise or Salesforce), wiki (solved by, sharing files (solved by Dropbox) etc. that need solving too.

But I’ll leave that an exercise for the reader. Just refer to the bullet points I mention above, and if the solution/tool you choose meets/exceeds the goals specified there then you’re good to go!

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Django-cron : Let the open sourcing begin

by Sumit Chachra on February 9, 2011

So after more than a year of thinking/pondering/procrastinating I found myself with 2 spare hours (Wife busy will 9:30 and me not wanting to go to the Gym…. the stars aligned!) and took advantage of it to open source Tivix’s first application.

Its not the sexiest, but makes running python crons / automated tasks in Django hopefully a tad bit easier. If nothing else someone can extend this app and make it even better.

Here is it:

Hopefully we’ll open source 2-3 other applications / code snippets which we find really useful as time goes on. This a small way in which we “give back” to the open source community (Django and Wordpress I am looking at you!) on whose shoulders we’ve built some great products for some great companies!

Thoughts/comments welcome :-)

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Things to do in Hyderabad

by Sumit Chachra on January 3, 2011

chowmahalla palace in hyderabad
Image via Wikipedia

Priyanka and I spent 3 nights in Hyderabad, while there for a friends wedding. We made a vacation out of it and had a great time.

The highlight of the trip was our stay at The Park there. Even though the tripadvisor ratings for the hotel are wanting, its a great new hotel with a lot of potential. Overlooking the Hussain Sagar lake, the Hotel has a infinity pool, outdoor seating, a 24 hour cafe, 3 bars and excellent staff to round it off. The morning breakfast was the best morning food spread I’ve seen in a while. Highly recommend staying there if you find yourself in Hyderabad.

We also made our way to the Chowmahalla Palace which is worth a visit with 3-4 small palaces and exhibits. The Charminar was a bit of a disappointment. Its not been maintained, is in a super crowded market/neighborhood and just made us run to the nearest auto-rickshaw.

The Golconda Fort is a well worth a visit too. Go around 2-3pm, so that you can hire a guide and go all the way to the top. That will take 2-3 hours and that’ll be a great segway into the 6:30pm light and sound show in English inside the fort. The acoustics and science applied 700 years ago is impressive.

Apart from these places we made our way to a local mall (GVK-1), to the Shilparamam (think Delhi Haat) and of course to Paradise for their famous Mutton Biryani (not the best in Hyderabad, but pretty decent. Sit in their nicer airconditioned top floor, if you’d like a more relaxed experience!). The old city is a bit chaotic and dirty, but if the airport and the 11 km freeway to the city are any signs, things are improving for sure.

Overall we were pretty impressed with the city of Nizams and highly recommend it to anyone if you have 3-4 days.

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Selling tickets or variable inventory items using Satchmo

by Sumit Chachra September 8, 2010

Satchmo is a popular Django based e-commerce system. Its well suited for the most part to sell things like shirts and shoes that come in various sizes / colors (variations) etc. These are items that a seller would have a certain amount of in stock, and sell out when the inventory hits 0.
There are situations [...]

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Three things to be thankful about in California

by Sumit Chachra August 1, 2010

Having lived in California for 4+ years now there is a lot to be thankful about. The beaches, sun (not in SF sadly), bounty of natural resources, fresh organic food etc. etc. There is a lot that sucks too (high taxes etc.) but thats for another day…..
But there are three things in the CA law [...]

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Sandboxing emails in Django

by Sumit Chachra July 10, 2010

Its usually good to sandbox your QA / staging environments so that they don’t shoot out emails to real email addresses (say you’ve made a copy of your production database). Django 1.2 and their email backends make it really easy to do so.

Here’s a testing email backend I wrote. Simply drop in a email address [...]

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Moving Wordpress mu to a different domain

by Sumit Chachra March 4, 2010

So I have a Wordpress MU setup where we’re hosting a bunch of sites/blogs (email me at sumit AT if you’re interested in one).
As with all my Django webapps I wanted to replicate all the sites on qa for testing purposes (so that we’re not messing production sites with plugin / wordpress upgrades etc.). [...]

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On project management, bug/issue tracking and source control

by Sumit Chachra March 4, 2010

There seems to be a big disconnect between project management, bug/issue tracking and source control solutions out there. Simply put in most companies these systems don’t talk to each other as much as they should.
How have I solved the problem. I’m using for source control that talks nicely with LighthouseApp which I use mainly [...]

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Fanning/Following is the new SEO?

by Sumit Chachra September 6, 2009

So lots of friends have been messaging and emailing me about my bizarre Fanning behavior on Facebook. Weirdly none complain when I fan someone/some brand on Twitter. I guess cause that affects my feed, not theirs (Facebook apparently informs them about my fanning?).
In any case, I thought I’ll fire up a blog post about it, [...]

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