Back on May 9th of 2002 I filed TrailsWeb LLC with the Arizona Corporation Comission. Since then it's been a crazy ride with great prosperity and great hardship.
For the first year I basically blew what was left of my college money frivolously on things like furniture and advertising. I had quite a few dollars left (because I dropped out after two and a half years at Cornell) and it took me an entire year without income to spend it all. In that year I opened and closed a huge website called NutriTracker, released a product called PDAssistant for $4.95/copy and later $.9.95/copy, and mostly built AZNORTH.com. NutriTracker was based on a project I did with my former weightlifting trainer Chaz Stevens. Because NutriTracker was competing with FitDay.com and FitDay was free, it didn't get any traction in the market. AZNORTH is our first client, and still one of our biggest accounts.
Once I ran out of money, I worked as an electrician during the day and maintained TrailsWeb at night. The entire year 2003 I worked for Steve Rose, Rose Electric, mostly wiring new houses and working on remodels. I was making simple circuits at eight years old and building more sophisticated devices by 14. The electrician job was a really good fit and lots of great fun and exercise. Eventually I was fixing multiple computers overnight and working the next day and I would make more in one night than I would in a 40 hour week for Steve Rose so I went back to TrailsWeb full time.
Since then, TrailsWeb has been my only source of income. Steadily for the next few years I made more and more money. The projects got more interesting and technical and I enjoyed the comfort of a stable income. Then in 2006 everything came to a screeching halt. I talk about what it was like to rebuild the company with no income for over a year in this story. It took a lot of borrowing and going without, but eventually I brought TrailsWeb back around to stable profitability.
In the winter of 2009-2010 I had two major projects come in at the same time and I hire an extra programmer to help out. That became one of the strangest ordeals of my career. This new programmer had a special talent. He could make code that would run and get the correct result, but the code would take 1000 times more processing power and memory than it should. It was a disaster six months and $30,000 of payroll in the making.
I learned the hard way not to hire someone to do anything I can do myself. Unless I absolutely am too overworked to squeak out that last bit of software, clients are happy to wait a week for an update that I do personally than to get someone else's work in a couple days. And for me, it gets expensive very quickly. Payroll requires so much paperwork and taxes and unemployment and accounting and licensing. It adds an extra 10 hours a week in grunt work just to track everyone's hours, cut checks, file returns, submit tax payments, etc. It's not worth it unless it's absolutely essential to the survival of the company.
And finally, in 2010, with a baby on the way I shut down my office with its six workstations, two servers, and a T1 and moved everything to my house. Now I have three workstations, five servers, more screens than any human could ever need, and a T1 to my house. I get to eat better, see my family whenever I want, be available to clients at 8:00 at night, and cut holes in whatever walls I want. In fact, the first thing I did when I decided to move out here was run a pair of 20 amp dedicated circuits to run my servers and network hardware.
Congratulations to TrailsWeb for making it this far. I'm pretty sure we'll still be here in a year (it's hard to fail with $600/month in total overhead) and we get to celebrate a decade in business.