#68 Greg Koberger finally built his one dream
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Greg Koberger 0:00 It's kind of like there's this analogy that I hear a lot where it's, um, you know, if you talk to a baseball coach and you show them someone who has perfect form, and someone who has horrible form, and they both, you know, can run the exact same speed or whatever, you always go through with bad form because you can teach the form. Whereas someone has a great form and, you know, they go certain speed they've topped out there, that's the best they're gonna be able to do. So I like to find people kind of like that people who just have this like, they're able to build stuff. It's amazing. Both a little bit of like mentoring and help, you know, they're going to be way incredibly better.
Tim Bourguignon 0:41 Hello, and welcome to developer's journey, the podcast shining the light on Developers Live from all over the world. My name is Tim Bourguignon. And today, I received great CoverGirl. After launching dozens of companies and side projects over the last 10 years, Greg realized how difficult API's were to understand and use for most people. That's why as a founder of README, he's making it easy for millions of people over 1700 companies and such including Lyft and Trello. To build and use awesome products with API's. Greg, welcome to their journey. Thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure, believe me. So let's go right in there about this launching companies and stuff? Where does your energy comes from for creating so many products? And companies?
Greg Koberger 1:34 That's a great question. I, it's, I think a lot about this, where I do a lot of like, you know, reading and consuming other stuff. But much like how some people are introverts and some people are extroverts, meaning that some people get energy from being alone and some get energy from, you know, being around people. I feel like, you know, as much as I like to read and I like to watch TV, or I like to go to movies and stuff like that kind of sucks energy for me, then it really gives me energy is making things. Um, and it's kind of a weird, you know, it's, it also takes energy, obviously, um, but I, it's just natural for me, like, I just love making new things, different things. Like you mentioned, I have a, I do have a company now called read me, and that's my, you know, hundred percent of my time or 150% of my time. But I you know, it's a great framework to build lots of little things here and there. And, you know, I, I've kind of gotten away from development, this is developer's journey, but I've got a lot away from it, just because my job now is running a company and I get to write code a lot less, unfortunately. But I still carve out a lot of time to build little one off things here or there, whether it be you know, just an idea that's kind of bouncing around in my head that I have to get out. or whatever, it doesn't have to be a company or a product, most things aren't those things that I like to make. I just like to make things doesn't really matter what it is, I just feel tired, or I don't know what it is, like, I'm just not, I'm not making something and putting something out to the world. I just feel like I'm, you know, I kind of wasted a day to a certain extent, if that makes any sense.
Tim Bourguignon 3:07 It does. And what often goes with this, this behavior is an in inability to finish things, and when when the problem is solved, kind of solved, then you lose interest in finishing it, and you and you like, like a bumblebee, you go to the next the next flower and and start doing something else. Is this something that that you face as well?
Greg Koberger 3:30 Oh, yeah. Um, I mean, sometimes my favorite thing is, like you said, starting things, not finishing them, you know, just start at the end of the journey rather than beginning. Now I have a company and I spend all my time on that. And, and that's been great, because you know, it's never gonna get finished. But the follow through, you know, I've spent years on this five years as of next month, and I was I was kind of afraid that I wouldn't be able to get there that I wouldn't be able to actually build something that kept my interest for more than, you know, a day or six days or six months. And this idea is kept me this thing has kept me kind of excited for four years, which is really awesome. And that being said, like outside of this, there's a ton of stuff that I start. as I've gotten older, I've tried to get better at finishing things. So I have got a little bit better at it. But you're right, like the fun part is starting stuff sometimes. But I don't think it's a negative stuff finished things. I think that not finishing things just means that your heart was an incompletely. And sometimes you just want to get something out there kind of like, you know, going for a run not every run has to be a marathon or has to be amazing. Like sometimes it's just practice just sometimes it's just, you know, getting something out on paper just bouncing around in your head, so you can move on to the stuff that you should be working on. But yeah, I have a graveyard of littered things that got half done and never got finished.
Tim Bourguignon 4:51 Amen, brother. We'll do that. That's a great, that's a great analogy with the not everyone has to be American. I'm going to reuse that. You
Greg Koberger 5:01 ready to go for it?
Tim Bourguignon 5:03 Yes. Okay, so So let's go back a little You said you were, you're not coding as much as you used to. But go back to the beginning of your career as a software developer. Where Where did that all start?
Greg Koberger 5:16 Yeah, so you want to go all the way back, and I'll keep this brief. I grew up in a farm in upstate New York, and there was nothing to do. I had friends in school, but you know, I lived almost an hour from school. So I didn't really have many friends and stuff to do on nights and weekends. Which sounds kind of sad in hindsight, but, you know, my dad bought me a computer. And I spent a lot of time working on the computer, I'm just figuring it out, I was just really fascinated by it. I think that's surprising to a lot of people. I've heard a few people on your podcast say similar things that they just kind of got really lucky that they got into a computer early on, because they had a loved one or someone, you know, invested in them and gave them a computer, which isn't a big deal now. But back in the 1990s, computers were expensive. So I got really lucky that, you know, it's kind of my journey initially started, I went to college for computer science, begrudgingly, I kind of always thought of it as a hobby. You know, I always kind of felt like you can't make money in programming. Like it's just a hobby, I want to do like something real. So I got really, really lucky that that I kind of got lazy and just applied to a few CS programs and did that. So what to school for, for CS and, but kind of where my like actual, like professional career started was, I had an internship. So I was in New York, upstate New York, and one of my teachers introduced me to one of her ex students who was a few years older than me, a guy named Eric Willis. And he was starting a company out in San Francisco. So I knew literally nobody in San Francisco except for Eric, because they were a little startup, they weren't that great at communicating. So like, I didn't have a place to stay, I do nothing going into it. But I hopped on a plane and flew out to San Francisco to California for the summer. And it was amazing. I absolutely loved it. I you know, worked a ton all summer, got to do a ton of different things. I was the only developer outside of you know, my boss, for the most part, there's a few other contractors, but that came and went but I just got to everything I got to you know, write all types of code, I got to get into design a little bit, I got to, you know, see the business end of things. And it was awesome. I had such an awesome summer, I decided to not go back to school the following quarter. So I stayed, you know, an extra quarter at this company called offbeat guides, don't bother googling. It does not exist anymore. And it has not for a long time. And I was gonna drop out of school completely. And one of my professors who introduced me, you know, flew out here for a conference. And you know, she took me aside, she invited me to this conference, and I got there. And she took me aside and was like, are you dropping out of college? And I was like, Yeah, I think I might. And she was like, nope, you are not. And she forced me to go back to college. Which is really lucky. I don't think you need a degree. But I do think for me, it was good. Because, you know, it didn't go that well. For the company. They shut down a few months later. But I love San Francisco. So I finished my degree came back for another internship at a company called Giga ohm. It was a big tech blog back in the day. I'm not a great job in the sense that my day to day was working on like, you know, WordPress tweaks. But the experience was amazing, because, you know, they there's tons of famous people in tech are always coming into the office and wandering around and, you know, meeting with Oh Malik who is the the titular the the namesake for Giga home. And I got me a ton of like, awesome, amazing people that summer. And I came back full time, in 2010 to California to San Francisco to actually start my full time tech career out here. Did you ever consider
Tim Bourguignon 8:52 pulling a tech career on the East Coast?
Greg Koberger 8:55 Yeah, definitely. Every step of the way. Um, you know, I would tell my parents, especially my mom who, you know, didn't really want me to go to California, obviously. You know, Shawna was best for me, but also it's far away. I was like, Mom, it's just for the summer. You know, maybe where I grew up, scatter cook, New York didn't have a lot of tech or any tech. But there's a lot of great places like New York City, there's Boston. There's a lot of really great East Coast cities for tech. And I don't know I I always kind of like every internship I did. I always thought this is my last one. This is my last one. Even when I got the job at Mozilla, which ultimately was I worked there for two years. I was kind of thought, you know, maybe after that I'll come back to these coasts. But I just kind of fell in love with the West Coast. I fell in love with the people. I fell in love with the weather. And it never I never made a decision. I never thought okay, I'm done here. I'm gonna go back, you know, to the east coast or West Coast ever decided it. It just kind of I just never left I just slowly started going like three months, six months, nine months, a year, two years. Forever. So He asked me how that happened.
Tim Bourguignon 10:02 I can relate to that. I have the same experience with Germany, coming here for two for six months, and then it's been 13 years now. So
Greg Koberger 10:11 yep, it's, it's easy for that to happen. You look back and you're like, well, I never decided that, but I guess it worked out. Yes, it does. Yes, it does.
Tim Bourguignon 10:20 So, um, you were you were telling us about your first job doing WordPress tweaks? And that's the time where you finally settled in California. How did you your career evolved from there?
Greg Koberger 10:34 Yeah, so that was my second internship. My first actual job like full time job was at Mozilla. So I worked on Firefox for a few years.
Greg Koberger 10:42 And
Greg Koberger 10:43 I don't know, I didn't know if I wanted to work there or not. I kind of, you know, someone from Mozilla showed up at our campus and, you know, talked about it and actually missed the talk, which is really lucky, because I just emailed the guy after I was like, Hey, Hey, Ryan, I, you know, miss your talk, but I'd love to hear more about Mozilla. And he just loved it. And, you know, convinced me to apply. So I applied, they flew me out to California. And I just fell in love with the people. The people at zillah were amazing. JOHN Lilly was the CEO. And, you know, if you've never seen him talk or anything, he's worth looking up. He was just a phenomenal leader. He was smart, he was interesting. You just see that, like, the trickle down from him, throughout the company, like everyone just was like him in a good way. His background was definitely in design. I think he also had a background in programming. And it kind of showed through that as a leader. He wasn't just a business guy or business person, he was, you know, really cared about the muscle mission, the product, and everyone at Mozilla did. So I love this. Oh, my time is Ella was two of my best years ever. I worked with some of the smartest people, many of whom are still there, many of whom have branched out are now doing amazing things that other companies lead a really great alumni network. And I just got to work with you know, I, when I showed up, I guess, you know, people listen to this podcast will appreciate it. I don't know why they hired me. I knew how to program one language. And I was PHP, a little bit of Java due to school, but like PHP was my language. I wrote PHP this back in 2010. I wrote PHP and notepad on Windows. I had never used Git before, you know, I use SVM. A little bit, but that was about it. There's all the great qualities about me that, you know, I could I could ramble on about, but there's a lot of things that like, why did they hire me. And by the time I got to Mozilla between getting hired and actually getting there, they'd switch to Python. You know, they made me rightfully so use, you know, MacBook and use gifts. And, you know, I learned vim while I was there pretty quickly. And, you know, I, it was transformative, I went from being a creative programmer to you know, actually being a good programmer. And,
Tim Bourguignon 12:57 again, don't know why they hired me, but I'm so incredibly grateful if they did not the to do side of the fence, probably hiring people. You still don't have a clue why, why the saw potential in you?
Greg Koberger 13:08 Yeah, no, actually, I mean, the reason why they hired me. So I was interviewing the same exact day as another guy from our it, my college, and they kept telling us, like, Don't worry, like, you know, we're not gonna pick between you like, there's enough room for both of you. But, so I went through the same day, and like he had more experienced than me, he wrote Python, he was way better developer. And the entire day, I was like, oh, they're definitely gonna definitely gonna hire this guy. Not me. Um, but I think the thing I brought to the table, and this is why I look for people that I hire now is a few things. One is just like creativity, and, you know, ambition and just liking to make things. Um, you know, I may not have had the best tool chain. But I just had made a lot of really fun little cool things. I was always constantly making things. And I think the second thing, which really kind of got me the job was at the end of the interview, um, remember, this is 2010, the head of engineering guy named Mike Morgan, who is now director of engineering, possibly at sc. And he will find his real job title, but he's awesome. If you ever get a chance to work for him, I highly recommend it. But he, he asked me a question about like, where I wanted to be in five years. And I said, I don't know. But I've always kind of want to start a company. Like I liked startups when I had worked in the Met internships. And he asked me like, What idea I had, and I didn't have any ideas, specifically. But there's one thing that have been bothering me for a few years that I just, I just was drawn to this idea. And I called it at the time I called it live docs. And live docs to me was like, I was like, you know, API documentation is so important. And it's so easy to do something amazing, but no one does and API's are so just, they're going to be huge. And I just think there's a better way to go. API documentation because API adaptation now, you know, developer doesn't 10 I'm talking, a developer will create the API documentation, and then write a quick PDF or like a really crappy website. And just so hard to figure out. And like, there's so many amazing ways you can make it interactive and easy to use. Collaborative, where the the community you go in and kind of like make changes to the documentation. That's why I call it live docs. And I went on about this. And he called me a few days later and offered me the job and specifically mentioned that that was a big reason why he wanted to hire me Was he just, you know, kind of liked the way I talked about this. And he said that, you know, I know you're not going to be at Zillow forever. But, you know, over the next few years, I want to make sure that Mozilla you know, as much as you put into Mozilla, I want Mozilla to make sure that you're headed towards the right direction. Now to completely fast forward and I want to get through the you know, get back to the the stuff in between, but you know, now I run a company called read me, which is API documentation. It's exactly that different name us, you know, I'm more mature my thoughts about it. But yeah, I mean, that's what I look for in people too, is that like creativity, that just liking to make something? The one question I ask, every single person that applies, whether they're an engineer, or support, or sales, or whatever else is, what's something that you've made or done, that you're proud of. And if someone can just light up and talk about something with like, passion, then I know, they can get passionate about my company, and about, you know, read me and about, you know, the space. If I ask someone, you know, what's the most amazing thing you've ever built? Or the thing you're most excited about? And like, they're like, Well, my last job, my boss, you know, had me, you know, build an analytics platform. And when I dig into it, I'm like, Oh, so like, What languages write it in? And they're like, oh, Python, and I'm like, why did you write Python? And they're like, because my boss told me to, like, if it's if that's the most amazing thing they've ever built. That doesn't, doesn't matter. I'm not attracted to that, when I talk to engineers, or to anyone in the company. And that's not to say that everyone has to be like me, or, you know, it sounds a little bit like you were like, you just constantly building things here their life, right? Like, everyone has other things. They have families, they have other passions and stuff like that. But that's okay. It doesn't have to be, you know, one of our recent hires, his answer to the question was just, you know, the, you know, that he's really into 80s horror movies. And, you know, there's no overlap between 80s horror movies and what he doesn't read me, but I just loved his like passion, it just showed like, he got excited about something and loved it. And it didn't have to be something he had built or made. Just like, I just love when people are passionate about something, and it shows through. So I think that's what I look for when I hire people.
Tim Bourguignon 17:39 That's, that's very thoughtful. I really like this idea. And it's so hard to see in interviews, where the drive for someone comes from, what would they really burn for? And so, that's, that's a really good question. Yeah.
Greg Koberger 17:54 Yeah, I mean, you can teach, Emma's Li proved, I guess, that you can teach someone, you know, very quickly how to use how to write Python, how to use Git, how to, you know, that the difference between what my skill set when I was hired, and I was a very capable programmer, like I could make a lot of stuff, I reinvented a lot of stuff, because I didn't realize it already exists out there. But, you know, if you can go from where I started to where I ended up, like, you know, you can, you can, people can change and grow really quickly when it comes to the tech where they can't change and grow is that like, excitement or passion or desire to grow. Um, so I think that's more important when you're hiring. It's kind of like, there's this analogy that I hear a lot where it's, um, you know, if you talk to a baseball coach, and you show them, someone who has perfect form, and someone who has horrible form, and they both, you know, can run the exact same speed or whatever, you always go through with bad form, because you can teach the form. Whereas someone has a great form, and, you know, they go certain speed they've topped out there, that's the best they're going to be able to do. So I like to find people kind of like that people who just have this, like, they're able to build stuff. It's amazing. A little bit of like mentoring and help you know, they're going to be way incredibly better.
Tim Bourguignon 19:08 Who that that's really deep, to find the people who are already producing something and really getting out there but not using the standards not using the the best way to do it. And then you have some potential. That's interesting.
Tim Bourguignon 21:40 When you think back about these two years at Mozilla, do you have special memories that stand out?
Greg Koberger 21:46 Uh, I got some good ones and bad ones. And the bad ones aren't bad. They're just funny. I remember because I was very junior when I started as a joke, a lot of the team, would they, I'll send you a picture after you want to put in the show notes. But they found a just a tissue box, it was empty. And they wrote on in marker and Sharpie, Greg's Greg's computer science fund. And the joke was that they're gonna, like put money into it to send me back to college.
Greg Koberger 22:19 And
Greg Koberger 22:21 I think I'd mess something up or whatever. I don't know what I had done. But like, I don't know, like it, but it wasn't mean hearted. You know, these, they it was, I was incredibly junior to be on this team, I was working with some absolutely amazing people. To put in perspective we used to make, I said, we used to play this game, me and some of my co workers where we go to a bookstore. And we just try to find how many books we could find in the computer section written by our coworkers. And like, pretty much all my co workers have written a note or at Mozilla had written an O'Reilly book, or like some sort of other computer science book about something. And like, I'm not exaggerating, like a majority of people I worked with, like, like I said, I've literally written the book about something. Um, so it wasn't just that I was like, you know, I was I was, I was good, but I was just very junior compared to the amazing people I was lucky enough to work with.
Tim Bourguignon 23:13 But that's the best place to learn, right?
Greg Koberger 23:14 Oh, God, yeah, like I wouldn't have had any other way. You know, and I walked in there with way more confidence than I deserved to. Because I was a, you know, I was at my college, I was, you know, good. And then I got to the real world and was lucky enough to work real world and was lucky enough to work with amazing people. I was like, Oh, I'm not that good. It was really good for like, I look back and like I go back to, you know, I know, some friends back at never left college, like, still work nearby or work at local, local companies. And that's there can be great companies, you know, in Rochester, New York, where I was, but some of these people like, you know, surround themselves with people who were also not, you know, they just were a little more junior figuring out on their own. And like, I got so lucky that I've been able to work with amazing people, because it just levels you up so incredibly quickly. And we've
Tim Bourguignon 24:01 decided to, to move away from moto.
Greg Koberger 24:04 Yes. So to weave back into the story of how I end up starting my company. So about two years in, I actually switched from engineering to product management at Mozilla. And I forget what actually caused me to make the jump, but I didn't really, I wanted to start a company like I had said, and like I kind of got an itch. So I just randomly applied to Y Combinator. For people who aren't familiar, Y Combinator is a incubator in San Francisco. A bunch of cool companies like Dropbox and Airbnb have come out of them. So I didn't have a product I hadn't built. I hadn't written a single line of code. But I applied to Y Combinator with this same idea. At this point, I was calling it doc hub because I was really hoping to get a GitHub acquisition out of it. And I applied I wrote like, I was like API documentation is bad. We can do way better. I got an interview. I was so excited. You know, so I took a week off from work I like in a fury of like code. I wrote version one of this product. I had no customers so I made up some customers like real companies, but you know, they weren't paying us I just just to show what it would look like, got to the interview, and it went horribly. It went atrociously just, I didn't know what we were building I hadn't like really, I just thought of it as like a pet expedition sucks. I thought it was like a product and not a company and I didn't have good answers and things like that. And we'd have a good product, we'd have any product, we had no customers. And sorry, we didn't get in. But that it kind of like changed. I kind of like God's this mode of like, very checked out, like, Oh, I just I want to start a company now. Like that's what I want or not sorry, not set a company even I want to work with startups. I want to get back in like, as much as I'd love to zillah you know, Mozilla had done a new I mentioned john Lilly, before, who was the CEO of Mozilla, he had left unfortunately. And by that point, they hired a new guy. He just was not good. He was a business person. He wore suits, and everyone else, you know, was dressed down. He just was very, like, he talked very corporate he, he hired so much like HR and so much like business people and like, the company just changed for a few years. And you know, he eventually left and I've heard it's gotten a lot back, which is great. But and I just, I just want to get to startups. I just loved startups I loved like, you know, being able to just create stuff and rapidly iterate and, you know, just have tons of users that you were close to that, like, I just loved early stage startups. And I just checked out a little bit, I was like, Okay, I need to make this jump. So I left Mozilla and I had two problems. The first problem was this idea that I had been in love with API documentation. Y Combinator, which I really respected, had just told me, not a good idea. So I was like, okay, can work on that idea. Um, you know, I respect them and trust them. And, you know, not a good idea. And the second thing that I had was I had a bunch of ideas, other startup ideas, but you know, once you're trying to like, figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life, all those ideas seem really dumb really quickly, like, you start looking into them. You're like, I can't make this my life's work, or like the next five years of my life, or 10 years of my life. So I really had nothing to do. I didn't know what I wanted to do. I didn't want to start a company for the sake of starting a company. So I started doing some consulting work, which was another great way to level up and I got to work on so many different levels. I switched to design at that point. So I did a lot of programming, but half programming half design. I was with a ton of startups, a ton of random companies like the Golden State Warriors, the basketball team in the US I worked for briefly, I worked for Greylock, which is a VC firm, I worked for, you know, about a dozen startups. Some were really amazing, some are truly horrible. And I just kind of learned what I liked and didn't like about startups, I learned what I liked and didn't like programming, I got to start a bunch of stuff, I got to get more into design, and not just, you know, one design, but dozens of different types of design. It was awesome. Like, I learned so much in those two years as well. And, but like I didn't love that life, you know, you probably have a lot of people listening who are consultants or contractors. And for a lot of people that's amazing and works really well. And I, you know, I liked a lot of things about it, I got to work from home, I got to work with a ton of people, I got to make, you know, great money. I just really wanted that one thing to pour everything into. Because I think that's where it gets fun. Like after things kind of go well, what I really love is being able to throw yourself into the minutiae, the, you know, the little details, and that stuff you never really get to if you're just jumping around from project to project. So that's kind of how I ended up I was like, okay, and you start a company. I started a few things with a few different people. I started a Oh, it was a like a construction company with some friends. And I never went well, because I just didn't care. I just wasn't interested in it. I started just a bunch of little things. And I started procrastinating. And the thing I procrastinated and worked on was this API documentation idea. I just loved designing and building for developers. That's all I wanted to do. And one day I just kind of started to realize like, it might not be the biggest market I could go into construction is way bigger, obviously. But it was just the product founder fit like me, why did you do it was all I cared about. So I just kind of was like, This is my thing. Now I'm going to do it. So I started working on that full time, or 8% of my time, and then I did a bit of consulting work to pay the bills.
Greg Koberger 29:43 And
Greg Koberger 29:45 that's kind of how I ended up starting. My current company read me eventually just became 100% of my time applied to Y Combinator again. This time we got in easily, because we had customers we had we were making a ton of money but like enough money that we show that people actually cared stripe had come out and shown that documentation really was incredibly important to the success of an API. developer experience was really important. So yeah, we eventually got to yc. And the rest is kind of history. Wow,
Tim Bourguignon 30:14 that's, that's very nice. boot up.
Greg Koberger 30:16 Yeah, what really it ended well, so I'm happy.
Tim Bourguignon 30:20 You can be you can be, that's very interesting how you, you went right and left and probably build up all the skills you needed to actually take the problem by the by the, by the right on the right angle, and attack some this problem you have had in your mind for for so long. And finally, make it make it right in air quotes. To be able to, to run with it. That's very interesting.
Greg Koberger 30:50 Yeah, I have like a bit of a paradox, which is, I think, on one hand, I look back and I regret taking so long, um, you know, in 2008, I first had this idea in 2010, I like vocally told a bunch of people about this idea. And I really excited about it. In 2012, I applied to Y Combinator. And it wasn't until 2015, that I actually like started this company. So that's seven years beforehand that I couldn't working on this. And so I kind of like once in a while I look back and I'm like, I wasted seven years of my life, like I could have done this, like seven years prior. And, you know, we could be IP owed by now. But the exact opposite is also true. I don't think I could have built a successful company back in 2008 2010. I was too young, too inexperienced, I hadn't had good managers, where I saw like, how, you know, how great of an impact and culture, you know, working with great people is, I hadn't worked with bad people and realized, Oh, I definitely don't want this. And it's really hard. I didn't have like friends who are VCs or who are engineers, like, I didn't have a support system, I didn't have like a network that I built. So on one hand, I'm really upset that took me that long to get started. But on the other hand, I couldn't have done it if I didn't take all this time. And and all that. So I don't know, I have ultimate I guess I have very few regrets. Obviously, everyone wishes things have gone a little quicker and a little smoother, but I dislike this. There's so many downs, but all those downs kind of, you know, added up to where I am now.
Tim Bourguignon 32:22 I would like to to take a different approach. Now. If I understood well, you studied the company solely in its final form on may say, Oh, it's a it's a it's a Yeah, let's go the final form in
Greg Koberger 32:35 2014. Right? Yes, we kind of launched a dozen 14 and then at the end of 2014. And then yeah, 2015 is where we finally got funded.
Tim Bourguignon 32:44 And if I read the news, well, you got a series A or Series B funding recently, this year, or a couple months ago, or something very recently,
Greg Koberger 32:57 we just announced it today. So you're the first person I'm talking to about it publicly cool. Except for, you know, TechCrunch wrote about it and all that. But yeah, so on one hand, this is kind of the end of a certain journey. But on the other hand, it's just the very early beginnings of another one. Because for the past four years, we've grown profitably, we haven't needed to raise money, which has been really awesome. But over the past, like six months or so, I started getting excited about like, all these different new things we can end up doing. And we started to like build them put them out there and people start to react really well to them. And we're like, we're growing profitably things are going well, but it seemed like a perfect time to kind of raise some money, start burning some money hire a lot quicker and grow a bit faster. So yeah, as much as I you know, I kind of declared victory on the API documentation thing. We are still so incredibly early, you know, my kind of story arc you know, ended recently but the company's is just getting started. So that's exciting.
Tim Bourguignon 33:58 You probably also Yeah, I'm reading TechCrunch as well and then I had my fair share of VC news reading and co but one thing that keeps coming up is for instance, are the two extremists of Basecamp so DHH in inches and feet always claiming if you have a bootstrap company just skip the skip skip keep doing doing this don't don't sell don't do anything else. This is your life's work. And what you're saying is well I had this five years was fun and now I'm ready for something else. Ha Did you have some fears that that should that could end up not going the direction that you want?
Greg Koberger 34:38 Oh so many fears. So I when I whenever a new employee starts to read me I give them a signed by me copy of rework, which is one of the books written by by them. I actually think getting reels better book. they've written like four or five, getting reels when I favorite books, but it's kind of out of print. So I I, I give out, you know, I sign I write, I write everyone a note in the beginning on the first page, and I sign it and give everyone rework on the first day. And most people read it. And so you're right. It's kind of like a weird juxtaposition that I give them this book. And then I'm like, by the way, we just raised a series A, for four years, while I was building this company, my biggest fear was the company going out of business, I was much like base camp, I was so scared that you know, we would raise money, do a series A, then we do, we wouldn't be able to get to a Series B, we wouldn't get enough revenue, we couldn't get enough customers and all that. And then I have to shut things down, let people go. And I'll be like, well, there's five years of my life for nothing. And that's what that was a big reason why I didn't raise money before then. It wasn't just the things were going so well, they didn't have to, which was true, it was that things were going well, and nothing could kill us. Whereas once you raise a series, a, a lot of things can kill you, your valuation goes up. So your exits are you fewer possible exits, there's things that can go badly, there's a lot more things go badly. But then about a year ago, or six months ago, somewhere in between there, it started to really kind of my fears switched, and my fears stop being Oh, no, we're gonna shut down, which still could happen. But my fears became more, we're like, really onto something we're like, we have just such an amazing potential to really change how developers work day to day, and we weren't able to get there with the with the amount of like, kind of revenue we had, because when you're growing a bootstrap business, you don't really have a lot of opportunities to kind of, like, take chances and put a ton of money into, like, you know, trying new things, and failing and all that, you know, Basecamp tried a few times to build things like high rise and other stuff. And like, um, what was there, I don't remember, but they had a I mean, they had a slack competitor that they came up with before slack came out. And they shut that down, because they just never really put enough time and effort into it. You know, if you look at us, when people do for product management, some people use Basecamp. But now they use Asana, and Trello. And, you know, Monday and all these other tools, and I didn't want that I didn't want to be like, I didn't want to build this company where I was like, you know, that really cool company that does API documentation everyone uses, that's not us. But we have that idea first, like, I got really afraid that like, you know, some of these things were just so obvious to me and inevitable to me that I'm starting to feel about where we're going to go in the next five to 10 years as a, as an ecosystem for API's. And we just didn't have the ability to really, like invest in some of these new ideas, we're spending all our time just helping existing customers and, you know, improving features and doing the kind of stuff you do when you're bootstrapped.
Greg Koberger 37:39 And,
Greg Koberger 37:41 I don't know, it just felt like we it was the time to kind of really grow, and I wouldn't have just raised money from anyone, like, we didn't just want random money, I started to talk to people, I met this guy named Dan Levine, who's at Excel, and I just really loved him, we had very similar visions. You know, I knew some of my friends had raised money from him and absolutely loved him. And he just felt like a perfect partner for this. And I just, it just felt right. And it was kind of I don't know how to describe exactly what changed me. But I went from like, being really afraid of failing to really afraid of, you know, it might for a long time, my idea of failure was, you know, we're gonna go out of business in two years. And because we, you know, do a or b and can't keep going. But now I feel that my definition of failure is, you know, we just go on forever, and never really change how people think about API's and never really do anything where like, people look back and are like, Whoa, like, that really changed, I think about API's, or developing or anything. So kind of my definition of failure is changed, and it's going to really suck if in two years, I have to shut the company down and lay everyone off, like, that's gonna really, really suck. And I'm going to be upset about it. And part of who's going to regret raising a series A, but I think another part of me is, and I hope this doesn't happen. I hope we don't shut down two years. But like, another part is going to be like, you know, what, I'm glad that we went for it and failed, as opposed to just kind of teetering along and playing it safe for a few years. I'm glad that we, that we, you know, took on these ambitious things, and it didn't work out for whatever reason. But you know, my definition of failure is little bit different now.
Tim Bourguignon 39:15 That's very profound. That's that's a very interesting answer.
Greg Koberger 39:19 Yeah. Hopefully, when I'm on in two years, I get to talk to you again, I've got like, Oh, we things are going even better. But
Tim Bourguignon 39:26 yeah, we'll see. Yeah, very neat. I really, really understand what you mean with this. We want to invest and we want to shoot go to the next level, and and do the things we feel might be right, but just out of our reach right now. And so we need this, this booster to get at it.
Greg Koberger 39:46 Yeah, to give you like a specific example. You know, I have always believed that API documentation is best when it knows who you are. So like Tim, it shows you something very different, because it's your first time using, you know, lifts API or Trello. API. Um, but like, if you've been using it for six months, you don't want marketing pages and onboarding flow like your API is on fire and you want an answer, or the documentation should know that your API is broken, or that you're sending that you're getting back a bunch of five or three errors or whatever and help you fix it, debug it. And to do that, to that level of knowing what's going on with the API, we need API logs in real time being sent to us. And we're just going from like, static text to getting like millions and millions of API logs to us. And we built, you know, the base version out without raising any money. But, you know, there's so many concerns, there's security, there's taking all this big data and doing something with it, there's keeping our existing products, awesome, and getting better every day. Like there's so many different things that we need to really do this. And could we do it without raising money, probably. But like, you know, to do it, right, it just, it's such a big thing to just take so many of these, like, millions and millions of API logs, like do something amazing with them. Building awesome support tools, where when you are supporting someone using your API, you actually can see what's going on through API and like, see the responses and see what they're sending in automatically email, people things are going badly on their API, like just these these amazing ideas, they should be able to do with API, we just kind of felt like we couldn't do it without raising a little bit of money and having little bit of extra you know, pocket change to hire engineers and and, you know, designers and security people and product managers and all that stuff to kind of do it right,
Tim Bourguignon 41:25 we're slowly getting to the end of our time books, but I still have a couple questions for you. How'd you keep on stretching your your development, developers? Oh, and good
Greg Koberger 41:34 ways and bad ways. Um, so I like I said before, like, I don't do a lot of programming day to day, unfortunately, once in a while, on Wednesdays, I will like carve out the day, and I'll build like an intro tool or something, just to keep that kind of going. You know, now I have a company with money, I get to do a lot of fun things with that money. That also, you know, helps the company. So like, we run a conference every year, which is kind of it's not programming, but it scratches that creative itch, where I get to like, be on stage. And like, you know, I invite a bunch of awesome speakers like I've made something as well. I, one recent hobby that I've been having, and I'll send you a link to it, if you want to play on the show. I've been getting parodies. I've been writing parody songs, and like getting them produced of like tech. So that's been a lot of fun. I've written like a song about like status codes, and they're all cheesy, and they're not great songs, but you know, just making stuff like that. And then I actually did a, about a year ago, I got a little burnt out a year and a half ago, I got almost two years now I got a little burnt out at read me. Because my job was changing. I wasn't programming anymore. I didn't know what to do. I was very, I just I wasn't I wasn't, it was it was tough to stop programming and like try to sell into this new job. So I took a week off from read me and I had been really into escape rooms, my company had done a ton of escape rooms, because they were great for like team bonding and all that. And I you know, I just love escape rooms. I love startups. And I was like, you know, be really fun is to build a startup themed escape room. So about two years ago, I rented an art gallery in San Francisco and built like an actual escape room, that startup the end of one hour to launch for startups called startup escape. And that scratched like a creative itch because I was right in my wheelhouse of everything I love, but couldn't have been any more different than like, what I'm what I'm used to. still running. It's like a physical thing that, you know, makes money and exists and all that and a bunch of my friends have gone to it knowing or not knowing that I'd built it, we get you know, we've had almost 1000 companies go through it at this point. So like, that was fun. So I finally created a little ways. Since then I've realized that I need to focus all my energy into doing all these creative things under the guise of README. So you know, recently all the things I've been building and making have been under the readme banner, but yeah, it's not like I carve out time even, it's not like I do this because I, you know, need to it's, it's like a compulsion, like, I can't stop doing it. And I just have to be making things all the time. So yeah, it's, it's for me, and I don't wanna get too dramatic, but like, you know, it's not it's been a few days, since I've built something or made something I get, it's like getting hungry, like I just, you know, it just it just, I start to, like, get antsy and anxious. And I just kind of need to sit down and like, spend two hours building something or four hours or eight hours. And so I'm not worried about that, like my body kind of, like forces me into it, or my, you know, my brain or whatever it happens to be like, forces me into it. So I don't think that'll ever go away.
Tim Bourguignon 44:34 That's so cool. How we, we went full, full circle. And that's exactly how we started with starting things and being being creative and just producing things, not necessarily with code. And now that's exactly how you answer this last question saying, Well, I don't produce things with code anymore, but I still continue producing a lot of things and and, and being creative. That's, that's amazing. Cool. Yep, well This question may be a weird question in school because we went on this on this topic a little bit before but but maybe you could be a bit more specific. If you were to to give yourself and advice at the moment where you are graduating and leaving University. What would you say to yourself?
Greg Koberger 45:17 Yeah, so I get a lot of people who ask me this, ask me for career advice. And I think it's so hard to take a step back and figure out your career I got really lucky, where you know, I kind of like like, Babe Ruth, I don't this reference is gonna work for for you or not Americans. But you know, Babe Ruth, calling his shots that you know, that time where he's the home run, like, I got very lucky, where I can, like, retro actively tell this story. And it sounds like a very cohesive story that since 2008, I was on my journey to getting where I am now. I don't know if I got lucky, or if it's coincidence, or not, but like, that's not how the real world tends to work. And I have the benefit of hindsight. So I talk to younger people, we've had interns that I've talked to about this, and just other people come to me looking for advice, I tell them not to be too hard on themselves. You know, I talked to a lot of people who are 2122 2425. And they already feel like they're way behind on life. Because they see other people who are like, you know, 21, in started a company or a team who started a company or 12, and started a company. And so my advice is not to try to plan out your next 10 2030 years. But rather treat them more like, you know, that game where, you know, you're trying to find something and someone says like, hotter, warmer, warmer, colder, colder, warmer. Sure, I think that's kind of how you should treat your career. Um, if you do something, you talk to a company and it feels good, then go more into it. If you talk to something and it feels bad, don't do it, because it's good for your career or anything like that. And like as you start being more attracted to the things that make you feel warm, and move away from the things that like feel cold people you don't like things that you don't agree with, you'll eventually end up where you need to be or want to be much like that game where you know, people say warmer, colder, and eventually, you know, find where you want to end up. You don't even know what the destination is. But as long as you're kind of, you know, working with the people that you want to work with at the time, and like, never doing anything, because right for your career, that's where it's really scary. Like, you know, people will take jobs, and I did this too, I've done this a bunch, we'll take a job because you're like, this would be really good for my career someday, like, I'm going to work at a VC firm, because I want to raise money someday, or I want to, I'm going to work with these people at the startup because it's good for my career. But like, that person's a jerk, and the company sucks, and, you know, that is hurting you more because you just become an amalgamation of like, you know, the saying we're like you become you know, that your your combination, the five who spend most time with your, you basically become a combination of the company you work at, like I wouldn't be here today, if it wasn't for Mozilla. Mozilla did not fit into where I wanted to be in the sense that Mozilla is an open source project. And I was an engineer there, whereas like, I wanted to start a company and a for profit company. So Mozilla was not a good place for me to go, if I was just thinking about, like, where I want to be in five years, it was a great place, because I just love the people. And they were smart and interesting. And you know, even though Missoula was nonprofit, and I, my company, you know, makes money and all that, like, I got so much out of it, I learned so much like how to hire and how to treat people and how do you know, hire awesome people and work with awesome people and build things that I, you know, if I if I over indexed on where I wanted to be in five or 10 years, I would not have taken that job. And I'm so glad I did. So I think just my To sum it all up my advices just spend all your time going towards things that feel good and saying no to things that feel bad. And you'll eventually end up and like, don't freak out. It's, you've got many, many years ahead of you. Not that many. So don't don't get lazy, but you have many years ahead of you. And you know, just just take it one step at a time and you'll eventually get where you want to be
Tim Bourguignon 48:55 fantastic. Thank you very much. Thank you. Okay, so if the listeners want to to continue this conversation with you, where would the best place speak? Oh, I think Twitter's
Greg Koberger 49:04 probably the best place. But email works as well. So for Twitter, it's g Cobra, which is GK ob er g ER and I assume it's in the show notes. Same with Gmail, it's g Cobra greci gmail.com. I love talking to people giving advice, helping out giving feedback, any of that. So if anything I said kind of sounds good or bad or whatever. I'm easy to find. I'm happy to talk in pretty much any, any medium. So if you can find me perfect. Me and my company is read me so read me.com our ad me calm. We just bought the.com we used our our series a money to actually add to buy the.com and get a bit of an upgrade. So you can check out the company.
Tim Bourguignon 49:46 Okay, anything coming up in the next month that you want to plug in.
Greg Koberger 49:50 If you're an API is I'm speaking at a bunch of conferences. I'm speaking at a PX which is excels API conference on September 12. And I'm speaking at postcan Is postman's conference also on September 12, I'm speaking at San Jose API world as well. Um, those are my nuts. I mean, come and hopefully, you know, hopefully he will come. But if you're ever in San Francisco want to grab coffee or something, I prefer that to, to, to just standing on stage and speaking. So yeah, reach out to grab coffee, or I think it's Eric Cisco, or whatever else. But yeah, I think that's a find me.
Tim Bourguignon 50:25 Fantastic. Thank you very much. Thank you. And this has been another episode of developer's journey. And we'll see each other next week. Bye.
Greg Koberger 50:40 So you're building API. So it's time to decide where to start and what's happening. On the inside, choose the product scope. And to find a designer well, to avoid outbreak and change right to change this endpoint except to get a put or a post? Which HTTP protocols are supported. If it never occurs, what will be the status quo? Does it use x m? A Jason for the content payload? How will your developers send their API keys via basic auth? a header for rental queries? Don't forget to set a limit on the user's rate. Infinite Loop. Do you suffer a bad fantastic should people curl the URL or hit the official SDK? Make sure your API Doc's explained the correct way to do it. All right, and your tech devs. You're more than just API. Now you are a platform.
Greg Koberger 51:51 You are a plan.
Greg Koberger 51:54 And you take
Greg Koberger 51:57 more than AP, you have a plan for
Tim Bourguignon 52:22 dear listener. If you haven't subscribed yet, you can find this podcast in iTunes, Google music, Stitcher, Spotify, and much more. Head over to WWE WWF journey dot info. To read the show notes find all the links mentioned during the episode. And of course links to the podcast on Holden's platforms. Don't miss the next developer's journey story by subscribing to the podcast with the app of your choice right now. And if you like what we do, please rate the podcast, write a comment on those platforms, and promote the podcast and social media. This really helps fellow developers discover the podcast and do fantastic journeys. Thank you