This post chronicles my adventures last year as I began to build an open source software development company, “zAgile”:http://www.zagile.com/aboutus.html — “una compañía que busca transformarse en una plataforma para el desarrollo de software en el mundo!” (It means, “a company that aspires to be the platform for software development [to] the world.”) Like a lot of startup founders, my path to launching zAgile wasn’t always the most obvious, or the most direct. Along the way it took me on a sabbatical of sorts to Chile, which turned out to be critically important to me and zAgile. I’ve learned a lot on this sojourn so far, and some of my experiences and take-aways might be helpful to you. So, here is the story about how I came to incubate zAgile, *”Blow by (far-flung) Blow.”*
*It all began late September 2006* during a consulting assignment at “newScale”:http://www.newscale.com/. Following this engagement, I had committed myself to spending the winter in Montpellier to learn French — I had made that clear to everyone, but as it turns out, perhaps not to myself. I had been incubating a concept for some time for a venture that I wanted to start (soon to be called zAgile) but *things had stalled* over the summer. *I was struggling to define the vision further* — experiencing a mental block of sorts or a creative vacuum. So, *I decided to take a break,* engage with newScale, go to Montpellier, learn French, do whatever until the block cleared and I could regain the momentum and get back on track — to fulfill my dream — el sueño de Sanjiva.
*During one of our lunchtime chats,* “Rodrigo Flores”:http://www.newscale.com/company/leadership.html#flores (the founder of newScale) told me of a visit of a few Chilean business leaders to the Bay Area in late September to explore opportunities for innovation and economic growth in various industries (high-tech, wine, …) and he thought that I may enjoy meeting with them. This Chilean team was coming to visit the valley’s top brass–executives from the likes of “Oracle”:http://www.oracle.com/index.html, “Sun”:http://www.sun.com/, “Cisco”:http://www.cisco.com/ and “Autodesk”:http://usa.autodesk.com/adsk/servlet/home?siteID=123112&id=129446. Obviously, I felt quite flattered and excited about the possibility. I had come to respect Rodrigo as a peer and a friend and the thought of meeting some ‘fun’ people (and wine lovers) from a world that was still quite unknown to me seemed exciting.
*September 24, 2006:* The meeting took place at the Holiday Inn at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, early in the morning. Expecting to meet a few Chileans (as Rodrigo had modestly expressed), I was quickly overwhelmed when I entered a small conference room that seemed to be completely filled with people. There were 38 of them to be precise. Leaders from political, business, academic and commercial sector — members of “Fundación Chile”:http://www.fundacionchile.cl/portal/page?_pageid=113,54327&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL — headed by Senator Fernando Flores.
During the meeting, I had the opportunity to spend 20-30 minutes in an extemporaneous monolog talking about everything from the dream that pulled me into the world of technology to my experiences in the world of high-tech startups. Of course, we also discussed offshoring — a topic about which I have been very passionate in my career.
*While having coffee at a nearby Starbucks later* I discussed with Rodrigo the possibility of me *exploring Chile for the purpose of incubating zAgile.* It could serve as a pilot for Chile in helping them understand the needs of entrepreneurs like myself and, at the same time, help me get started with the realization of my vision. As the idea percolated through the members of the Fundación, it became apparent that the first step towards exploring this possibility was for me to visit Chile. Furthermore, given the approaching summer there (which is in December and January), I needed to visit well before people began their summer holidays.
*November 11th, 2006*: I planned the trip fairly quickly and arrived in Santiago de Chile on a trip initially slated to be an “exploration” for 2-3 weeks. *An adventure (una gran aventura) was about to begin for me and for zAgile.* I returned home 4 months later, in February, but not before I had engaged teams of developers in three countries (Brazil, Peru and Chile) to begin working on the initial prototype (distributed teams of developers developing a platform for distributed software development — what a concept 🙂 ) and learned a little bit of Spanish (sí! hablo un poco español) and Tango (yo aprendí bailar tango en Buenos Aires). And of course, I also had some opportunities to try out Chilean and Argentinian wines, meet some very cool and fun people and make some new friends.
I’ve learned a lot already from incubating zAgile. Philosophically, the take-aways are interrelated, and I share them with you here:
*5 Lessons from my Chilean Sojourn:*
*1) Passion drives persistence.* Therefore, one needs to have the right amount of passion and belief in the idea and venture because persistence will be required.
*2) Be open to all possibilities* because you do not know where opportunities will come from (a key point of the story thus far).
*3) Need to be resourceful* in order to exploit any crack in any door that may be in front of you.
*4) Getting to the product quickly does not always serve one well,* or even most of the time). Practically, the early stages of a venture are mostly about exploration and experimentation. This means your product, ideas, business model, etc. will change radically and quickly.
*5) And finally, keep early costs as low as possible* until a relatively concrete concept is in front of you. You can’t know how long it will take to get your product “right” so a conservative spending approach is the best approach in the early days.
Editor’s Note: This piece was adapted from a post on Sanjiva’s personal blog “here”:http://sanjiva.typepad.com/zstory/. He’ll continue to share with Found|READ his adventures in incubating and running zAgile. You can read more of his writings about the state of the open source software development industry, among other things, on his blog, too.