[The following is a part of my Money Start-up series, where I go back to my software development roots and try to create an application/website to better help consumers take care of their money. It’s a little different than most of the personal finance articles that you’ll read, but my hope is that we’ll learn some lessons along the way. You can start with my introduction last week.]
Last week, I left off by saying that my idea for a personal finance software company seems to have merit based on a few people who I trust. This is despite acknowledging that there is incredible competition and that many have failed. I’m very fortunate to have a great network of people to lean on for advice… and this week I leaned on them again.
While I’ve been programming computers since I was 8 or 9 (thanks IBM PCjr), I’ve taken the last few years off to focus on blogging. One of the reasons I did it was because I was too burned out from developing software all day, to go home and learn what new advancements were going on in the industry. There is always a new language or new database to learn in that spare time. Also, to be relevant in the job market, I found you have to have years of experience in everything. My Coldfusion experience nowadays isn’t all that helpful since it isn’t used anymore.
It’s a learning rat race on top of a money rat race, and it was time to find a way out. And that’s one of the many reasons why I created this blog.
With all that time off, it gives me a rare opportunity to jump back in without bias towards any technology. I have some history in Java and I update the blogging software I use here (WordPress) in PHP, but I don’t do enough to be married to either one. So I reached out to a couple more of my trusted friends independently and asked them what they would use if they were starting from scratch today.
Fortunately the first two, who don’t know each other, came back with the same answer: Ruby on Rails with a Postgres database, running on Heroku. (I know you are smacking your forehead saying “Of Course!”)
I wasn’t expecting them to be sync like that. In reviewing their logic it is sound, and fits with what I was looking for.
The Heroku choice was a surprise, because I’ve checked out their website and how it works is very involved. Their version of “how it works” is for server administrators while what I was looking for something that I missed on the front page , “Focus 100% on your code, and never think about servers, instances, or VMs again… Easily scale to millions of users.”
Heroku is free to develop in, at least for what I’m doing. It’s going to save me time and money to not have to deal with hiring and paying a system administrator. It’s not expensive to run after launch either, but if costs became a problem, I can take my code elsewhere, probably to the Amazon Cloud.
One of my friends suggested that I look into Twitter’s Bootstrap to design the front end of my application. I’m not a designer. I like to pretend that I can make things look 80%, but that last 20% is always a killer. Yes, the Lazy Man and Money design that you see here is mostly my creation. It’s functional (and should be fast), but not polished with great bells and whistles. For this website to be a success, it is going to have to look professional and Bootstrap does much of that. While you can build from scratch with the tools that they have, there are a number of themes to choose to from. Some are free, but I found a couple that I can buy for under $15. Sign me up! I’ll, of course, need to do a lot of customizing to get a finished product, but it will cut down on the time and cost of design team.
The key takeaway here is that is where it would once cost a lot of money to start-up a software company, today there are some fabulous tools out there that greatly reduce the financial barrier the entry. I don’t know if it is possible for me to overstate the impact they will likely have.
The last part of the equation, Ruby on Rails is where I have to make a tough decision. I’ll leave that for next time though.