Ian IppolitoSerial tech entrepreneur. Former CEO of vWorker.
Bio

Winner of numerous awards including Entrepreneur Magazine’s “Most Innovative Companies”, Inc. 5000 “Fastest growing companies in the U.S. award” 4 yrs. in a row. Interviewed by Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Business Week, CBS News, FOX News and many more. Recently featured in entrepreneur magazine for pivot from Planet Source Code to vWorker: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/235503 More information at: http://www.ianippolito.com/ and http://www.exhedra.com



Recent Answers


That's a very good question, and is something I had to deal with on a monthly basis when I created Rent a Coder/vWorker.

There's two ways to deal with it. The first is that if your product involves some sort of unique and patentable intellectual property, then you simply pay the money and patent it. This protects you from someone doing the exact same thing, and can also be a key asset if a company is considering purchasing yours.

Unfortunately, most of the time the above is not the case (and it wasn't the case for me either). It's extremely difficult these days to run across a business idea that can be patented. If your product is not patentable, then you have only one other choice. You are in industry where there will be a lot of copying between competitors. The only way to stay ahead is to continue to create new features that your competitors have not thought of yet, and always stay one or two steps out of them.

But it's not enough just to be better, you have to make sure everyone understands why you're better.Make sure you educate your audience on the differences between you and your competitors with a chart of features that shows why your product is far superior to the others. If you notice the chart is looking less compelling over time, that means you need to work more on your product. It is a lot of hard work, but it's the type of work that will make your product better and better, and more and more useful for your customers.

I don't know what your particular product is, but if you'd like some specific advice on how to do this for your product, then just give me a Clarity call.


I've been in your shoes. Before I Rent a Coder was big enough to support me full-time, I had to find a way to smoothly transition from my stable full-time job, without causing myself a coronary. ;-)

I took the tactic of working a full-time job to support myself, and then coming home at night and then working on my start up another 6 to 7 hours. This isn't the strategy for everyone since some people have family and other commitments that prohibited. But if you are single like I was, it is the safest way to make the transition, because you are never without an income. This can be crucial if there are problems with your business plan (which is almost always the case) and it takes longer to create a sustainable business than you first anticipated.

Here's another tip: when Rent a Coder was finally doing well enough to support myself, I told my boss about it in my intention to work on a full-time. Since I had done a good job for him, he offered to let me work part-time and taper off my hours over time as the business took off. This gave me additional income to feed into the business when it was still very new and fragile, and gave me more confidence in making the transition successfully.

Best of luck to you with making the transition and if you need any advice, you can look me up here on clarity.


As a serial entrepreneur, I've been in your situation many times. I completely understand you feeling that the problem is that you need to "grow some balls", and it feels like it would be nice if there were some magic way to overcome fear. I'm going to suggest that the first important thing you need to consider is that fear is not always a bad thing. It stops us from doing really stupid things that can hurt ourselves. So if you are coming up with legitimate reasons why the business startup won't work, I wouldn't call those "excuses". I would call them legitimate issues that you need to work out in advance before committing enormous amounts of time and resources to an endeavor. There are many people who don't take this step and end up regretting it a year or two later, when something obvious trips them up and shows that their plan is flawed.

If you find that the thing is holding you back is not reasonable/or logical or likely to happen, then I recommend taking another tactic. There is no such thing as a brave person that isn't afraid. The difference between a brave person and a coward is that the brave person feels the fear and still goes ahead anyway. The journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step, so if this is your situation, then the important thing is to take that first step. Instead of just obsessing on your elaborate plan, pick the first thing that needs to be done and just do it. Then take the next small thing that needs to be done and do that tomorrow. Every day you should be taking at least one step closer to your goal, and if you are persistent, then your momentum will be virtually unstoppable.

The last thing I'll say is that you should try to minimize your risk as much as possible so that your fear can be managed and kept at a reasonable level, so it won't interfere with your ability to execute. The most important thing is to have a backup plan for each thing that you fear. For example, if you fear you might be running out of money in 5 to 6 months, then line up a part-time job. If you're worried that your cofounder is too much of a flake, start talking to other possible replacements before there is a problem… so that you can transition to a better partner without too much disruption. Etc.

If you need any other advice, or assistance, I've been in your shoes many times and can help. Good luck!


Yes. If you take a look at the fortune 500 list, there are some that have inherited their wealth. But the majority are self-made entrepreneurs. And no one is born with knowledge and experience of a business. If you were fortunate enough to be passed down a family business, then you might learn it at an early age. But most self-made people have to learn it when they start the business. Or they find some way to leverage their existing experience into a related business.

At the same time, if you have no money and no experience, it's going to be much much harder for you to get your business started than someone that has those things. You will have to work much harder, learn faster, work later, be smarter, have a better plan, and invest much more of your time in making it work. It's vital to have a realistic plan before you start. So I recommend that you really take the time to do your homework before starting your venture. Good luck!


You mentioned that you have space to store the data, so I'm assuming that means you're storing it in the usual way (a database). If so the userid is easy: just allocate enough characters to store the longest user ID will allow.

The password is trickier. The easy way to store it is to simply store it the same way as the user ID. However, if someone manages to break into your database (which isn't as difficult as it sounds), they'll be able to steal all the passwords of every user. So this isn't recommended.

You could encrypt the password, and that is better than no protection at all. But even that is not secure, because often once a hacker compromises your systems, they get access to your decryption key and again you expose every password to the hacker, and it's a public relations nightmare.

So the proper way to do it is to use something called a one-way hash. Essentially this is one way encryption... it can be encrypted but never decrypted. This way there is no decryption key that can be stolen and security is the best. If you Google this concept you can find more information on it and find something applicable to your programming language and platform. Good luck.


First, that sounds like a promising idea for an app.

To give you some idea of my background, I'm a professional programmer and also founded a website that managed the outsourcing process for over 300,000 programmers. Testing and usability tests are great things for a non-technical founder to be doing. However, you really should not be doing the architecture. It would be like if I wanted to run a company to design bridges, and told the engineer that I was going to share architecture duties with him. I just don't have the expertise, and it's not something that can just be picked up in a matter of months.

Here's my advice for you. There must be some reason why you are thinking that you want to be involved in the architecture. I'd recommend examining those reasons, and finding out if there is another way to accomplish your goal. If you want to discuss further, feel free to hit me up, here on Clarity. Good luck with your endeavor.


If the investor is spending his precious time meeting with you, then I assume he has at least some interest in your event. If that's the case, then in my opinion, yes it would be a nice gesture and appreciated. Good luck with your pitch!


If those 100 decision-makers are in your local area, then a good option is to volunteer for charities, so you can make yourself known to them in a non-selling manner.


I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but generally, these are not the types of businesses that venture capital pursues. Due to the risk they are taking, VCs generally want to see a large market (meaning $1B potential) and a significant return on their money (10 times return).

However, you can look for an Angel investor. These are generally individuals who are not looking for as large market or a return.Here are some places to start. Best of success to you!

http://www.forbes.com/sites/tanyaprive/2013/12/16/20-most-active-angel-investors/
http://www.cbinsights.com/blog/top-angel-investors/


Since I exited my last company, I spend a lot of time researching hundreds of options for passive income.

In my opinion, this is not the time in the business cycle to be making a large long-term investment in the stock market.
http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21612168-weighing-evidence-how-long-will-expansion-last

Normally, municipal bonds are one of the best ways to create passive income because they are super safe and tax-free. However, too many investors have fled stocks with exactly the same idea, and so the prices on municipal bonds are now too high, causing their yields to go down to record low levels (which is very bad for getting a good return on them).

Personally,I would recommend taking a look at nontraditional investments. Peer to peer lending currently returns me just above 9%. This is a riskier investment because it is not FDIC protected, and if the borrower defaults then you lose your money. I reduce the risk with diversification. If I invested all my money in a single note, it's way too risky because a single default would wipe it all out. However, by spreading my money out across hundreds of notes and only buying a small portion of them, It tremendously reduces the risk. If you check out LendingClub.com, you'll see more information on this technique. (To date, no one who has diversified across 400 notes has ever lost money on the platform)

Good luck on achieving your goal!


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