#startups Dec 10th, 2014

My Time At Dreamit Ventures

Cody Norman

On June 20th of this year, I boarded a flight bound for San Francisco. Armed with only a suitcase and a laptop, I was heading to a coding bootcamp to follow a crazy dream of switching careers and becoming a developer. I had no idea what the next 3 months would bring. My first two weeks were spent on the top bunk at a hacker house. My “room” was really the living room. I didn’t even have a chance to fall asleep with the light off and not have people working around me until week 3.

I bounced around some of the local hacker houses I found on Airbnb and met some amazing people working on great things along the way. The only way I was able to get any sleep, or cope with being in cramped spaces and living out of a suitcase was to absolutely pour myself into my work. The closest thing I had to home was my laptop, wifi, and headphones.

The last couple of weeks at my bootcamp, I started getting ready for my return back to Philadelphia, not planning on sticking around too long after I got back. After all, all of my tech contacts and networking over the past 3 months had been on the West Coast. I was looking for some part-time/freelance work that I could jump into as soon as I got back to the East Coast. That’s when I came across a listing for Ruby on Rails developer as a startup called Bestimators . Bestimators had just been accepted to Dreamit Ventures. It was too good of an opportunity not to at least send in an application. I had said that the only thing would keep me in Philadelphia would be a dream scenario and thought it was pretty unlikely. Even then, I assumed I would get some experience and head back out to the bay area. After a couple of online interviews, I was offered the position and immediately booked a flight back to Philly. I was back in Philly on a Wednesday night. Thursday night, I had a chance to meet the team face to face about 30 minutes before the kickoff ceremony. By Monday, I had code running on the production server. The next 3 months would be a blistering pace of writing code, brainstorming, and trying to soak up as much knowledge as I possibly could.

The first thing I noticed was the people. I’m not just talking about the other people from the 11 other companies in the cohort with us. Everyone from the amazing founders of Dreamit, to the program managers and directors and the interns were top caliber. Being around those types of people for hours on end, day and night is the best motivator I can think of. On top of all that, Dreamit set us up with two powerhouse advisors, Nathan Derrick of Supply Hog(a fellow Dreamit alum) and Gabriel Weinberg, founder of DuckDuckGo and author of Traction.

Dreamit brought in multiple entrepreneurs, with multiple exits and experience that can only be gained from being in the startup trenches for years and years. Giving advice on everything from dealing with investors, how to pitch your product, financial modeling, how to assemble a team, and what they would have done differently when they were just starting out. On top of that, we had weekly fishbowl sessions. A fishbowl is where one company would talk to the group about a particular issue they were dealing with, and the group would talk about possible options and strategies. Sometimes, getting a fresh perspective on something, or someone else giving their point of view can make all the difference.

Over the last 3 months not only did I get some amazing hands on experience on how a company is built, but I got to see 11 other companies in various markets and industries do the same thing.

Last week we had our demo day, seeing the difference between everyone’s initial pitch and the one given last week was mind blowing. You can’t accomplish everything you need to do in 3 months, and there is always going to be things you wish you would’ve squeezed in or did differently, but seeing the difference that surrounding yourself with the right people is pretty impressive. You can check out the pitches from last week’s demo day here (dead link)

So what’s next? I guess you’ll have to check back in and see. As always, if you have any questions on the experience, or anything else, please feel free to drop me a line.