I have officially closed Falicon Programming Inc.
I started Falicon Programming Inc. Dec. 12th 2001 as a Delaware class C corp. At the time I was running Supermug, Draftwizard, and had also just started putting together the Statsfeed service. I was also working a full time job as head-of-tech. at reviews.com, doing a bit of freelance for a variety of sports-related companies, and had just recently gotten married.
Though the taxes and paperwork are a bit more complex, I chose to go the route of a class C corporation because I was already building a handful of products (and intended to build at least a few more). Each one, I thought had potential to eventually be sold or acquired, and so I thought it would be easier to do that as a class C corp.
I also had visions of eventually growing the company into a large entity that employed lots of people (with each product having it’s own team until it reached a tipping point on selling it). And again, I thought at the time if I was going to have employees, a class C corp. would eventually be required.
It’s true that I was doing freelance work at the time, but it was never really my plan (or dream) to operate a consulting company (probably a topic for it’s own post some day). But it helped cover the hardware and advertising costs for the company products, and gave us some breathing room to play with more ideas over time.
Also I had been living and working in the NYC area since the fall of 1999, but wasn’t really plugged into the NYC tech. or startup community at all…and I especially had no contacts or knowledge of the Angel or VC world at the time. So I was purely focused on bootstrapping and slow-growing my products - attempting to raise outside money was never in my mind.
So fast forward to today and reflecting over the 12 plus year journey, I am very happy to able to say that I experienced and learned a massive amount of stuff.
Here are a three quick big learnings I had to experience to really understand:
First - I learned that employees are expensive, and as much as possible, I want to avoid having employees on the books for as long as possible. There are simply too many hidden costs (and paperwork) involved in carrying employees, and it’s emotional and messy to have the responsibility of adding or removing them through the ups and downs of a company.
The best result I’ve found is to develop a true and tested revenue path that can be directly mapped to adding new employees. Once you know what each new employee will cost (and how much they will add to the company’s bottom line), it becomes a lot easier to make the call.
Ultimately, you’re better off building for profits than growth.
Second - It’s really hard to sell a semi-successful project. Profits alone are not enough (especially if they aren’t massive profits). If you are going to start a project with the intent of eventually selling it to another company, your best bet is focus a lot on process and documentation (ie. make sure you provide a high-quality instruction manual from day one). Even then, it takes the right connections at the right time having the right conversation to be able to pull off a happy outcome for all.
Ultimately, you’re better off building for profits than a sale.
Third - If you are not careful hidden costs, paperwork, and taxes will simply drown you. Especially if you are a one-man show like I have been for most of the past 12 years. The problem is that there is simply just too much for one person to know and do right - let alone well.
To get something bootstrapped to a self-sustaining level, I’ve had to focus just about all my energy and efforts into building, marketing, and being proactive at all the customer touch points. This leaves very little time or energy for learning the proper tax codes/rules, or various State and Federal laws for properly ‘doing business’. In all honesty, they aren’t very difficult things, but they certainly aren’t as simple as 'build X, get paid Y’.
Ultimately, focus on profits and find a good, affordable, and trust worthy lawyer and accountant that you can work with and trust for the long haul (two crucial positions that are *very* difficult to find/afford actually).
There are of course many many other things I’ve learned over the past 12 years in operating Falicon Programming Inc. but I won’t bore you with them all right now (probably over time I will though - so be warned). But these three big ones bring me to today’s overall topic, closing down Falicon Programming Inc.
Over the past few years, I’ve been doing more and more for a variety of startups around the NYC scene and I’ve had the luck of getting to know a lot more people around various investment circles as well.
I’ve also continued to play with building out my own various ideas, products, and projects (a few still in the sports space, though many are now also in the social/discovery/recommendation space).
Throughout that time, I’ve continued to go through the motions with Falicon Programming Inc. but I have not at all been focused on profits or even really bringing in money for the company at all. Which means as a whole, I’m mostly just spinning my wheels around Falicon Programming Inc. and had honestly lost the passion and reason behind my orig. goals for what and why I started it.
It was time to accept that and free myself up for the next thing (which of course I’ve already started as well and I’ll be talking a bit more about in the next, eventual, blog post).
So After twelve years, Falicon Programming Inc. is officially no more.
As sad as I should be about it, the real feeling I have at the moment is one more of relief and being refreshed than anything else. I also come away much more experienced and knowledgeable, having developed some great friendships and connections, and even more focused and clear on what I *really* want out of my career and my work.
All of which just means…stay tuned because this end is really just the beginning of something even better!
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Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at falicon.com.
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