Developing for Change

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John Negron, Founder / Be a Doer

The path from developer to founder takes people on many different paths. In the process of creating a non-profit volunteer pipeline and event management platform, Be a Doer founder John Negron discovered his experience to be a lot harder than expected. Negron grew up in an immigrant family with not much initial interest in computers. While working at NASA and starting out in C++, Perl, and the .Net space, Negron was an avid volunteer in his community. During this time, he found that while organizations are great at serving people or communities in need, they struggled to engage volunteers in a meaningful and valuable way. Later, this experience would be the foundation for Be a Doer.

Throughout his career as a developer, Negron has dabbled in start-ups and product launches before his own journey began. “As a dev, the markets I’ve been in, there are a lot of people with great ideas. Every now and then, I get a pitch to come be the CTO of ‘this’. I wanted to help, and I did here and there.” However, after taking a hard look at his own passions and skillsets, he decided to focus on something that would feel less like work. After volunteering at a soup kitchen in NYC, the idea for Be a Doer really came to life. “It really just became a hobby, like, wouldn’t this be cool.” While working full time as a developer, he slowly began to transition into the founder role. “As a business person, it’s not just about the product, or about a hobby. Getting into an accelerator program really helped me realize this.” After a successful soft launch and seeing traction with the product, he decided to go all in.

In this process, Negron noticed the difference between technical founders and non-technical founders within the startup space. In some senses, he felt a distinct advantage in being a technical founder in the software development world. However, he found the most important thing is to partner with different skillsets to help compliment your own. “Getting sales and marketing, not my strong suit, that’s the biggest thing. I’ll be spending the next 5-10 years in this company, so choices of who I work with are as important as getting married.”

Overall, there has been a prominent take-away from this experience. While every dev to founder journey is unique, one uniting factor stands out. Make sure that there is a market for your product or service. “The tendency is to build this thing and then they will come. You have to go against your own nature as a developer. Do something lightweight, maybe not even a product, but rather a landing page, or buy some ads and tell people about it and see if there’s interest.” There is a clear moment when your hobby becomes a viable product or service, and every future founder needs to be on the lookout for it. In Negron’s own words, “It’s not a business until someone is ready to pay for it.”

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