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February 17, 2011

Since I finally got my LaunchRock Invite...

I’m happy to be officially disclosing a poorly-kept secret today. NO, I’m not gay. I’m not quitting Ruby or Rails. I don’t have brain cancer. I’m not a vegan. (Oh wait, yes I am.) Seriously though...

As of January, I have transitioned away from my leadership role at Hashrocket in order to focus on a new startup venture named RightBonus. My partner and co-founder is Nashville’s own Eliza Brock, one of the most badass and entrepreneurial programmers that I know. We are working on a platform to revolutionize the way that progressive companies do incentive bonus pay programs.

Obie and eliza

I first met Eliza at Hashrocket in the Spring of 2010, when she worked on-site in Jacksonville as a client developer. We hit it off and during off-hours she was able to help me make some serious progress on The Rails 3 Way using some killer XSLT. Her tenacity and hacker sensibility really impressed me and left me hoping to work with her on something even more significant someday. Fast forward to this week and we're in Nashville working full-time on RightBonus.

“Wait a gosh-darned minute Obie, did you just tell us that you’ve left Hashrocket? What are they going to do without you!”

Indeed, while I’m still a huge believer in the Hashrocket Way and continue to be affiliated with the company as an advisor, I’m no longer working there full-time. Perhaps like many of you, I’d been searching for the right idea to use as the foundation for a new startup venture. When the opportunity finally presented itself to exit gracefully from Hashrocket in order to chase the entrepreneurial dragon again, I just couldn’t resist. I moved out of my condo in Jacksonville Beach at the end of January and have been focusing on RightBonus ever since. (I'm officially homeless at the moment due to embracing minimalism and the exile lifestyle, but that’s a different blog post for a different day.)

I have no doubts that Hashrocket will continue to thrive. We operated successfully, doubling revenues year upon year for the past 3 years. Headcount is now 30 people and ready to grow further. My partner Marian Phelan  takes over as President with full control of the company. Marian founded Hashrocket with me and has been in operations and finance as our CFO from the outset. She’s an experienced businessperson that understands how to cultivate the discipline and stability that Hashrocket will need as it continues to mature.

So where am I at with RightBonus? That’s a good question. Seed funding is in place. Eliza and I are embracing Lean Startup principles and are currently in the early stages of Customer Discovery. Our initial version is in progress and we are working with a kickass design/front-end team to have a private alpha release ready for demoing to friends and interested parties at SXSW in early March. I also plan to start blogging about the problems with compensation status quo. The ideas I’ll be introducing are based on solutions to the pains that I personally felt as an executive at Hashrocket, so they’re grounded in reality and have roots in behavioral psychology. I strongly believe that entitlement pay is a big problem. With RightBonus we aim to introduce open-minded managers and executives to the possibilities of performance-oriented compensation programs.

I’m super excited to dive back into the world of product development from consulting. It’s a great time to be doing a startup venture, with plenty of capital available if you play your cards right. The tools and techniques available today are also so much better than the last time I made the switch, way back in 2000. Hopefully, you’re also excited for me to share the journey with you, so stay tuned here.

If RightBonus sounds like it might be interesting for your own business, go ahead and follow us on Twitter and sign up to get a beta invite as soon as we launch.


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