пятница, 26 октября 2007 г.

“I don’t like firing people!” – interview with Ian Ippolito, the CEO of RentACoder

I’d like to indroduce the interview with Mr. Ian Ippolito, founder and CEO of the largest online job board and outsource project systems registrar – RentACoder. Mr. Ippolito kindly agreed to answer some questions about RentACoder, competitors and business in common, Web 2.0, site upgrages and enhancements, ongoing plans and future innovations. So here it is.

Hi, my name is Pavel, and I used to work at RentACoder as a coder (my coder screen name is uncleedik). Nowadays I’ve stepped away from outsource coding, but RentACoder remains one of my favorite outsource project system. So I’ve read all the info about RentACoder and yourself at the site, but I’d like to ask some additional questions. Well, I’d like to start with this one: was the idea of creation of RentACoder a new business decision or the promising idea that transformed into business?

It was a new business decision. I ran Planet-source-code.com in 2001 and was receiving many paid requests for me (as the webmaster) to help people…more than I can handle. I realized that this could be a whole new business and that was the inspiration for the site.

May be you have the screenshot of the very first version of RentACoder?

Sure. Here it is from May 9,2001:
http://web.archive.org/web/…

When I was working online at RentACoder, I was really surprised by the efficiency of responses to my possibly stupid questions. Despite the time zone difference, all conflicts and misunderstandings were successfully solved. That is why I am interested in the quantity of people working in RentACoder?

Currently there are 85,186 buyers and 193,150 coders. More stats can be found at The Pulse Of RentACoder

When I was preparing for this interview, I found your resume at RentAcoder on the following link: …/showBioInfo.asp?lngAuthorId=5 Why is your id 5 but not 1?

That is a very observant question. The first 4 records were deleted due to bugs in the early code. The 5th one was the first one that was correct.

Would you be so kind to share some interesting facts from RentACoder’s history?

Sure. We started in 2001 and completed about 20 or 30 projects. (In comparison, last month we did 7,091.) I started the company from an extra bedroom at my house. I was the arbitrator and Judi Edgington (now the CFO) was the customer service person. In 2002 we had grown to 4 full time people (and other part timers) and moved into our first real office. Then in 2005 we had grown to 7 full time people and ran out of room and moved again into larger offices. We’re now at 11 full time people and have again run out of room and will be moving again in early 2008.

I was always interested in the cost of the biggest project successfully realized at RentACoder?

$65,000 is the largest to date.

Your Safe Project Escrow system appears to be one of the best guarantors of project payments safety. Was this procedure a planned arrangement or the one forced by a series of unpleasant episodes (like RentACoder had to pay a coder instead of a buyer)?

Thanks. I realized during creation of the site that an escrow and arbitration system would be vital to actually make it work. So this was a part of the site since the first day.

Could you name your most unpleasant responsibility At RentACoder?

The worst is firing employees who do not work out. Not only does it affect them but also their families as well. That is why no one is ever fired without being many chances to correct whatever it is that they are doing wrong. But some people aren’t able to do that, and they unfortunately have to be let go.

How much time do you devote to RentACoder a day?

9-11 hours/day. I’ve gotten good and in the last year no longer do this on the weekends (so it is mostly weekdays only).

94% of RentACoder buyers are repeated buyers while the average percentage in industry is only 63%. Regarding the process of administration what major factors could you name that keep this percentage level so high?

We spend a large amount on salaries for customer service people so that the phone lines and email are manned and answered 7 days a weeks. Another factor is the protection of the escrowing and arbitration system. And the final factor is the ability for buyers to be able to require the coder to place a deposit (the Expert Guarantee), to guarantee completion of the project.

What was the most challenging problem solved throughout of your business?

Lost money due to credit card fraud. The credit card companies protect the consumer and themselves, but not merchants. The first time it happened, I lost $5,000 in just a few seconds. It is something that unfortunately cannot be 100% solved, but we’ve definitely made vast improvements.

Do you plan to add a new funds escrow option for RentACoder? I took part in the voting about introduction of the iKOBO option. Will it be someday possible to use a pre-paid debit card instead of checks? The reason I ask this question is that I can say for sure that a pre-paid debit card is the best option for Russian-speaking coders.

Yes…we will be adding Payoneer (a debit card like Ikobo) as well as bank deposit and some other options.We have already signed a contract with Payoneer. I hope to rollout a beta in 3-4 months and rollout to the general site in 5-6.

Knowing that RentACoder is the 82nd fastest growing software company, the 3rd fastest growing company in the Tampa Bay area, and #1,065 fastest (out of all companies) with the revenue of 2.1mln$ on 2007, I would like to ask: what was more difficult – to earn the first million or the second?

:) The first million was definitely the most difficult. It took several years of extremely intense work before the company was stable enough to maintain itself without constant effort.

Authority of comments about RentACoder is very impressing: Computer Weekly, The Guardian, Inc. Magazine, ComputerWorld, Forbes, Business Week, The Times. After all, do you think you have any competitors?

Yes. Scriptlance offers a similar service (although without arbitration). Guru and elance do as well (and have started to offer arbitration, but require people to pay for them).

Do you have any contacts with other online job boards?

Yes, I am friendly with and network with the CEOs of other companies.

Do you use any coders who work for RentACoder for the site maintenance and updates? What are the criteria for the winning bid for such a project?

Yes.Top notch development skills, great communication skills and a willingness to work hard are the most important.

Do you plan to make Web 2.0 interface for RentACoder or you prefer the current version?

Yes. As the site transitions from ASP Classic to ASP.NET you will be seeing more Web 2.0 features.

Now it is a common practice to create social networks, to run corporate blogs. In case RentACoder creates a social network of professional coders do you think it will be extremely popular?

I had not thought of that before, but it is an interesting idea. The RAC network is very large and it could indeed be very popular.

You have great experience in creating and managing of Internet projects. What could you name a good start-up? Is having just a good idea enough for a good and promising project?

A good idea is important. It’s also important to have excellent project management skills and the ability to distinguish the best coders from the rest so they can build your project. It also requires hard work, because nothing of value ever comes easily.

What instruments would you advise to use for promotion of Internet projects, which proved effective for RentACoder promotion?

I would recommend cost per click advertising on search engines like Google is the most cost effective means of advertising out there right now.

And now some personal question, if you don’t mind:
If it is not a great secret, could you name your favorite:
Food: Filet Marsala and spinach with garlic (at Carrabas)
Drink: Rioja Red Wine
Car: Lexus GS 430
Hobby: Weight lifting and exercising.
Website (except RentACoder :) ) MSNBC.COM—I check it every day.

Do you blog? If you don’t – why? What do you think about blogging and blogs?

I would like to blog, but unfortunately do not have the free time to devote to it.

The last question: what is your success formula?

I believe anyone can find success in business if they find a unique way to solve a problem that has not been solved well before and then put 100% of their effort into making it succeed.

I would like to express my gratitude for you agreement to spend your time to answer these questions. I believe that this interview will help professionals who want to start working on-line to choose the right place for adoption and mastering their professional abilities which RentACoder appears to be. I wish you good luck in your future activity, projects and any initiatives.

Автор: Дядя Эдик.




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