Category Archives: Business

Matt Javitch on Networking in Boston and the Mathematics of Real Estate Investing

Listen to this episode of Hacker Practice on iTunes.

You know those people that everybody seems to like? They have charisma. They’re affable. Like Jeff Daniels on the Newsroom.

That’s Matt Javitch.

Matt has been taking a barbell-approach to investing in Boston real estate and startups. He’s my go-to resource for investment advice because, unlike some advisors who try to sell me their advice, he makes a living off his investment thesis. Also, he’s never tried to sell me a thing.

I invited Matt on the show to give me a deep dive into real estate investing fundamentals, quitting corporate life for startup investing and more.

We talk about

  • The networking scene in Boston
  • How to quit your job and start a business
  • The real estate investment market
  • How real estate investing is different and complementary to startup investing
  • How to get started in real estate investing
  • How to be successful in real estate investing

Please enjoy this episode of Hacker Practice with Matt Javitch:

Notes

[00:00] How Justus and Matt met

[01:00] Networking in Boston

  • Events are becoming more and more niche-specific
  • You know what you’re getting when the event is very specific

[5:00] Matt’s background in finance

  • Financial advising and real estate investment

[7:00] Why small networking events can be super valuable

  • Most events are really hit or miss
  • Networking is a numbers game

[10:00] What Matt did to prepare to leave

  • Saved capital
  • Built a network
  • Honed a valuable skill set as a real estate investment analyst

[14:45] Specific numbers around how to leave your job and get into real estate investing

  • Matt had 3-4 months of living expenses saved
  • $300-400k pledged from investment partners

[16:30] To be successful in real estate investing

  • Have a long term vision
  • Understand the financial risks
  • Have a safety net or “plan B”

[19:00] What would Matt do different if he started over

  • Would have been more aggressive buying properties while at his job

[20:30] What is Matt doing to mitigate risk of negative macro economic conditions

  • Invest in “primary” markets (cities etc.)
  • Some factors can’t be controlled but should be understood

[23:45] The dumbbell strategy and Matt’s investment in startups

  • Real estate is somewhat predictable compared to startups

[27:00] Angel investing in Boston vs. Silicon Valley

  • Boston has a conservative social and financial culture

[30:00] How to get started real estate investing without any debt

  • It’s challenging.
  • Usually you make more money when you favor debt over equity
  • Start with as little as $150-250k
  • Start in a secondary, suburban market. Matt gets specific in greater Boston area
  • Renovate, then rent or sell
  • Can also experiment in other markets like San Antonio, Texas
  • Southern markets are usually less expensive

[34:00] Different geographic regions have different risk factors

[37:00] Have $250k, bought a property, need to renovate, where do I start?

  • Everything is quantified on a per foot basis
  • Market research is critical. Different locations have different /sq ft costs. Understand the local housing market
  • Look at last 6 months and what prices local homes have sold at vs. your prospective investment
  • Brokers and legal costs often add up to around 5%+ of the cost

[42:30] How much money do you budget for renovation?

  • Again: focus on cost per square foot
  • P = initial cost / sq ft
  • R = cost of renovation / sq ft
  • C = P + R
  • F = price you sell the property at / sq ft
  • PROFIT = F – C

[46:00] Working with many contractors and sub-contractors

[47:15] Selling the property

  • Matt often lists and sells the house himself if it’s local (saves 2.5% commission)
  • Real estate agents have less incentive to negotiate on your behalf than you (Freakonomics)

[50:00] The most challenging part of real estate investing for Matt

  • Inspectors vs contractor drama
  • Local politics often play a role in inspection

[56:00] A big part of Matt’s success can be attributed to his likability and how he incentivizes contractors to do quality work

  • EQ is valuable in this regard

[59:00] Final requests and contact info

  • Do your homework and know your risks
  • Matt is happy to talk to any aspiring investors (startup or real estate)
  • Axilon Capital Partners
  • 973.788.9333

What else?

If you enjoyed this episode subscribe to the show on iTunes and leave us a review 😀

Johnny Boursiquot on building a software agency from scratch, learning Go for Rubyists, and server-less software architectures.

Listen to this episode of Hacker Practice on iTunes today.

Sometimes you start a conversation with one intention, and digress into something completely different.

This happened to me recently, in a conversation with an old friend and mentor, Johnny Boursiquot.

Johnny and I were supposed to do a deep dive into Go Lang and Ruby in this hour long conversation. Instead we spent half an hour talking about Johnny’s experience building a technology agency from scratch.

Then we got around to talking tech XD.

Johnny is well-known as one of the pillars of BostonRB. He also helped to organize the Boston GoLang meetup before moving to Maryland where he founded Baltimore’s GoLang Meetup.

He was listed on New Relic’s list of 18 Go Experts to Follow Online.

In the episode we talk about:

  • Johnny’s lessons learned from founding and building a tech agency, lots of juicy business advice for consulting companies and agencies in the first half of this talk
  • The relative pros and cons of using ruby vs go in different domains
  • How to get started using a new language

  • A quick primer in serverless application architectures

  • How intermediate devs can 10x their workflow

And a lot more.

Enjoy.

Notes

[00:00] What brings Johnny to Maryland after living more than a decade in Boston

  • What brought him to Boston in the first place

[02:30] Major lessons learned from time in Boston running a technology company

  • Running a company means that you’re responsible for other people’s income
  • Many unexpected challenges: biz dev, legal, etc

[05:15] How did Johnny get started in technology business.

  • Started with entrepreneurship in high school

[08:00] Learning how to do business

  • Dealing with clients
  • Managing expectation
  • Touching on the difference between hacking and building a product

[11:00] #1 Lesson? The difference between a service business and product business

  • Agencies do not scale the same way a product scales
  • Most agencies do not end up producing a lot of reusable technology or internal products
  • It’s hard to do internal product development because your staff is busy with revenue generating service activities
  • It’s risky to invest in product development

[20:00] What would Johnny do differently if he could start over?

  • Start a product company: raise money.

[23:00] What about the reverse situation? Making a profitable, successful agency.

  • Protect your margins
  • Be flexible with workflow; Agile doesn’t always work smoothly in an agency environment
  • “They want warez”
  • Your job is to tease out the specifics of what the client actually wants
  • “You’re not in control of your own product roadmap”

[27:30] How to mitigate risk of scope creep

  • Establish a relationship; a partnership to guarantee future work
  • Get a Master Services Agreement

[32:00] Segue to technical discussion. What is Ruby good for vs Golang?

  • Ruby for developing something fast. “Getting a web app out there as fast as possible”
  • GoLang is better for heavy lifting, whenever performance is a consideration

[37:45] What are Johnny’s tips for learning Go (or any language)

  • “Leave baggage at the door…appreciate the differences of Go”
  • There is a “Go Way” of doing things

[41:15] What kind of project should I try using GO in

  • Anything with heavy duty network requirements
  • Microservices (“Something you can throw away”)
  • “Gnarly, performance-critical jobs”
  • Concurrency in Go is super-awesome

[45:00] AWS Lambda and Serverless 101

  • Not actually “serverless”. That’s a marketing term. There is always a server somewhere.
  • Monolithic App > Microservices > Lambda functions
  • Everything is a discrete functional unit
  • Very cost-effective because the server only runs when you call the function

[51:30] What can an intermediate Rails developer to 10-20x their workflow

  • Look past the magic of the language (Ruby) or framework (Rails)
  • Learn the underlying properties of the WYSIWYG
  • Understand how SQL, HTTP, Databases, and CURL — fundamentals of the web — work
  • Learning the underlying complexity enables you to use the higher-level abstractions more rapidly

[59:00] Johnny’s relationship with the command line

  • Used to work in Windows, and mostly everything was a GUI
  • Put together command-line tools to build Flash experiences
  • Started using Ubuntu – understood that there are discrete tools to use and stitch together from the command line
  • Now uses a Mac. Everything can be done from the terminal

[1:05:45] Running swift on the server

[1:07:00] Johnny’s new life hack

  • Modified Pomodoro with a physical twist

[1:10:00] Johnny’s child-rearing hacks

    • Every child is different
    • Reward effort over innate qualities
    • Lots of people squander innate talent. Working hard never fails.

[1:14:00] Johnny’s new job at an education non-profit

  • Serving under-served school districts
  • Exposing diverse groups to the world of technology
  • Bring education equity to the communities that need it most
  • Mostly doing ops work these days
  • The biggest challenge is always dealing with people
  • Johnny loves pairing with more junior members

[1:20:00] Final requests to the audience and where to find Johnny

What now?

Go become a better programmer. And subscribe to the show on iTunes.

Caricature Artist Julia Kelly on Art, Business, and Bookkeeping (e011)

Listen to this episode of Hacker Practice on iTunes.

Julia Kelly and Justus in the Cayman Islands

Do you know somebody who loves to argue?

I’m one of those people. So is Julia Kelly.

We’re great together.

Julia is the most renowned caricature artist west of the Mississippi. She built her business from scratch and is currently starting business #2.

I guess I caught her at a good time.

When I asked her to do an interview with me. She made an interesting request: “Let’s wing it!”

She’s been on some pretty awesome podcasts including: Entrepreneur on Fire, Double your Freelancing, and Afford Anything. She says: the less scripted the show, the more fun the interview.

My old college buddies would agree: Justus loves “doing it live”. So I agreed to do the episode with ZERO PREPARATION.

Typically I prepare for interviews with rigorous research and outline a list of topics to talk about. In this case I did no such thing. Shoot, I didn’t even take notes until after we recorded the conversation.

The result was a fascinating conversations that covers art, business and everything in between. Enjoy 😀

[00:00] This is an unconventional episode. Julia explains why.

[01:55] How Julia introduces herself as

  • A Bookkeeper
  • A Caricature Artist

[4:30] How to be a success without trying very hard

  • Morning rituals and meditation are for the birds
  • How to be successful without them: Show up, do good work, and keep your word.

Sine qua non noun

  1. an essential condition; a thing that is absolutely necessary.

[07:00] Some ways Julia and Justus are different

[10:00] Why Julia is moving into the bookkeeping business

  • Recurring revenue, predictability, stability
  • Partnership

[13:30] Julia shoots down the concept of “following your passion”

  • It’s a fleeting feeling

[16:00] How Julia developed the craft of caricature art

  • Time on task is the most important aspect of developing artistic ability
  • Got a job at LEGO Land
  • The job had a 6-hour training program where everything was done in a marker
  • No erasing
  • Don’t be a perfectionist (“If it’s 80% good, ship it!”)

[24:00] Julia’s and Justus’ artistic influences

Julia Kelly’s Bust of JRR Tolkien

[32:30] The story of the Captain’s hat and lessons Justus learned from an experiment in fame

  • Fame is cheap
  • Anonymity is priceless

[37:30] Julia’s struggles with identifying her strengths

[40:30] Julia’s friend who knows Tom Cruise

  • Confidence is extremely valuable.
  • Fake it ‘til you make it

[42:30] Julia’s story getting started freelancing

  • Market focus made all the difference

[45:30] Selling to trade show marketers

  • Tracking ROI is important
  • “Connect what you do to the outcomes they want.”
  • Attract traffic
  • Create follow-up opportunities
  • Create the right marketing language and identify with their needs
  • Get one customer and drill them for what sold them
  • Get feedback to improve (Peter Dunbar echoed this in episode 8)

[53:30] What lessons from caricature art transfer to bookkeeping

  • Pricing for bookkeeping is more custom, so don’t advertise fixed prices
  • Longer sales cycle for bookkeeping

[56:30] Successes and failures in bookkeeping

  • 3 client since August
  • Cold email works!

[57:30] How to cold email effectively using LinkedIn

  • Julia sends 70 canned emails a day
  • The 556th email hit!

[1:00:00] Justus tells a story about canned cold emails that worked on him

  • Follow up 4 times!
  • Follow up again!

Yet Another Mail Merge Google Sheets Extension

[1:04:00] Julia’ Bookkeeping goals and differentiating factors

  • 7 figure business
  • Totally remote
  • Flat monthly fees

[1:05:45] Julia’s ideal client is hands-off, casual, comfortable with remote bookkeeping, and wears plaid

  • Rapidly growing startups are a good fit in many cases

[1:08:30] Julia wants everyone to go read Slatestarcodex and talk to her about it.

Check Julia out at

Also, Julia thinks GMO’s are safe. That is all.

What else?

That’s all. Actually, wait, no. Go to iTunes and subscribe to the show. And leave us a review 😀