Part III: Stormpulse becomes a partnership
About halfway through the previous post, Stormpulse gained a partner. Brad was my Manager at the company I worked for in Chicago. I still remember the coffee break when he asked me what sorts of things I was in to, and I replied very casually “oh, weather.” I don’t think it made much an impression on him at the time, but over the course of late 2005 and early 2006, Brad would continue to hear about my little ‘windy project’ (as my father has called it).
We worked together for a year before working together on Stormpulse, and our projects together went well. In fact, as a two-person team working on the cutting-edge aspects of our previous employer’s website, we often felt like a startup in incubation, brainstorming for hours and forging ahead even when others didn’t grasp the essence of what we were doing.
In “The 18 Mistakes That Kill Startups“, Paul Graham identifies the #1 cause of startup death as ‘Single Founder’:
“Even if you could do all the work yourself, you need colleagues to brainstorm with, to talk you out of stupid decisions, and to cheer you up when things go wrong.”
For us, brainstorming can be a little punchy, but never personal. Talking each other out of stupid decisions is mostly about being preemptive in identifying our direction so that we don’t go in circles (no time for that) and also raising the bar on one another based on our strengths. Stormpulse.com probably wouldn’t exist today without these checks-and-balances, because without a founder, I know there are times when I would have quit. Not because it was too hard, but because the path has been so long.
I left the company first, in August 2006. Brad and I had been working on the site together for a few months, and when I decided to make the jump from Chicago to Florida (for personal, not professional reasons), the opportunity presented itself to make Stormpulse my full-time job. So we did the logical thing and hired me, thus enabling me to leave behind my cubicle and about the best corporate work environment a person can imagine, for an upstairs den, my laptop, a few pens and a lot of empty source files.
It was time to find out if we could execute. My role was chief trailblazer, his chief architect. For the next year Brad would have his nose to the grindstone making the project into a real enterprise application, handling detail after detail on matters of performance, reliability, security, and installation. If Brad weren’t on the team, Stormpulse.com would be written in Python as a TurboGears application, still running on a single server (likely FreeBSD), riddled with security holes, and frequently timing out due to inadequate database performance.  Instead, today Stormpulse is an Amazon EC2 + S3 production with tight control and a real migration path. And that’s just the beginning.
The subtle but critical truth is, if I didn’t have a co-founder, I wouldn’t know what I was missing. Even more importantly, I would be missing what I’ve found to be the real x-factor: the motivational glue that says “I’m not going to let it die, because this is bigger than I am.” 
 The front-end would be different too. Brad has a knack for picking something about the interface that needs the smallest visible tweak in the universe. The worst part is that I usually balk at the suggestion initially, but, when I finally try it, he ends up being right (after about 10 iterations). I suppose I can live with that.
 Paul Graham calls this one of the most powerful forces in human nature. I’m inclined to agree.