Four Tips for Building your First App in Four Weeks

Hard to believe it’s already midterm for Hackbright 3.0! I am so proud to be a mentor this session for Jennyfer. Sorry we haven’t had much face-time (hacking away in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam), but here are my tips for starting and surviving your personal project:

  • pick a problem you want to solve (parking in SF, commuting, quantified self)
  • build around a theme you enjoy (dogs, fashion, reading)
  • build one function at a time (utilize 1 API before attempting API #2)
  • at all times, remember to “DESCOPE”

Bullet four is advice from my own mentor Alan from Twilio. I’ve carried his words with me into my new job as a back-end developer. His quiet demeanor and years of engineering experience weighed in on the noob trying to sound technical. The only thing he ever persisted to me about was my need to descope.


Descope means to simplify and focus. Forget your delusional dreams of being a genius hacker. All you need is a minimum viable project. This is no product, merely a project. Put away the white noise, and hone your skills to make one thing work.

Pick your API based on functionality, and have fun integrating it. I used Google Maps API for my DogLog walk tracker, and Twilio SMS API to send messages to dogowners. Building a web app is not that difficult. Setting up the proper development environment is. Louise and I spent days downloading, installing and wrangling PhoneGap and PostGres. The struggle to deploy to Heroku was absolutely worth it.

By the end of 4 weeks we had a working prototype for Android, and could show off our labor of love on Demo/Career Day. I also took my DogLog app to networking events, and gave demos to what I will call “Hungry Bears”. These are also known as “eager entrepreneurs that want to hire developers.” Going to networking events helped hone my interviewing and technical verbal skills.

Hope that takes a load off! Worry less, build more.

This entry was published on April 3, 2013 at 11:20 am. It’s filed under Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “Four Tips for Building your First App in Four Weeks

  1. Hi are you still writing blogs somewhere? your funny and interesting to read, i want more!

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