Hack Reactor
About The Company
What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?
Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?
Revenue + Financials
Lessons Learned
Recommended Tools
Books & Resources
Advice For Founders
Tony Phillips
On Starting Hack Reactor And Kicking Off The Coding Bootcamp Movement
product
Hack Reactor
from San Francisco, California, USA
started
4
Founders
336
Employees
115K
alexa rank
12.8K
followers
10.1K
followers
6.96K
subs
Discover what tools Tony reccommends to grow your business!
platform
email
accounting
productivity
sales
Discover what books Tony reccommends to grow your business!
Listen to the audio version of this story!

Hello! Who are you and what are you working on?

My name is Tony Phillips and I’m the Chief Product Officer of Galvanize. I am working on all of our educational programs, including our Data Science Immersive bootcamp and our Software Engineering Immersive bootcamp.

The EDU team also includes a new addition: Tech Talent Pipeline. TTP is a new program sponsored by the city of New York where we are working with unemployed and underemployed New Yorkers to help them launch careers in data and marketing analysis.

on-starting-hack-reactor-and-kicking-off-the-coding-bootcamp-movement

What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?

I’ve run small companies ever since I was young. When I was in high school, I ran a recording studio out of our basement for aspiring artists before computer-based recording equipment was really a thing. We bought professional-grade recording equipment and built a sound studio, so ever since, there's been a slew of small companies that we've built.

At Hack Reactor, we were profitable even before we opened the doors. We made our first sale without even having an office, and once we knew there were people who are willing to put down $16,000 (at the time), we knew that we had something worth building and started building more.

Eventually, the biggest company we built was Hack Reactor, which we started in 2012. I was trying to learn how to program at the time and eventually got a job as a programmer. After working my way up the ladder, I wanted the process to be easier for people. So, we decided to start that as four co-founders and created Hack Reactor.

Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?

Anytime you're starting a startup, you are living an intense life. Day one involved waking up at 5:00 A.M. to make sure the campus was ready for the first class, getting coffee, and doing mundane things like taking trash out. I was simultaneously running our marketing, making connections with companies who might hire people, and actually teaching students.

As you go along, you start to hire people who take over the jobs you have been doing. That allows you to free yourself up and think higher level, and you continue doing this until you've got a whole team.

Over the course of a year, we grew the team to about 30-40 people. In our second year, we had a growth spurt and grew to about 150 people. Eventually, we were a multi-city conglomerate of various different brands and languages that we taught. Then, we had a sale to Galvanize and went through the process of integrating. We collaborated on the programs Galvanize had, the program we had at Hack Reactor, and how those things fit together.

Entrepreneurship to me now means leadership, as opposed to the startup life. Leadership is about how to coach people and effectively manage their time. It’s also about helping them work on projects they love, be motivated, and feel fulfilled. It’s a lot less of “just hustle.”

on-starting-hack-reactor-and-kicking-off-the-coding-bootcamp-movement

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

What I'm doing today is making sure that I'm in very tight connection with all of the various campuses. We've got eight locations all over and there's growth in the future, so staying in tight communication with all those groups is critical in order to make sure we're all singing the same tune.

The future involves a lot of course improvements and changes to what we do as the education arm of the company. We want to make sure that we're delivering the highest possible value to students and there's a lot of steps that we can take to deliver more value. The exciting thing about increasing the connection with the people who run our campuses is that we can catalyze those folks and bring them together to make significant improvements to the student experience as a team. Between our efficiencies of scale, our alumni, and our employee base, we have lots of good ideas that can improve our product

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

The number one piece of advice I give new startup founders (and to all the people who work for startups or companies) is things are generally not as simple as you think they are.

Projects, new initiatives, company integrations, and even people's intentions are not as simple as you think they are.

If you can't get anyone to buy your product in its MVP state, then maybe it's not the best idea. Once you've gotten your first customer, then by all means, iterate and make the thing better. Then, your sales will go through the roof.

A lot of management happens when increasing the level of communications- when people are making assumptions about the intentions of other humans whether it be peers, other parts of the org, people above them on the organization chart, or people below them.

A lot of management these days is just clearing out those cobwebs of misunderstanding; helping people understand that it’s not as simple as “that person didn't want to do the thing you want to do.” Maybe that person does want to do the thing you want to do, and there's a more nuanced version of what they're saying. It's very easy to miss people's true intentions because we live in a reductionist world, and with data whizzing by us so quickly, our attention spans are limited. The number one thing that I have learned is to pause, take some time and reflect, and not make assumptions about what's going on or about people's intentions.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We have so many different platforms and tools. Obviously, we use Salesforce to sort of keep all our data straight. We also use a ton of Google suite- we use basically every single piece of Google that you can imagine. Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Sheets, and even Google hire.

We also built some internal tools. Our Learn platform is an amazing platform that allows us to grade very quickly, see how students are doing at a glance, and see who needs improvement. I would say the Learn platform is a huge significant advantage that Galvanize has over a lot of the other programs out there. There's a significant amount of thought, energy, and engineering time has been invested in making a product that is seamless and easy to use.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I've been reading a lot of books recently. I did the Camino de Santiago in April and walked twelve hours a day listening to audiobooks the whole time, so I got through something like twelve books just in one month. It was great. The types of things I've been reading lately are things like Seth Godin’s “This is Marketing.” Tony Robbins also has several good books for developing motivation. I just finished “Rise and Grind,” which is a book by one of the folks from Shark Tank. I’ve also been reading some Jim Rohn recently, who is a mentor of Tony Robbins.

A frequent mistake made by a lot of new entrepreneurs is that they are always fixing to build more and more- they can spend six months or even a year building stuff.

As far as podcasts, I think there's a lot of amazing self-help podcasts and motivational podcasts out there. There's some fun ones, like Joe Rogan, who tends to go into some interesting science and pseudoscience. I really like Tim Ferriss’ podcast too. There's a really fun one called Mixergy, which goes over startup-based stories about how people build what they're working on and what they care about. Andrew Warner, who runs Mixergy, does a great job of asking hard questions about revenue and the hard times- not just the successes. Another podcast along those lines is called “How I Built This,” which talks to the founders of bigger companies like Dropbox and LinkedIn. They talk about how founders decide to build their companies and what roadblocks they encounter along the way. It's shocking how many people stumbled backwards into billion-dollar companies.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

I sit on a bunch of boards and work with a bunch of young entrepreneurs, and after looking at their businesses and their business plans, the number one thing that I frequently tell them is to get to a sale as quickly as possible.

At Hack Reactor, we were profitable even before we opened the doors. We made our first sale without even having an office, and once we knew there were people who are willing to put down $16,000 (at the time), we knew that we had something worth building and started building more.

I think a frequent mistake made by a lot of new entrepreneurs is that they are always fixing to build more and more- they can spend six months or even a year building stuff. Then, when they finally do the launch, a good number of them will get surprised by something. Maybe it's that the product is not as exciting to the market as they thought it was. Maybe they need to pivot, and that can be really demoralizing if you've just spent six months or a year working on a project and have to change it immediately just to launch it and try to get people to buy it. If you can't get anyone to buy your product in its MVP state, then maybe it's not the best idea.

Once you've gotten your first customer, then by all means, iterate and make the thing better. Then, your sales will go through the roof. I like to think that if you can sell it when you're just getting started, that's how you know you can really sell it when you perfect it.

Where can we go to learn more?

You can learn more about Galvanize at https://www.galvanize.com/, learn more about the Hack Reactor Software. Engineering bootcamp at https://www.hackreactor.com/coding-bootcamp, and follow our blogs at http://blog.galvanize.com/.

Reach out to us and join the conversation on our social outlets!

-  
Tony Phillips,   Founder of Hack Reactor

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