This session was focused on the experiences of BillMonk founders, Gaurav Oberoi and Chuck Groom. BillMonk is an online service that helps friends track debts and stuff (e.g. CDs, DVDs). It is a rather clever and unique service that solves a real world problem. The BillMonk founders are ex-Amazonians who are applying the lessons they learned at the e-tailing giant to new areas.
Gaurav and Chuck currently work out of their respective apartments, which are conveniently located in the same apartment building, and are not currently accepting outside investments. Gaurav and Chuck are a few years out of undergrad and have the luxury of having few living expenses and responsibilities (e.g. no mortgage, no children, etc.). I certainly appreciate their super boot-strap approach to building their business; however, Pluggd is in a slightly different situation in that we're a bit older and have some of these "responsibilities" to take care of. That said, we're about as boot strap as BillMonk, but not quite as much.
Like Pluggd, BillMonk went with Ruby on Rails. They are using Debian Linux as their OS. They initially looked at MySQL, but ultimately concluded that Postgress would be a better fit for their needs. This interested me, because Pluggd went with MySQL. The two reasons Gaurav gave for selecting Postgress over MySQL were:
- Better documentation
- More mature support for transactions.
Because Pluggd doesn't deal with money, we don't have the same need for transaction support, but better MySQL documentation is something we've wished for. Ultimately, we've found that there were enough books and additional sources of MySQL support on the Internet due to its larger installed based.
Bill Monk also uses Pound as a software load balancer, which I thought was pretty interesting. Certainly, hardware based solutions like F5's Big IP offer both performance and feature advantages over Pound. However, free is pretty hard to beat. On this topic Gaurav admitted that they may have over engineered a bit due their time at Amazon, where scaling is always a big issue, and that they don't really need the load balancer given their current user base. Still, Pound is free and simple to set-up, so it seems like a reasonable decision on their part. I bet they will end-up needing it pretty soon anyway.
I was impressed with the founders and the service and wish BillMonk all the best. After they were done with their presentation a few of the other start-up founders, such as myself and the founder of AskMe, shares their experiences. I will provide more details in my next post.