Meet Tommy Johnson - cofounder of VentureStorm, which pairs software developers with entrepreneurs, and lead developer of Gopher.
How did you choose to major in electrical engineering and how has it contributed to your entrepreneurial career?
I had no idea what I wanted to do when I was applying for college so choosing my major wasn't anything scientific. My grandfather was very successful and he was an EE and I was always great at math and science so it seemed like a good choice.
My entrepreneurial career has been all about the software, so I don't use too much of the EE degree in my day to day, but I definitely cannot discredit it at all. Electrical engineering was a challenging degree, especially when trying to balance academics (as a perfectionist) and a social life. It really taught me how to think logically and teach myself complex skills. The best thing I got out of taking a tough degree was how to push myself to learn challenging new subjects. That's a skill I use all the time. When starting VentureStorm my partners and I had no coding experience, but we knew we could figure it out.
Tell us about VentureStorm and what you learned from it.
VentureStorm was/is quite an experience. We (Taylor, Tyler and I) started it over 4 years ago with no entrepreneurial or software experience. We wanted to build a platform for like minded entrepreneurs to connect with software developers. It's still up and running online and I still maintain it to a degree, but about 9 months ago I moved it to a side project from a full time job after giving it a full year full time like we all promised. If I wrote down everything I learned it could be a book so I'll bullet some key highlights that come to mind
- Know your market. College kids and entrepreneurs alike do not have money and are unlikely to be a good customer (for most ventures).
- You learn more in 1 year figuring everything out on your own than 5 years following the pack.
- Don't be afraid to take a break. 4 years is a long time especially when you aren't getting paid $h** and there is nothing wrong in taking a step back for a long break, the idea, your knowledge, and progress will still be there.
- Just because it didn't work doesn't mean you failed. With all the experience I gained I was able to jump right into another startup leagues above where I would be if I coasted through college and then a BS corporate job.
What are you currently doing with Gopher?
I currently lead the development of Gopher. Gopher’s mission is to incentivize customers to book directly with a hotel rather than a third party (e.g. Expedia or Priceline which almost own every other travel booking site you can name). By cutting out these middle men we can save both the consumers and the hotels money and level the playing field. I work on everything from building and maintaining the Gopher extension and website to the data analytics with our marketing/sales team. Without getting into the technical details, my day to day for the past few months has been rewriting the extension to remove bugs and make it more maintainable and flexible. This will allow us to easily add a Safari extension, support more hotels and travel sites, etc once it’s all done. I’ve also developed a couple tools for hotels that will give hotels tremendous value while marketing Gopher to their visitors/guests. Once the extension update is done and those tools roll out to more of our partner hotels, I think everyone will be seeing a lot more of Gopher.
Shameless Plug: To get the best hotel deals guaranteed find the extension at joingopher.com.