In October 2011, while I slept, my deeply adored motorcycle was stolen. I was lucky because I had full coverage and my insurance company replaced it without much trouble. But what a check couldn’t replace was the thousands of hours I had spent riding through the California canyons and racetracks, learning every nuance of that bike. So with each night that passed, my replacement bike sat outside tormenting me, despite being locked up like Houdini. As I lay there in bed for those first few nights, I started imagining ways to catch any future thieves – I researched GPS tracking pet collars, industrial fleet tracking, LoJack for motorcycles, and so on, deep down the internet wormhole. What I found was a gap – there wasn’t anything that had the capabilities I was looking for at a reasonable cost.
I suppose it is by some strange twist of fate that I am a software engineer by trade, and had recently been building projects on the Android platform – and at some point I realized it might be easier to just build what I was looking for. I wanted the ability to confront anyone fiddling with my bike at night, track them down if they managed to get away with it – and never again go through the heartache of losing a motorcycle. Sure, theft of one’s fancy sportbike is very much a “1st World Problem,” and I gladly admit that I am very blessed to have a motorcycle at all, but anyone who rides motorcycles will tell you that it is not an ordinary vehicle. Losing it to a heartless thief is a gut wrenching experience.
Today, 9 months and 10 days after the first line of code, we published to the Google Play app store, and installed the production billing keys on our web servers.
We are live!
We’re 10 days late. At about 8 months into the project, I read “Rework” by the 37 Signals / Basecamp guys. They convinced me that our MVP (Minimum Viable Product) was well in place. At that point I arbitrarily chose “9 months from start to launch” after joking that this project was our “baby.” I’m okay with being 10 days “overdue” on a project of this size.
Along the way I’ve changed a lot: learned so very much about technology, friends, and work – all things that I had thought I knew pretty well. After all, I’m 40, and I’ve been writing software professionally for over 15 years. But V.A.L.A.R.M. is special – it came from an emotional need, and has evolved from V.T.A. – the Vehicle-Tracking Alarm, to V.A.L.A.R.M.: the Versatile Asset Locator And Remote Monitor, and finally into Valarm, LLC. Okay sure, it’s day one (we “flipped the switch” about 5 hours ago) and we have no idea where this company will go. But I’m bursting with pride at the abilities, energy, talents, and generosity of my friends/partners/teammates – and I’m very, very hopeful for the future of our little company. I really think we have a shot at creating something awesome.
Now we’ll move into the next stage, where marketing, maintenance, customer service, “growing pains,” and the regular grind of running a company will threaten our energy and inspiration. But we already have a great big list of cool stuff planned for Valarm, and a team who truly knows how to Get Shit Done. We’ll pivot, we’ll learn, hopefully we’ll make a little money, and… maybe make the world a better place?!
Watch for Valarm to monitor climate change. Improve food safety through better storage and transportation. Optimize renewable energy designs by recording real-world, hyper-local environments for solar or wind energy studies. Show where and how pollution in cities changes and morphs over the course of changing seasons, industry, and populations. There are so many ideas, and so many more out there we haven’t dreamed of (Update: like many water level, flow meter, and flood warning systems). And sure, maybe Valarm will track down a motorcycle thief or errant teenage driver here and there.
As usual – I can’t wait!