I come from a family with a 'professional' background - my father is a retired senior lecturer in mathematics, while my brother is a specialist in internal medicine. My parents always emphasized the importance of education and how educational qualifications will always stay with you, as opposed to money, which can be lost.
However, for some reason I always wanted to be rich, even when I was a small schoolchild. I never really wanted to be educated and in fact, I looked upon education as an annoying time wasting obstacle. I can still remember my parents begging and pleading with me to go to school / go to exams !
I also possessed a strong affinity for computers from a young age - starting with my fathers Commodore 64. I read through his books and taught myself how to program.
Fortunately or unfortunately, even though I am not a particularly studious person (I tend to study for exams in the last week - or even the last day), I managed to enter medical college and somehow get through it with flying colors (in fact, I am one of the few students with 'A's for all subjects).
Even during medical college though, I did not give up on my dreams of riches. One fine day when browsing through the internet, I found a site called 'Getacoder', where people were paid money to write programs, i.e. an online outsourcing business.
I was only 21 or 20 at that time, but I guess that even then I was very persuasive - I managed to get two of my close friends (who also were extremely good programmers) to join me in forming a company with the aim of performing outsourced work.
I think that we made just about every mistake possible while running our company - starting from not having a proper business plan, to getting cheated by unscrupulous customers (by doing work in advance of payment), running WAY over time by poor project planning, and quoting fixed fees and not pushing back when the customers required extensive changes not agreed upon earlier.
However, I guess that we didn't do too badly for a bunch of university students with absolutely no skills except a grasp of programming - I estimate that we earned close to $100,000 over a period of 6 years. We also hired a full time designer and several part time coders.
Our skill set also developed tremendously - we were literally forced to learn how to program in/for Java, J2EE, JSP, ASP, ASP.NET, VB.NET, C#, PHP, MySQL and even Oracle and SapDB (and much more). I doubt that we'd have obtained such a varied experience of technology any other way.
My soft skills also developed tremendously (after pacifying customers who were annoyed at our poor scheduling) as did my business skills (getting cheated right and left is a really good way to learn).
I am also proud to say that even though customers were unhappy about our ability to make deadline, they were universally happy about the quality of the end product !
On an aside, I spent more time working on my company than attending medical college - so much so that my attendance at lectures was almost 0%. I can remember, when I started my final year clinicals, I had not seen some of the lecturers before (fortunately, since there were 160 students in my batch, they didn't realize that they had never seen me before either).
In fact, there was a rumor that I was not at medical college most of the time because I was studying very hard at home ! How silly.
After a time though, we got fed up of doing outsourced work. It is inherently unsatisfying to be working on other people's projects - especially when you are a creative person. Also, we began to realize that while we might be able to make a living this way, we'd never become rich.
So, we decided to wind down operations slowly. We paid off the part time guys in full, and while trying to find a good alternative job for our designer, she got a marriage proposal and decided to leave, with the aim of moving to England with her husband. Life is strange sometimes !
Thus ended the story of our first startup. When we ended we had a small amount of money in the bank, a wide experience with various technologies and most importantly a strong and cohesive team of founders (me, Sandaruwan and Parinda).
I'll move on to the story of our next startup in another post, as this one is becoming a bit too long.