Hey Guys, Today I had the opportunity of interviewing GitHub’s Co-founder Chris Wanstrath.
Hello Chris, How are you doing today?
Can you please give us some background information about yourself?
I grew up in Cincinnati, live in San Francisco, and started GitHub with PJ Hyett and Tom Preston-Werner. I attended the University of Cincinnati for about a year as an English major before dropping out to work full time as a programmer.
Before GitHub I worked at CNET Networks on GameSpot, TV.com, MP3.com, Chow, and Chowhound then started a consulting company with PJ Hyett.
I've always loved the web so working on websites was sort of inevitable. When I was younger I wanted to make computer games, but that's hard so I gave up.
Tell us about your start-up GitHub? What inspired you to start them and what do you do there?
GitHub is a better way for businesses and open source projects to develop software. We started it because working on proprietary and open source code was a hassle. The actual coding part was overshadowed by all the maintenance and administrative tasks - merging patches, communicating with other developers, etc. There had to be an easier way.
GitHub fixes those problems, and is constantly evolving to fix more.
I'm the CEO which means I write a lot of emails, work with our partners, and do a fair bit of speaking at conferences. Sometimes I even write code.
How did you raise capital for your business?
We didn't. GitHub was bootstrapped by the founders. Consulting gigs, credit card debt, and working nights and weekends were how we started it. Eventually it was making enough money to pay our salaries and begin hiring employees.
Do you have a favourite business tool or resource online?
I don't know how we'd run our business without Campfire. Group chat is essential, especially with the hours we keep - everyone is on different schedules, sometimes even in different countries. Campfire keeps us all on the same page and makes it easy to catch up on what you missed.
Having a shared calendar is pretty essential too. We use Google Calendar.
How many hours do you work a day on average?
Anywhere from 6 to 12, depending on what I'm working on. Usually it's somewhere in the middle. I try to keep it around 7. I find the less hours the work, the better I do. But sometimes you just can't tear yourself away.
What qualities have you developed as a result of running your business?
I'm always trying to be more terse. I'm busy and you're busy so let's just get to the point. Especially email - the shorter the better.
It's easy to write two paragraphs. It's hard to write two sentences explaining the same thing.
In your opinion, what is the most important quality an entrepreneur should have?
Knowing when to quit. Not every business is going to work, not every idea is worth sticking with.
I read you play the guitar; I’ve recently picked that up myself? Acoustic, Bass, Electric? When did you start playing?
I've been playing off and on since I was 12, starting on acoustic. I played bass for a while too, even took lessons, but now I pretty much only play electric guitar. Mostly metal. Megadeth, Between the Buried and Me, Protest the Hero, August Burns Red, bands like that.
Can you explain to the readers what makes GitHub different from other open source development out there?
On GitHub you never have to ask permission. Fork someone else's project and push your commits without them knowing. See what other people are doing with your code and pull in the worthy changes. With git, it all feels natural and obvious.
What challenges did you face during the early days at GitHub and how were you able to solve this?
Building the actual business was difficult. Proper forms, insurance, payroll, finding an accountant and lawyer - it's easy to screw that stuff up, and we did.
You also end up waiting on other people a lot. Things beyond your control can be quite frustrating, especially when you're trying to move fast. Creating GitHub itself was cake.
Do you have any personal experience that has changed your life?
Bootstrapping GitHub with our own money means we are very cautious about what we spend our money on. Not having any money really makes you appreciate its value.
How do you define success?
For me it's a moving target, but I think to be successful you just need to set and hit goals.
What advices would like to give to young entrepreneurs starting their business?
Make goals. React quickly. It's much easier to respond to the unexpected than to plan for it.
What should we be expecting from you and GitHub in the future?
Better ways of working with other people - whether it's simpler permissions, more robust code review, or integration with other source code tools, we want to make collaboration a dream.
Thanks for your time Chris, hope to hear from you soon.
Don't forget to follow chris on twitter:@defunkt