For many entrepreneurs, taking that first step towards starting your own company can be a daunting one. It takes planning and preparation to go out on your own and make something great. For Levi Rosol (pictured left) and We Write Code, that first step happened to start out of necessity.
Levi is originally from Northeast Iowa, but has called Des Moines home for the past 12 years. Originally working as a developer at a marketing company and in numerous contract roles, he began to get more involved in the startup and development communities around Des Moines. It wasn’t until he was laid off from a cubicle farm job that he realized that the time had come to reach for something more. In February of last year he created his consulting company We Write Code. Now a little over a year later, he has five full time employees working with him, along with a few freelancers as there is a demand. I had the opportunity to sit down with Levi and ask him more about We Write Code, and why he decided to work with Gravitate.
How did you get started in the industry?
Necessity? I actually started life right after high school, I didn’t go to college. I worked as a telemarketer and was doing pretty well for myself. I was moving up and then I went to Albuquerque and fell flat on my face. It was a different environment. I was away from home and everything else. I found a different job doing reporting, Excel spreadsheets and things like that, and that’s what really kicked me off doing what I am doing now. I was very fortunate in that I had a lot of opportunities put in front of me that let me kind of learn on the job and learn on my own, and that’s really how I got to where I am today.
What types of work does We Write Code like to do?
We really like to work with established companies and established ideas. They may be trying to get from 1,000 users to 10,000 users and need to scale the application they have created. Whether it’s public facing or backend processes for inventory management, order processing, etc. those are the types of products we work on. I like to say we build applications.
We like to get very involved in the project, working with the companies, communicating often, helping them to understand why the technology is necessary.
What was the most difficult part of starting your own business?
Having the gumption to commit to it. I think that is what stops a lot of people from leaving corporate jobs is that they think they have a secure job, but they really could get laid off at any time, or downsized. Starting your own company is no different than that, you just have the control. You have the control of finding new clients, and of working hard. I have five people that work for me now, and that’s a lot of stress, but having that control makes it easier.
What is your favorite thing about We Write Code?
Interacting with the companies and helping to solve problems. We are fortunate in that we are flexible enough to not be pigeonholed into a specific technology. We can really work with the companies that we talk to and understand what the true issue is. A lot of times we get approached with “I wanna build this”. So we ask why. Why do you want to build that? What is the real problem? Then we can start digging into what is the actual problem is and come up with a solution that can fix it.
Why did you choose to be a part of Gravitate?
Community. I’ve been involved with many organizations around the metro, including Startup City, Startup Weekend, Iowa Code Camp, Goodsmiths, etc. When I started WWC I wasn’t intending to start it. I was working a cube farm job in West Des Moines and they cut a bunch of contractors so I realized that was my kick to go start doing this. I’ve known Geoff for a while and I worked in the bullpen for a while to see if this was the thing for me. Looking back, I don’t think we would be where we are without Gravitate. Many of our clients have been people we have met through Gravitate, or people involved within the community. Gravitate has been huge for us getting off the ground.
Where would you like to see the Des Moines development community in five years? Ten Years?
A lot has changed in Des Moines in 12 years. There wasn’t really a startup or development community when I first moved here 12 years ago. So many people are taking the initiative to start so many projects now. Continuing to see groups working with each other and growing outside of just Des Moines is something that I would like to see in the future. There’s a lot going on in Eastern Iowa with the Corridor over there, there’s a lot going on in Omaha and Lincoln, and I would like to see that interaction between groups in those cities and ours happen a lot more.
If you could give any advice to someone looking to get into this industry, what would it be?
Be prepared to invest your own time. This is not an industry that requires a college degree, even though it can be helpful. It really is something you need to be passionate about doing and spending your own time to self-teach. Take what you have learned and apply that to new technologies and frameworks. And most importantly, continue to learn. And find good people to work with.
Where can we get in contact with you?
Being a development company, we are not fantastic at social media. The best way to get in contact with us is at firstname.lastname@example.org, our website has a contact form as well. Other than that, stop by Gravitate and say hello, or send me an email and come over. And we like to drink coffee and beer, so we’re always open for a meeting that way.
Any last thoughts?
Gravitate has been really good for us. Even as we continue to grow, we still have a home at Gravitate. I really like the flexibility. We’ve been in three different locations as we have grown here. I would highly encourage people to come and work from Gravitate. If they are working from home, it’s good to come in here and have a little social interaction and get to know your community better.