Dharmesh Shah

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Happy Birthday BASIC, Thanks For Making Me Possible

By Dharmesh Shah on May 7, 2014

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the invention of the BASIC (Beginners All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) computer language.

I have fond memories of BASIC -- without it, my life may have turned out very differently.

I went to highschool in a small town in India (Bilimora).  It was the mid 1980s  There were no computers at my school.  Best I knew, there were no personal computers in the entire town.basic-screen

Then, I went to mechanical engineering school in a larger town (Surat).  They had PCs.  6 of them, if I recall correctly.  In a "computer lab".  It was open only a few hours a day, because the room had to be air-conditioned, and air-conditioning was expensive.  In the 2 years that I was there I didn't get to touch any of those 6 computers.  At the time, that wasn't a super-big deal, but I really didn't know what I was missing.

Then, I came to the U.S. to visit my parents in the summer.  They were living in Michigan City, Indiana at the time.  There was a satellite campus of Purdue University out there.  Folks had told me that since I enjoyed math so much, I should check out "this computer stuff".  Purdue had a short "Intro to Computers" class which I decided to take.

Thankfully, getting access to computers was trivial at Purdue (this is the early 90s).  And, that was a good thing, because the first time I worked on a computer, it was love at first sight.  I knew, just knew that this is what I wanted to do.  It just clicked.

That first day, I read both of the manuals that came with every PC -- front-to-back, in one sitting.  The MS-DOS manual and the GW-BASIC manual.  (This was not a particularly impressive feat, as those were quick reads).  Wrote my first (super-simple) programs in BASIC -- but I was hooked.  I had found my calling.

So, even though I had planned to go back to India to finissh my engineering undergrad degree, instead I stayed in the U.S. and enrolled in their computer science program at Purdue.  I would ultimately finish my computer science degree at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.  

Oh, and I worked with a LOT of programming languages and development platforms over the years.  DBase IV, Framework, TurboPascal (which was awesome), Easel, ColdFusion, COBOL, C, C++ and C# -- and eventually, the languages I use mostly today:  Python and PHP.

But, fact is, if it hadn't been that random exposure to computers and access to the BASIC language, I may have never been a programmer.  If I hadn't been a programmer, I likely would never have started a software business.  Never started a second software business.  And never started the company I'm working on now (HubSpot), which has grown to 800 people and is doing pretty well. 

So, Happy Birthday BASIC, and Thanks!

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MA: Lets Nix The Non-Compete Here So We Can Compete Better Everywhere

By Dharmesh Shah on April 10, 2014

The Boston Globe reported this morning that Governor Deval Patrick will propose today a sweeping legislation to make it easier for workers in technology, life sciences, and other industries to move from job to job by banning the non-compete agreements companies use to prevent employees from jumping to rivals.

I for one have been a proponent of just such a move — I think it's been a long time coming.

There's expected to be some conflict as large companies continue to try and maintain this antiquated model of limiting worker mobility despite the fact that there is clear evidence this hinders innovation and in the long-run doesn't help anybody.

California and New York, both regular members in the rankings of top states for venture capital and startup innovation made this change years ago and have been using it to recruit some of the best people from some of our best companies ever since. There's no evidence that abolishing non-competes has hurt them — quite the contrary. 

Here are the reasons why we should support this proposal to kill non-competes in MA:

1.  Companies should have the right to protect their intellectual property and their people.  As it turns out, they already can with non-disclosure agreements and non-solicitation agreements neither of which will be effected by this change. 

2. We're forcing innovation out.  The best and brightest want to work in an ecosystem that maximizes the impact and influence of their work.  By artificially constraining where they can take their expertise we are causing unneccessary friction.  Friction that will cause more talent to leave for more innovation-friendly states.

Here's the irony:  Non-competes do limit competition.  They limit the ability of our innovation economy to compete with the likes of California.

3. Although some companies may think that non-competes are helping them, their value is questionable at best.  Having a standard non-compete in place is one thing — actually trying to enforce it is another. 

4. Innovation is about openness and collaboration.  Company leaders should be focused on attracting the best and brightest talent that will come up with creative ways to meet market needs and drive growth.  The trust and loyalty of these kinds of people is not based on pieces of paper that dictate where they can't work in the future — it's built on transparency and autonomy and how you foster a culture to help them do what they do best now.  Nobody wants to spend calories worrying about artificial and arbitrary rules.  Especially, super-smart, creative folks.

So, if you're on the side of rationality and innovation, do yourself and the community a favor.  Help spread the word.  Here's the campaign page for killing the non-compete. It'll take just 5 minutes.

And, please share this article with friends and colleagues. 

Thanks for your support.  

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