The Buddy System for your Life


Kurt Shuster is the CEO and Co-Founder of In this interview Satish Talim of RubyLearning, talks to Kurt about

Satish Talim>> Could you tell us something about

Kurt>> is a website that helps any two people achieve their life goals using a process called pair coaching. Pair coaching is a type of life coaching, which normally involves paying a professional mentor to help with life goals, achievement, etc. This is a new “trend” that is starting to become popular, particularly in America. The main drawback with life coaches is that they’re expensive. The average life coach charges about USD\$100 per week for a one-hour session. This is more than most people can afford. What has done is created a system that lets any two people coach each other, for free, without any prior coaching experience or training. Instead of paying each other, they provide only their time and energy.

Satish Talim>> Kurt, why did you choose Ruby on Rails (RoR) for your product?

Kurt>> We chose Rails for a number of reasons. First of all, we are strong believers in open source software, and made a decision early on to support open source tools, OSs, databases, etc. So we are using Linux, MySQL, etc. Rails fits naturally with this development philosophy. Also, Rails is designed to facilitate rapid development of rich web-based applications. Our particular product is pretty novel and innovative, so it naturally required a lot of iterative testing and refinement, which Rails is good at. Finally, we recognized from the beginning that Rails was growing quickly, and we believed that there would be a large and growing community of developers (who we could hire!) as well as a large set of related tools, components, plug-ins, etc.

Satish Talim>> Were there any surprises in working with RoR?

Kurt>> Because it is so new, it’s hard to get good Rails developers. We knew this from the beginning, but I am still surprised at just how hard it is to find people who are good at Rails development. Even with the current economic collapse, layoffs in the tech world, etc, it’s still very hard to find good Rails developers.

Satish Talim>> You made a trip to India last year and chose Persistent Systems Ltd., Pune as your offshore RoR development partner. Why Persistent and what was your impression about the RoR scene in India?

Kurt>> I knew a sales rep from Persistent (Prashant Lele) from my days living in England. I had met with him about working on a previous project, and I was very impressed with his level of professionalism. He was very persuasive! As for the RoR scene in India, my impression is that, like everywhere else, it’s very new. But it seems to be even less prominent in India than in America/Canada, probably because Indian IT companies tend to be a bit more conservative. Their clients tend to be large corporates rather than small startups like us, so naturally the IT scene in general leans towards older, more mature technologies such as MS, .Net, Java, etc.

Satish Talim>> What advice would you give startups about platform choices?

Kurt>> Go open source. There are lots of reasons for this. First of all, the smartest and most passionate developers are using open source. I have found that the people who know the most about a startup needs, mentality, etc, are the open-source advocates, while the MS crowd tends to be more corporate, and hence have less understanding of how to make a startup work. In a startup it’s vital to have good people, and those people are open-source people. There are other reasons, such as cost, as well as the fact that there are just so many free components, plug-ins, etc. A startup by definition has very little cash, and should be careful about spending money on anything when there’s a free alternative that’s just as good.

Satish Talim>> Getting back to Noomii, what are your future plans?

Kurt>> We launched our beta site in October 2008, which is free to use. Of course, we have MANY changes and improvements to make to the basic system, but right now we’re focusing on building out our first “paid” system, which will be a premium subscription service for professional coaches. We also want to write a book, which will be the “content” to match the technology of the site, if that makes sense! Really, we have so many plans it makes my head spin. We just have to focus, prioritize, and start generating revenue so that we can build them. I’m really excited about what we’ll be doing in the future – we really do feel that we’re going to greatly improve the lives of many, many people.

Thank you Kurt. In case you have any queries and/or questions, kindly post your questions here and Kurt would be glad to answer.

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