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Failure, hard knocks teach business skills to ‘nerds’

Nerdy Dragon logo

Nerdy Dragon logo

Trying to run his own business in Nevada and surviving a number of failures taught Nerdy Dragon owner Jason Dodd what he needed to know about being an entrepreneur. His partner, Tyler Canning, said he learned his business skills in the school of hard knocks.

Wherever and however the two 30-year-olds learned all they know about business, their roughly 9-month-old company gained more than 25 customers since it launched last July. But it was their business acumen partnered with their technology skills that helped build their customer base.

Nerdy Dragon is a software company that provides Web design, custom software, and e-commerce applications.

Dodd and Canning formerly worked for a Boise-based e-commerce company called PersonalShopper.com, founded in 1999 by Laura Silsby. In an e-mail about their business launch, the men wrote, “We were motivated to begin Nerdy Dragon as a result of a competitive job market, as well as the inability of our employer to consistently make payroll on time.”

But the men praised PersonalShopper.com for having all the latest in Web-related high technology and said they learned a lot while employed there. “It was a good sandbox (for acquiring knowledge),” Dodd stated. Canning was the company gatekeeper – all the software had to go through him, he said. His official title was configuration manager and he worked with “proprietary production selection technology.”

That’s the kind of tech language that confounds most people, but Canning’s skills with software set Nerdy Dragon on its way. Dodd credited his partner’s “brilliance and genius” with creating original software for a Web-based company called Utah Sports Action, one of Nerdy Dragon’s primary accounts.

Dodd said the owner of Utah Sports Action, Alex Crane, sought a way to profile every football player in the entire state of Utah at www.UtahSportsAction.com – 6,000 players in all. Canning wrote software that “went out on the Web and gathered” all the information, Dodd explained, saving hours of labor and thousands of dollars to manually input it all. “We were able to do it for about $200,” he said.

“That was our first big project. It gave us a chance to work our program expertise and come up with something pretty good. It was our first big challenge,” Dodd said.

Another, even larger project Nerdy Dragon undertook is an e-commerce site called Security Hardware Store (www.securityhardwarestore.com) started by an Idaho group of CPAs and brothers. The company has agreements with manufacturers to sell their products online. Canning said the Web site uses even more complex software than www.utahsportsaction.com. “It pulls information from many sites and links to pricing data. … It then goes to a proofing system so it can be reviewed and approved prior to posting,” he said.

Both Dodd and Canning obtained computer science degrees with math minors. Dodd studied at the University of Reno, Canning at Boise State.

In their business, they work with what they call “collaborators”: designers, programmers, content development professionals, copywriters, and a salesman – eight in all. A few of the collaborators are “equity partners” with stock options.

“We have an interesting operating method,” Dodd said. “We work at home or in coffee shops, but we have an ‘international headquarters’ which is really just a mailbox at the Regus office space at the top of the Banner Bank Building.”

However, they also have meeting space there to confer with clients when necessary.

Dodd and Canning are enthusiastic about doing business in the so-called City of Trees. “Boise is a great place to do business,” Dodd said. The networking opportunities, among other things, have suited them well – Boise Young Professionals, for example – and they learned a great deal through other entrepreneurs.

And the endless possibilities presented by working through the infinite universe of the Internet sets no boundaries for prospective clients. “What’s appealing to us is an unbounded ceiling,” Dodd said.

About Gaye Bunderson