Welcome, Daniel! Could you introduce yourself?
I'm Mexican-French-Spanish, I did a Bachelor’s degree in International Business and Marketing, then a Master’s in Strategic Entrepreneurship, and then I worked in Digital Marketing and Communications.
I chose to learn to code because of the environment of the last job I had before it. I was a Marketing Manager for Spain in a company when I was 24 - it was very stressful and I had a lot of pressure from the daily tasks. In the end, I decided to quit corporate life and go back to my lifetime goal: to be an entrepreneur.
I went through creating a sustainable t-shirt brand, an aromatherapy online store, and more. However, these weren't enough for me to make a living but more importantly, I started noticing a common weakness that frustrated the projects’ growth: I had no control over the product design or production - I always had to rely on designers, which was very restraining in terms of product improvement and innovation.
After some time I asked myself ‘if I want to create something new: what would I be good at?’; I don't know how to draw, I don't know how to sing, I definitely wasn’t good at writing. I felt like coding was the only option that might enable me to create something new and possibly turn it into a profitable project, I just needed to learn it: that's when I chose Le Wagon.
Did you already have an idea of what you wanted to create after the bootcamp?
I didn’t know what business or industry I wanted to work in, but I already knew what lifestyle I was aiming for. I never think of industries or specifics like that when I think about my life plans, always what kind of lifestyle I want to have:
I wanted to have the freedom to travel to a country for several months (if I wanted to), I always wanted to have my own schedule and to be able to work from wherever.
When I started the Le Wagon Web Development full-time bootcamp (Oct - Dec 2019), I knew that it would lead me towards that lifestyle. It is during the last week of Projects (when the students create a digital product in groups) when I saw what the amazing energy generated by a like-minded group of people can do, I simply asked myself ‘why don't we continue these fun "challenges" and just charge for it as projects, you know'.
Tell us more about El Taco Lab.
We wanted to create projects from scratch (beyond just websites or just apps), unite digital experts from different fields to experiment together, create innovative and valuable projects, that is why our motto is "El Taco Lab - from the napkin to the web". It's transforming ideas that are new and generate value at the end of the process; we actually call this process the ‘Taco Machine’.
From the very beginning, we knew we had to offer the whole spectrum of a digital project in one laboratory - it can be an intimidating environment for start-ups or entrepreneurs so having a trustworthy contact to grow your digital idea was a must for us. While covering the whole spectrum of digital services, we knew we had to specialize.
Our specialization is in the central part of the process, which is web/app development. Everything ‘pre-development’, as we call it (design, branding, business consulting), is taken care of by different specialized freelancers, and for all ‘post-development’ tasks of the process (like SEO, digital/social media marketing, growth hacking) we collaborate with others. This way we have the whole spectrum of services under our control but everyone focuses on what they do best!
How did you get your first client/project?
Avalon (from Le Wagon Barcelona) posted a job offer on Slack about the need for a Junior Developer at a company. I did the interview and they told me 'the work would be in PHP, and although in the offer it's mentioned that there'll be a Senior Developer with you, actually he's in France and just has a few hours to help you'. I had my doubts about doing it like that, as a Junior learning a new language...
So I proposed to build the whole app from scratch on Ruby, as it is much better because now thanks to Le Wagon there is a constant flow of new talents (every batch), so it's easier to find a replacement if the Developer leaves. He liked the idea, so that's when we did the first proposal.
I had a bit of ‘Imposter Syndrome’ - I had just finished learning to code and now I had this whole app to create (it was like a social media platform for freelancers) and so we contacted Inou (a fellow Le Wagon alumni and ex-teacher of mine) and he jumped on the project with us and helped me out with the first proposal. Whenever I have projects that challenge me this way, I call a more senior Dev from Le Wagon and they help me.
Le Wagon does create this amazing network of people who support each other - that's why I always go to the seminars; I want to keep the connection really close because I know that it's a big asset for the growth of any project.
How many projects do you have going on?
Last year we did about 14 projects and now we have 9 going on at the same time, so we're going to do much more this year.
How many Le Wagon alumni have you worked with already?
I must have worked with maybe 10 Devs and now we have 3 full-time at the Lab. It is very fun and easy to work together as we all come from Le Wagon.
What are the projects that you're most proud of?
We are about to launch Couch Beef, the project of Alexandru - a fellow student from my Le Wagon Batch #341 (you can watch them pitch it on Demo Day here
). It’s a betting platform for video games - that was fun to create, a lot of really fun logic, and our first PWA
(progressive web app).
The second project that I really like is MyTopHome
, a search engine for flats from another product we developed, MyTopLoc. The idea is simple: instead of going to french real estate portals like Le Bon Coin, Bien ici, or Le Figaro Immo among others (where you can search for a place to rent), you go to just this one and it presents you all the offers from the market in your region. We connected with these websites and gathered all the information in one place: like a Skyscanner for real estate - and it's a free service
Any advice for students finishing the bootcamp who also want to go down this freelancer/founder path?
The first tip is to not stop coding! There's a trap - as the bootcamp is so intense, you’ll want to take a few weeks of holidays after it but I think that's very dangerous. My bootcamp ended in December and we had Christmas after that, so it was very tempting to take those two weeks off! But I didn't, thus I managed to keep up the momentum and continue coding.
The second is, as I already said, to rely on Le Wagon! This "Imposter Syndrome" is probably going to come for you, but if you have a project that comes your way, just say 'yes, I'll take it', then you ask around in the community if someone knows how to do it and you'll get help always.
Don't be scared of saying "yes" for fear of not being good enough.
The last piece of advice I'll give for finding customers is to leverage your close network! All the freelancing platforms are good but I would first leverage your friends, their families and friends - It is also important to do it the proper way as writing a post offering your availability for working on projects, for example, looks a bit needy (in my opinion).
The strategy that we used was to post on LinkedIn a lot about web development, web design: I had Google Alerts turned ON for news on these and I was constantly re-sharing the articles. The idea is to plant that little seed in all your contacts’ brains that you're a Web Developer - without asking for work directly. That way, whenever someone would ask about a developer, your name will subconsciously come to their mind.
That worked for us - we haven’t spent a cent on marketing so far, everything was word-of-mouth.
Which languages do you work with now?
We are currently learning Vue.js (under the recommendation of several freelancing teachers at Le Wagon) but we're trying to stay with Ruby as much as we can. Actually, the team at Basecamp creates cool frameworks that can perfectly complement the rails stack, which is perfect for Ruby on rails fans like us.
How was your experience at Le Wagon?
It was really good, really intense! Especially if I compare it to my previous learning experiences:
When I finished studying Business and Strategic Entrepreneurship, on the last day I looked back and asked myself "what exactly did I learn". It was really hard to pinpoint tangible skills that I had acquired over 5 years of advanced studies.
On the other hand, during the Le Wagon course, every day I could go home and say "now I know how to do this, now I know how to do that" because it's super practical. That's what I liked most: that it's really project-oriented and almost tangible.
The other thing is the network - as you probably notice based on my previous answers - that you build through Le Wagon. It's just an incredible asset that maybe some people don't realize.
Any advice for students doing the bootcamp now?
Do all the challenges, definitely! In my projects I have used almost all of the most practical challenges - I've done chats, I've done geocoding, searches, API calls… I often go back to the lecture and I rewatch it, but it’s best while you still have teachers around, as it's important that you understand each of the challenges because you're going to use all of them if you go freelance.
Also, remember that you're not there only to learn but also to make human connections that will turn out to be very beneficial for your freelancing network.
Who would you recommend the bootcamp to?
Lately, I've been hearing friends complain about their current job; they tell me how they're not happy with the lifestyle - that it's stressful, especially now just working from home - and that they saw on LinkedIn that I code.
They then tend to ask me the same questions: do I like it, is it very hard, do they need to be good at math - because coding has this connotation of being complicated and white lines on a black background can feel a bit "nerdy"... But then I tell them "we had a kayak instructor and English teachers in our batch and they were better than any of us, so don't worry - you don't need to be in 'IT' or any specific background to learn it"!
Do you have any exciting plans in the pipeline?
We implemented this new strategy to contact as many incubators as we could and offer them a technical team
to help any start-ups grow and a type of sponsorship program
where we would provide flexible payment terms, shares, or payment plans for instance. So it's kind of like an investment but instead of money, we invest expertise
That worked well with one, we got an incubator from the Philippines which led to very interesting projects coming into the pipeline.
I am also working on a web-app/solution for freelancers that will help them make beautiful proposals in no time, I plan on giving free access to all Le Wagon alumni very soon.
Any closing words?
I would close with the best advice I ever got as it removed a lot of pressure from me and helped me in every important decision:
Don't think about what you want to do with your life, more about what kind of lifestyle you want to have!
Thank you, Daniel!