Self-taught software developer Timothy Carambat has always had a knack for building things — from cars, to games, to a Python app that automated his student job in college. “Like any other Codecademy learner, I’m a person of a billion projects,” he says. (Fun fact: Timothy actually learned Python on Codecademy.)
While working a full-time job as a Full Stack Engineer at Product Hunt, Timothy had a side-hustle coding smart contracts for NFT creators. As an experienced builder with an entrepreneurial mindset, he sensed that this blockchain project could be a business. “I wanted Web3 to be accessible, so that's what I did,” he says.
In March 2022, Timothy left his job to co-found Mintplex, a collection of no-code tools and services that enable people and communities to build Web3 businesses.
“Our entire ethos at Mintplex is that we are Web 2.5,” Timothy says. Mintplex’s suite of tools aims to lower the barrier of entry for people who want to get into Web3. For example, Mintplex will generate smart contract code for folks so they can get a project launched without needing to code it on their own or hire a smart contracts developer.
The company got a significant boost in May, when it was accepted into Y Combinator, a prestigious startup accelerator program. (Did you know: Codecademy was an early YC startup. Our co-founder and CEO Zach Sims is a S11 YC alum.) Timothy and his co-founder Jorrel Sto Tomas are currently in the midst of the 3-month S22 program.
“This is the first time I’m launching a startup and going the distance,” Timothy says. “But Mintplex is standing on the shoulders of at least 30 to 40 dead projects and ideas that I launched, marketed, and got little-to-no traction.”
Here’s how Timothy took his passion for coding and turned it into a Web3 startup that got into YC, plus his advice for builders who want to be founders, too.
What got me interested in the job
“I've always been interested in blockchain, just because it's cool to have decentralized, immutable code that you can't change — what's more high-stakes than that? NFTs obviously were a very popular use case for the technology and still are.
I was working as a Software Engineer at Product Hunt, and I had experience building my own consumer-facing tools and side projects that maybe some people used and had some notoriety. I built a congressional stock-trading app that people were very much into.
I taught myself Solidity and was launching NFT projects for people on the side, only charging them a couple hundred bucks because I had automated the process for myself. I saw that people were charging thousands of dollars to write these copy-paste smart contracts, and I just didn’t think that was fair.
I just made this tool, and people started using it almost immediately. By March, we had over 200 contracts deployed. I was like, Wait, there's actually a business model here. The entrepreneurial part of me was like, If I'm going to do a startup, now's as good a time as any to try.”
How I got in the door
“The one thing that bolstered my decision to leave my job to pursue the startup full-time is that Mintplex was already making money. We charge a very small 5% fee on primary sales. If someone actually doesn't even charge a minting fee, we don't make any money off them, but they still get their project. We're okay with that, because we still want people to succeed.
It’s obviously extremely risky, and I took a step down in pay. But it's always something that I've wanted to do, so it made the risk worthwhile for me.
In May, we got into [startup accelerator] Y Combinator. It was my fifth time applying to Y Combinator — so it just shows that you have to keep trying. People always kind of mystify the Y Combinator process. But honestly, as corny as it sounds, they invest in founders and teams — not products. Being in Y Combinator obviously has helped us tremendously.
YC has helped us build trust with outside people. Your product has to be great, but being attached to YC helps build that initial trust. This is helpful in Web3, especially where the space is full of vaporware and con artists. The advice, network, connections, and access you get as a YC member are truly cheat codes in some way.”
What I actually do every day
“Today, all of the code has still just been written by me, but I can't do that forever. Being a founder is a frankly very difficult balancing act, especially if you are the builder type.
What the day-to-day looks like for me is I'll wake up probably around 7 a.m. I know most engineers like to wake up late, but I can't do that anymore. I'm probably on four to five calls a day. Especially during fundraising, which we're doing right now, I write hardly any code at all.
We started fundraising in August, and I've only delivered maybe two or three features during that entire month. There are priorities that you have to manage, and there is kind of a song and a dance. You have to go talk to people and rub elbows — luckily I love talking to people so it really doesn't bother me that much.
The one thing that frustrates me is, at the end of the day, I'm like, Dang, I really could have written a lot of code today. I am just used to writing code all the time. Programming started out as a hobby, it became my passion, and now it's my career — but it's always stayed my passion.”
Here’s what you need to get started
Since the Web3 ecosystem is still relatively nascent, it can be tough to figure out where to start. Timothy suggests that developers who are interested in working in Web3 explore the free tools and open-source code that’s available online. Take a look at different resources, like Polygon, Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), and Optimism, or play around with Remix, an IDE for deploying and administering smart contracts, he says.
In our new free course Introduction to Blockchain and Crypto, you’ll learn the basics of blockchain technology and smart contracts, plus you’ll get to write your own idea for a dapp (decentralized application).
Timothy’s overarching advice for developers who have their sights set on launching a successful startup is to start small and avoid “shiny object syndrome,” which is a term for entrepreneurs who get distracted because they’re chasing after trends. In other words, just because you can build anything as a software developer doesn’t mean that you should.
Instead, focus on one area, cause, or technology that you’re truly passionate about: “When trying to attack a problem there is nothing wrong with being niche,” Timothy says. “Solve one specific problem very well or do a few small things really great.”