Rethinking build tools: CI, FHE and my mini startup experience

January 29, 2024 (5mo ago)

I've always been eager to understand the intricacies of business. The ability to conceive an idea, bring it to market, and see its impact is, from a broad perspective, immensely satisfying. In the tech sector, combining technical skills with a grasp of the essentials of a running business is crucial, especially for solo ventures.

So when a friend embarked on a startup journey to develop a new CI (continuous integration) tool, Ruken, I jumped at the chance to contribute.

Ruken was a decentralized build tool connecting available computing power with build jobs, making it as easy as opening a new tab in your browser.

The ambitious goal was to enable completely isolated, fully encrypted jobs. This meant the contents of the job would be concealed from the individuals providing compute power, while also being protected from any malicious code. This was achieved through standard browser sandboxing combined with FHE (Fully Homomorphic Encryption), ensuring privacy.

We were thrilled to be selected as one of GoFocal's 15 finalists, out of hundreds of applicants in 2021! You can watch the pitch here.

Although it didn't fully launch, it was an enriching experience! What remains is this Python CI tool in the browser I developed to give a glimpse of what Ruken aimed to be.

Here's what I learned along the way:

  • Going from idea to business is very doable

    • Moving from programming an idea in your bedroom to establishing a business feels much more achievable after you've experienced the process.
  • FHE is a vastly underrated technology

    • The ability to compute without accessing the actual data has enormous potential. Beyond Ruken's applications, this could allow insights into medical data without compromising patient confidentiality, opening incredible possibilities for medical research.
  • Don't conceal an idea for too long

    • If you don't test your idea, you'll never know if it works. You can only plan ahead so far with accuracy. Environments, users, and even your own perspective change, so even if your predictions are accurate one day, you must be ready to adapt your product. Embracing imperfection, not fearing feedback, and parsing that feedback into meaningful changes are invaluable skills in all aspects of life, not just entrepreneurship.
  • Avoid complexity in the short term

    • It's great to have an ambitious long-term vision to keep you motivated, but each step towards that vision should be simple and attainable. You want to provide value, even minimal, as soon as possible. Profitability, scalability, and marketability can follow.
  • Competitors are normal; pride in your product is key

    • If you listen to your users and quickly act on their feedback, those users will stick with your product. It's hard to compete with a solution that's tailor-made for its audience. Scaling this is challenging, but if you've reached that stage, you're likely succeeding, and competitors become less of a threat.