Create the Bridge — The Monitor Local News

Create the Bridge

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EDINBURG ,TX-Sept.8 ,2014 -(L-R) Nathan and Joshua Villarreal, Luis Trevino, Sara Gonzalez, Mayra Garcia and Josh Tyree inside their company at their home in Edinburg Sept.9,2014. Photo by Delcia Lopez

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Posted on Sep 10, 2014

by Daniel Flores

A dark luxury car is parked in the drive. Through the front door is a short path leading to a small atrium, mostly occupied by a large covered hot tub.

Inside, the space intended as a living room is converted into a communal work area, with stations lining the walls. It is here that Create the Bridge, a startup founded in 2010, has grown into a company competing nationally and internationally in the field of branding, marketing and the creation of both mobile and web applications, or apps.

“We build custom stuff,” co-founder Joshua Villarreal said. “Whatever people request from us, despite the platform or technology, most of the time we can accommodate whatever they’re looking for.”

And business has been good. Earlier this year, the company was forced to expand to deal with the increase in acquired contracts.

Clients look to them not just as “…hired guns for development,” Joshua said. “A lot of the times they look to us to help shape the product, the brand and the messaging. It allows us to create cohesive plans of action.”

The team is using this experience to shape its own products, the first of which is Voyager. This soon-to-be launched original, subscription-based web application targets entities that value social networking. Brands, companies or anyone invested in a digital presence can easily display or publish their combined social media content onto their existing site.

By the end of the month, the team of 20-somethings will be completing four to seven apps.

“We live in our own universe in here,” co-founder Nathan Villarreal said.

Terminals have two or three monitors, all dark grey with layers of pastel colored bars of code. Neon characters glow blue and orange on black keyboards. Assorted color wires hang through a rough circle cut in the ceiling into the room, which doubles as sleeping quarters for two team members.

Twin brothers Joshua and Nathan Villarreal, 24, were independent developers before approaching designer Luis Trevino about a potential company structure and strategy, combining both their technical and aesthetic skills. Starting with three employees, the group has expanded to accommodate an increased workload.

Sara Gonzalez, a former University of Texas-Pan American lecturer in the art department, and Joshua Tyree, a developer and entrepreneur from St. Louis, were added to the roster. They are all credited as co-founders.

Collaboration and adaption are key in their creative process. Though their team relies on the expertise of their individuals, the collective’s philosophy pushes everyone to work in all aspects of the product. Because of this, projects can change drastically at late stages in the development. Solutions are being discovered or revealed through the journey rather sticking to a fixed plan. It requires all cogs in their system to be “agile,” which is a buzzword in the techie lexicon. It also requires their people to spend long, continuous units of time together.

In tech speak, they’re called “sprints.”

“Essentially, you say you’re going to do a crazy amount of work in the shortest period possible,” Joshua said. “Whatever amount of time passes between kind of goes unnoticed.”

The bulk of their work happens out of an inconspicuous house, owned by the Villarreal brothers, tucked in a north Edinburg neighborhood.

A cracked concrete floor stretches across the open plan into a kitchen, presumably the source of the empty cans of sodas scattered about the desks. Next to the aluminum trash is a developer’s version of an Oculus Rift, a futurist virtual reality headset expected to be commercially released in 2015, and a piece of hardware the group has been experimenting with.

The first incarnation is intended for commercial use, though the customization would allow users to curate a personal, multi-platform stream. With updates and new features scheduled for the latter part of the year, Voyager will continue to evolve.

In another working bedroom, a coverless electrical outlet receives the cord of a high-end power strip. An open closet door bares a colorful array of long sleeve button-ups. A mattress, fitted with a black and white checkered sheet, leans against the wall.

Many tech companies’ goal is to attract investment, maybe raise enough to not be required to sleep in the same rooms they work.

“Tech start ups, at some point, do raise capital,” Joshua said. “For us, we wanted to get to market with products… (having) generate(d) significant revenue. And then when we take on capital, it wouldn’t be for an entry-level amount for a business that isn’t proven.”

They have been approached by investors in the past, Tyree said.

“Right now, what we want to do is drive the value of the company so high that we’re not looking at a couple million,” Tyree said. “We’re talking hundreds.”

His success selling a gaming startup last year earned him a six-figure payday, but serves as a cautionary tale for the group.

Create the Bridge - The Monitor Local News

“Even though we actually got acquired, and it seems like a victory, it really isn’t,” Tyree said. “When you get acquired, it’s usually when you have a great product but you don’t have the ability to lead it.”

He admitted that without the acquisition, the company would have run out of cash — it lacked a sustainable infrastructure. This lesson has been paramount to the team at Create the Bridge and is an influence to their model.

Their goal is to piece together a proven team creating scalability, revenue and product development.

“We’ve all been in technology long enough that the reason we do it is to push the limits,” Nathan said. “We all love what we do. We have goals to explore more in technology, and we’re trying to buy ourselves the freedom to pursue those goals.”

Technology companies often have the luxury of pursuing experimental, non-revenue generating passion projects because of cash reserves. To the team, this position would be a dream come true.

“That’s the reason we created Create the Bridge: the freedom to lose cash on ambitious projects,” Joshua joked.

In May, Create the Bridge helped put together technology programming for high school and college students, in collaboration with UTPA’s Continuing Education. The event was called The Code Factory and team members gave talks on their individual specializations.

Game development, web application development and different aspects of design were covered.

“They were free workshops to get people excited about technology careers,” Joshua said.

Frequenters to Tech Tuesdays and CODE#RGV, local initiatives that encourage technology discussion, the group has a vested interest in a more tech savvy populous. If the company continues to grow, they will need additional employees.

To address this, internships were introduced by the company, and have actually led to a permanent hire. Admittedly challenging, the internship program pushes participants.

“It’s hard for anybody to jump into that position,” Tyree said. “It’s easy for interns to get overwhelmed because they feel like they can’t keep up. But really, it’s that pace that makes them better.”

It’s a pace in which the team takes pride, and contributes to their success.

“If you trace rate of innovation here, we’re pretty good, because we’re literally forcing ourselves into ridiculous scenarios where if you don’t evolve, you’ll get crush into oblivion,” Nathan said.

Currently, the company is garnering users for Voyager and has plans to launch a monthly subscription-based app development initiative. The high initial cost of building software could prevent companies’ ideas from coming to fruition, and the group plans to challenge the status quo by eliminating the hefty upfront cost.

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