Meet The Disruptors: Anthony Chavez Of Codelab303 On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

People are the most valuable thing for any business, but even more acutely so for a company like ours. Fundamentally, my business sells access to incredibly talented specialists who work fantastically well together as a team. It is critical to find these people, establish meaningful professional and personal relationships, and invest in their success, growth, wellness, and happiness.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anthony Chavez.

Anthony Chavez is a technical leader based in Boulder, Colorado who has a deep passion for executing well conceptualized interactive products. He’s the Founder & CEO of Codelab303 with over 20 years of experience in entrepreneurship and web technology. Codelab303’s team works as a go-to shop that helps to modernize and transform established businesses and set them up for rapid growth and success. Its mission is to “Build the Right Thing. Build the Thing Right.”

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Tell me how it all began, the origins of codelab303 as well as Anthony Chavez.

From a young age, I was really drawn to art and technology. As a child, I lived around the world: Mexico, Pakistan, Hong Kong, before moving to the US. I guess I found out that interesting art, cool technology, and good food, can bring people together in amazing ways, no matter the language they speak, what they look like, or their age… So, I started coding at about the age of 7 and experimenting with digital art, whatever that meant to me at the time, which started as ASCII art and what I guess you could call irreverent memes drawn up in MS Paint, or coded in VB.

I never really identified a “calling” towards engineering or entrepreneurship, but in 1999 before entering high school, I started a website and brand called The FreerideZone to showcase my main interest, skiing. What started as a pursuit against boredom, documenting the talents and antics of my friends, turned into a “real” business and online magazine within the span of a year. At the age of 14, I had contracted copywriters, photographers, a clothing line, a production and editing crew, and a team of athletes. When I got an opportunity to become the Web & IT Director of Freeskier Magazine, I dropped out of college in my freshman year, moved to Colorado, and have had an unpredictable, but great life ever since. Until 2008, my career was focused mainly on building web technology for the ski industry and getting as many powder days as I could.

My ski industry life segued into the rapidly growing Colorado startup and digital agency community. Always in pursuit of the most interesting and challenging work, I found myself working at several Colorado agencies and startups, including CP+B as a tech director, where I was able to work on some incredible, once-in-a-lifetime type projects for brands like Dominos, Paypal, and Infiniti. From CP+B, I went on to become a CTO for a connected retail startup and then for an innovation consultancy. Over a relatively short period of about 5 years, I got an incredible immersion into prestige-class ad agencies and startups of every scale and aspiration. Along this path, an idea worked its way into my head; “I think I can do this better…” “Better,” being a subjective term, to me, meant delivering a higher quality end-product, at the end of a much more efficiently run project, and with a team of super talented, friendly people.

Give me your “elevator pitch” about codelab303. In other words, what services does your business provide?

We are a boutique digital agency, meaning that we provide strategic, design, engineering, production, and support for websites, mobile applications, SaaS platforms, and custom software installations or deployments of all types and varieties. Our team is a combination of seasoned, international talent that has, as a requisite, deep experience in product design and development and brand or creative development. The unique combination of skillsets sets us apart as a “special forces team” that are able to do, what the large A-list agencies are incapable of, and within timelines and budgets that set new standards for excellence, that we hope to share with every new partner.

Our mission statement is to make sure that our partners, first, build the right thing, and then we make sure that the thing is built right.

What does it take to be a success in your business? Can you give me three characteristics that have made you a success?

Team, trust, and kindness.

The team is everything.

People are the most valuable thing for any business, but even more acutely so for a company like ours. Fundamentally, my business sells access to incredibly talented specialists who work fantastically well together as a team. It is critical to find these people, establish meaningful professional and personal relationships, and invest in their success, growth, wellness, and happiness.

Establish trust, and never take it for granted.

The larger enterprises that we have partnered with have all expressed becoming very jaded with the partners they bring in. We do our very best to understand our partner’s culture and remain hyper-focused on delivering value while understanding that “value” has a different meaning for different organizations. The same is true for our team, and we strive to be a better company to work for each day.

Be kind.

We all, as professionals, can get caught up in the deadline we’re trying to meet, the headline we’re trying to grab, the revenue we’re trying to earn, or some other combination of metrics. These goals are challenging, and they should be. However, it’s essential to realize that we are all humans working with other humans, and if kindness is not a priority, accomplishing all of those challenging goals as a team becomes a lot harder.

[ALT/ADD] Good enough, is never good enough.

As an emerging business, we have always needed to have a fierce eye on the quality of every deliverable. Partners are smart, and they understand the difference between work that just “got done” and work that is — special. In such a competitive world, not only the depth, but the finishing touches and thoughtful pride for all work really matters, whether it’s just an email or a massive finished product. Good enough is just that, and that’s not what we’re here for.

It’s amazing how you have navigated these difficult Covid-times and come out with such high-profile clients like Ulta and Carvana. Can you tell the readers more about this process?

To be fair, we went into COVID with Ulta and Carvana as clients, however, prior to COVID, I still had a full-time job. Bad, or good timing, depending on perspective.

A bit of an origin story. codelab303 started as a bit of an experiment, to see if I could do things better, and an excuse to continue working with some of my favorite people. In the year coming into COVID, we delivered an API product for ULTA, in addition to an internal social network for Carvana — our relationship with USA Cycling was expanding, and we had two 6+ figure deals in the works for a tradeshow installation for an electronics company, and an on-ship gaming platform for a cruise line. Given the influx of work, I left my full-time job at the innovation consultancy on March 1, 2020–9 days later, Biden issued a state of emergency, 4 days after that, Colorado went on lockdown, the same day my 2-weeks was up, and I left a very stable job to fully embark on the journey of entrepreneurship.

From the perspective of the IRS, we were a brand new company, with only 3 months of payroll history — only one W2, mostly contractors. Shit. PPP wasn’t going to help at all, we knew we were in a fight, not only one to establish ourselves, but suddenly, one to survive.

Long story short — we survived, with no team or partner losses, and were able to support our partners through innovation, and rapidly adapting to daily changes. A great example of this was Modern Market (Colorado) and Lemonade (CA/TX) restaurants. On a daily basis, we refocused activities to provide what was relevant — curbside pickup, grocery boxes with TP, mother’s day bundles, and ghost kitchens during the darkest months. If customers or staff at the restaurants asked for it, we figured out how to design and build it — quick. At this point, we had thoroughly adopted the “move fast and break sh!*t” model, we did, we glued it together, we were throwing things at a wall to try to save everyone’s jobs — ours included. But it worked.

Why are you called the “disruptor?” Can you give me the story behind that name? Why are you called this and is there a story behind this name?

Oh boy… I guess we’re a disruptor primarily because we’re a little bit crazy. Along our journey, we’ve done some work that others wouldn’t, we’ve turned some away that others would covet.

We’re a disruptor in our space because we unapologetically focus on getting the work done, trimming the fat, and saving our partners from the ceremonial and unnecessary bloat of a typical agency. Additionally, we work with a seasoned international team of vetted senior talent, providing our partners with direct access to them, as opposed to upsell-and-offshore models from most competitors.

While we deliver on a variety of fronts at codelab303, ultimately, everything we work on as a business turns into code. We believe that our whole team is fundamentally made up of engineers; whether they’re fabricating project timelines, a customer experience, or a series of APIs — our team is bound by a spirit of innovation, and experimentation, and in a digital space, together we are all contributing to this crazy laboratory together as mad scientists, in the best of ways.

Do you have any advice for others who would like to follow in your footsteps?

Take the risk; then go with the flow and follow your intuition.

Nothing worth doing comes easy, and nothing easy comes without an amount of risk. Become accustomed to taking risks and embracing failure as a strengthening experience. Accomplishment requires failure, failure, and vision, so be ready to take some hard punches while staying true to your aspirations.

Great things take months, or years to happen. Bad things happen quickly and escalate through a series of moments.

This is a way of saying that, “success is a marathon, but you can disqualify yourself very easily.” Be patient and look at your incremental successes, no matter how small; as opposed to being focused on the next big thing. On the other hand, be aware that decisive, bad things, tend to present themselves quickly, even if they’ve taken a lifetime to become an issue — it is important to maintain an awareness of yourself and aspects of your life and world external to the business.

Embrace the fear, embrace the brutality.

As entrepreneurs, the beginning is going to be really hard for most real people. We all know the 5-year survival stats. While we all want to build the perfect product or service, and team, the reality is that it’s going to be hard, it will require a lot of sacrifices, it’s scary, it’s brutal, it really sucks sometimes. The other side of this is the existential reward that comes when things go right. When you can see your amazing work go into the world, or celebrate an annual anniversary with a teammate, those brutal moments fade away, and there are few things more satisfying. Becoming accustomed to fear will let you make greater leaps, and the endurance through initial growth, will make you stronger and prepare you for greater competition.

What are your goals for the future?

Sustainable Growth.

My personal goals for the business are squarely focused on the sustainable growth of a talent-first organization. Functionally, this means scaling our offering to win the most interesting work, work capable of attracting and retaining a world-class team of individuals, and in a way that supports and enriches their lives. Overall, this means, building a portfolio of products, applications, and experiences that are used enjoyed, and truly valued, by millions of people around the world.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Meet The Disruptors: Anthony Chavez Of Codelab303 On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Recommended Posts