Brandon Stirnaman

FluentAutomation Creator
Simple, fluent automated testing for web applications.

F14N Founder
Fast, easy automation test creation, execution and management.

Looking back at 2013

A lot of things have happened in my life this year, good and bad. I thought I'd take a moment to get it out of my head. I've been told its helpful to do this so let's find out.


Early this year, a new project popped into life -- scriptcs. Immediately I wanted to contribute something useful to it but the work schedule was pretty daunting. Many OSS authors contributed samples to the project. I added one utilizing FluentAutomation. It felt so right, so perfect a combination. It was a great distraction that got me thinking about ideas that would eventually lead to the F14N IDE.

At one point I started looking into contributing Mono support but life got in the way.


This year, a good friend and I decided to finally take our automation business ideas seriously. Paul moved to Minnesota to make this happen. We started work on the prototype for F14N in July. Our goal, simply stated, is to replace/displace manual QA for Web Applications.

Based on FluentAutomation, we built an IDE and execution platform to practice what I'm calling 'Frictonless Automation'. A short talk was put together with this title and presented at DevJam in Minneapolis. This was our first outing with the idea and we got some great responses from people who came to chat after.

Up front I decided I wanted to use scriptcs and the CSX format to drive the first version of our IDE. We got all the benefits of real C# but lost some of the ceremony of wrapper classes, Main methods, etc. All this contributed heavily towards our goal of reducing friction.

Things were progressing rapidly, people contacting me regularly interested in hearing more about our product. We started to come up with a plan to do this full time.

StartupSchool, YCombinator Application

We decided we wanted to apply for the YC W13 class - we had a good product nearing our Beta, we were skilled/driven guys and we were about to quit our jobs and do it full time anyway. Why not apply?

For anyone who has never considered YC but is working on a startup -- Do yourself a favor and fill out the application. Just answering the questions will tell you how little/how much you really know about your plans and place in the market. It was eye opening for us and ultimately helped us better understand what we needed to do. We started on the app and then got thouroughly distracted by building things.. the deadline was weeks away, no problem.

Then I got accepted to attend StartupSchool - Paul didn't apply due to memory issues. This was quite the event, huge lines of people waiting to hear some pretty great talks. Far more important than that though were the people I met at the YC offices the night before. Everyone was pitching their ideas and getting instant feedback from other devs/creatives/marketers trying to make something work. This was priceless.

I left StartupSchool far more confident in our business but less so in our chances with our YC app. We hadn't done a good job of distilling the core of our business in the app or video. Ultimately we didn't make it but it was entirely worth going through the process. We may apply again next year but we know we can succeed without YC now.

The news...

In October I was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer. Its a particularly aggressive type of cancer that often invades the brain.

Treatment had begun just before leaving for Silicon Valley and I was confident I could make it through the long weekend of pitching our idea without issues. It would have been much easier had I remembered my anti-nausea medications before we left.

Regular chemotherapy and radiotherapy appointments resulted in a loss of energy, focus and drive. My only focus was to just get through each treatment and try to keep my job (health insurance) and some semblance of progress on F14N/FluentAutomation. Thanks to a more than flexible manager and team, my job was secure. Progress on F14N however grinded to a halt. Huge thanks to Paul for not freaking out about this. We didn't hit our goal for our private beta.. or any goals really. Life sucked for awhile.

Moving forward to December, the benefits of catching the cancer early (single tumor, single location) combined with incredibly aggressive treatment became clear... Doctors could no longer see the cancer. I will still undergo some more treatment and regular appointments to monitor the situation but things are looking good.


In the midst of everything else, we were informed at work that our project was ending at the end of 2013. We could apply for other jobs internally or take a package to leave.

I have opted for the latter and initially planned to work full time on F14N in 2014. This was an attractive plan but I had consumed quite a bit of my savings in the previous months. Investing had been very good to me in 2013 but much of that money is tied up for months/years.

Instead I will return to contract software development and work on F14N/FluentAutomation after that. I've always been a 60hr+/wk person, anyone who has worked with me can confirm it. The benefit of this arrangement is that I can invest more, more quickly in F14N's growth as we bootstrap our way to success.


The next year is very important for me. I need to get back on track with our product and stay healthy.

Our beta will launch. As soon as we're done with all this move/holiday stuff thats going to slow us down for the next few weeks, F14N will start moving ahead again.

FluentAutomation.js will become a reality.

Thanks to everyone who has supported us this year, good things are coming. We won't be beaten down by silly things like cancer.