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Roseburg Student Builds Software Company

11:57 PM · Sep 13, 2022

At just eight years old, Moses Finlay started applying his problem-solving skills in chess to a hobby that became a skill that became a job. Now, Moses is a 16-year-old entrepreneur who is creating a tech startup in Roseburg from his parents’ kitchen table. “Why wait to build something innovative?” Moses said. “Now is a great time because you can invest as much time as you want and everything you would ever want to know is on the internet.” In a 2020 survey by Junior Achievement USA and the Brian Hamilton Foundation of 1,000 people between 13 and 17 years old, 66% of respondents said they would consider starting a business in adulthood. "It's notable that almost 30 percent of teens responded that their greatest concern about starting a business is the risk involved," said Charlie Bradley, CEO of the Brian Hamilton Foundation. "We recommend that youth start businesses now, as teens, for just that reason. When you're young, there is almost no downside to failure." When Moses was little, his dad, Ryan Finlay, saw his ability to approach the game of chess with problem-solving skills instead of memorizing strategies. Ryan recognized the skill and need for programmers in the world and introduced Moses to programming courses on Khan Academy, a free, online program with courses and classes on hundreds of skills from basic math to programming to chemistry to environmental science to civics to art history to economics to basic reading. “You should always be learning,” Moses said. “You should always want to be working on something meaningful that challenges you. I would also add that starting out really young was helpful because you absorb information so fast.” Ryan had a little experience in programming and was able to guide Moses along, but knew the best way to grow was with a project to work on. Moses originally started out making games, but eventually began taking other programming courses online. When Moses was 12, he was given a scholarship to an online coding school called Treehouse. He completed the year-long coding bootcamp and received a tech degree. “For someone getting started, it’s really helpful to find meaningful projects to build,” Ryan said. In late 2014, Ryan started Lava Tracker which became Hawaii Tracker, a community-based, responsive online news source for their town in Hawaii when the family lived there. Their town was under threat of being buried by an active volcanic eruption. When the family moved back to Oregon in 2018, Ryan started Roseburg Tracker on Facebook. He soon realized Roseburg Tracker needed a home outside of Facebook Groups and other online platforms didn’t meet their needs, so he encouraged Moses to develop a software platform to host Roseburg Tracker. “We wanted a website where we could share our own content,” Moses said. “We knew Facebook wasn’t going to work long term. With Roseburg Tracker, we decided to start a platform so we could host lots of groups. The platform can run the same thing multiple times. The goal is to give communities more control. We have email lists that are a direct connection with our members. It’s more flexible.” The root of Roseburg Tracker is providing the community with helpful, responsive, timely news at no cost to the readers. The website is advertiser funded and reader supported with the news going to the website first and immediate news forwarded to email subscribers. During the fire season of 2020, Roseburg Tracker was home to daily updates on fires, resources for people with land or homes in evacuation zones, and a place for people to connect with each other to provide support as the need became apparent. The platform is called Tracker and hosts Roseburg Tracker, Hawaii Tracker and Forever Wild Wildlife Rescue, as well as a few business sites and personal blogs. Moses is working on the platform to ensure it works seamlessly for future communities, businesses and nonprofits. The expansion goals will also require he eventually start hiring other programmers. “We want Tracker to be a software company based in Roseburg and we want Tracker to help grow a bigger developer community in Roseburg. We’ve talked about starting a club for people interested in programming.” While the tech community is known for luring people into hyper-urban areas, there is a movement to support tech companies in rural areas, like broadband internet development and co-working spaces. Trevor Mauch started Carrot LLC and runs the main operations in Downtown Roseburg. The tech company has 53 employees, some remote and some local, according to the website. The programming club idea is still in its infancy stage as the Finlays work on rebuilding the website as well as other community engagements and activities. Moses balances software development and school work with a very active lifestyle, including playing for the Roseburg High School Varsity Boys Soccer team. Moses said it can be difficult to explain to non-programmers what he’s building because most of his work is not visible to the public. The public sees a website but does not see the thousands of lines of code and years of work that go into building a secure platform that will scale. Moses, who turns 17 at the end of this month, feels like he’s just now hitting his stride as a developer and is excited about more people using Tracker. “I’ve probably spent at least 5,000 hours programming since I started when I was eight," Moses said. "I really enjoy it. I’m excited to have more people using Tracker and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for the company. ” If you are interested in getting into coding, Moses wrote a guide with resources to help students get started