I can see why Jon Evans wrote this post for founders, but these are good lessons for anyone in a startup. A company’s culture is a reflection of the founder’s personality- the good and the bad. Someone wise once told me that if you’re one of the first 10 employees in a startup, you’re expected to save the company a few times. Avoiding one of these pitfalls might add a mark to your personal “savior” tally.
For me, Lessons #1 (“premature scaling is the root of all evil”) and #4 (“you are not a platform”) are my fatal flaws. I want to solve all the problems (all of the things!) as soon as I see them. Right now! A lesson I’m *trying* hard to learn is lazy instantiation. The problem is right there in the name – it’s lazy and I’m not. Enough said. But it’s better to start with something small and well-built (Lesson #2: “technical debt will kill you”) then try to build a beautiful, perfect product that will solve all your problems as version 1. That’s what life is – you never solve all your problems. You just haven’t stumbled across the new ones yet.
Speaking of lesson #2, “the best solution here is to scrap the whole thing and rewrite it from scratch” was one of the hardest and most valuable things I’ve ever learned. Lesson #10 (“how to report a bug”) is pure poetry – the words “it’s broken” are meaningless without the path (“when I did X, I expected Y, but got Z”). You don’t have to be an engineer to see why this makes sense.
Lesson #8 (“Stop managing by crisis”) was an interesting one for Jon to include. Managment is one of the most underestimated difficulties in any work environment, but the added pressure of a startup rachets even minor issues up a notch. I think you could have an entirely separate “top ten” of management mistakes. I’d probably be qualified to write that myself, since I’ve probably made every single one. I think most managers would say the same. But I digress – lesson #8 reminds you that crises are precious things. Having that adrenaline-based kick in the pants can get results, but you can’t hijack that for every problem that comes along. “Because nobody can work in crisis mode all the time, and after a few weeks it loses all meaning and begins to just breed resentment.” Well said.
That’s the end of my little TL;DR summary of this post – you should take 5 minutes and read the full thing. It might just save your company.