Senior Engineers Reduce Risk

Senior engineers reduce risk, in every sense. Often, “risk” is used to describe technical risk, which is that the software doesn’t function properly, or is never completed at all. But there are other issues that can prevent the business atop the software from succeeding — risks around process, or product design, or sales, or the company’s culture. A senior engineer understands these risks, and mitigates them where possible.

.. Most startups die because they build the wrong product. The core risks are rarely technical; if no one wants the product, building it well won’t change the outcome.

.. Once a company finds product-market fit, the risks change. The product has to work, scale, and easily adapt to anything learned by the customer-facing employees.

.. Above all, each new hire dilutes any clarity that existed around what the company values, and what it doesn’t. Left alone, the company will become whatever people were used to at their last job.

.. After a few projects get delayed because of one missing piece, the leadership will start to value predictable results above all else.

.. If a senior engineer identifies a significant risk, they have to be able to concisely explain and prioritize it for a non-expert audience.

.. An engineer who has spent the last five years making small, continuous improvements to the processes in a larger company may not enjoy or even understand the sort of role expected by a three person startup.

Paul Graham: don’t do “The Big Launch”

I should mention one sort of initial tactic that usually doesn’t work: the Big Launch. I occasionally meet founders who seem to believe startups are projectiles rather than powered aircraft, and that they’ll make it big if and only if they’re launched with sufficient initial velocity. They want to launch simultaneously in 8 different publications, with embargoes. And on a tuesday, of course, since they read somewhere that’s the optimum day to launch something.

It’s easy to see how little launches matter. Think of some successful startups. How many of their launches do you remember? All you need from a launch is some initial core of users. How well you’re doing a few months later will depend more on how happy you made those users than how many there were of them. [10]

.. So why do founders think launches matter? A combination of solipsism and laziness. They think what they’re building is so great that everyone who hears about it will immediately sign up. Plus it would be so much less work if you could get users merely by broadcasting your existence, rather than recruiting them one at a time. But even if what you’re building really is great, getting users will always be a gradual process—partly because great things are usually also novel, but mainly because users have other things to think about.

GitHub Is Building a Coder’s Paradise. It’s Not Coming Cheap

The VC-backed unicorn startup lost $66 million in nine months of 2016, financial documents show.

Sequoia Capital led a $250 million investment in mid-2015. But GitHub management may have been a little too eager to spend the new money. The company paid to send employees jetting across the globe to Amsterdam, London, New York and elsewhere. More costly, it doubled headcount to 600 over the course of about 18 months.

.. At least a dozen members of GitHub’s leadership team have left since last year, several of whom expressed unhappiness with Wanstrath’s management style. GitHub says the company has flourished under his direction but declined to comment on finances. Wanstrath says: “We raised $250 million last year, and we’re putting it to use. We’re not expecting to be profitable right now.”

.. In GitHub’s cultural hierarchy, the coder is at the top.

.. The big differentiator for GitLab is that it was designed for the enterprise, and GitHub was not,” says GitLab CEO Sid Sijbrandij. “One of the values is frugality, and this is something very close to our heart. We want to treat our team members really well, but we don’t want to waste any money where it’s not needed. So we don’t have a big fancy office because we can be effective without it.”