I spoke to developers about their advice for a tech startup: Here’s what they said
It’s a Thursday afternoon, and my university group chat is alive with activity. It’s been years since we graduated, but this questionably-named Keybase chat is still one of my most highly valued sources of technical knowledge and opinion.
One of the main reasons for this is the sheer breadth of experience represented in the group. We’ve got audio engineers, full stack developers, PhD researchers and machine learning experts. We work in a huge range of sectors, some as contractors, others in-house or as consultants. It’s hard to count the number of languages, technologies and best practices that are used on a daily basis, and more still are discussed and debated.
Of all the discussion points, one thing that comes up a lot is what we would do differently if we could start from scratch in a codebase — or tech company as a whole. So this afternoon, I asked the chat:
"If you were to give a single piece of advice to a new tech startup, what would it be?"
Here’s what they said.
- "Good people that work well together will make everything easier. Best if you find them first."
- "Developing processes early will make your work later down the line easier."
- "Write stuff down! Whether you’ve just had a meeting to discuss how to solve a problem, whether you’ve decided to go a different route in coding something - leave a note! Your future self will thank you for it, or your co-workers if you leave and something breaks."
- "Don’t worry about being the first, just aim to be slightly better than the rest."
- "Have a simple way to organise your tasks and teamwork. And if you have shared passwords for things, use a password manager."
- "Use boring technology. It’s very easy to be tempted to use the shiniest new JS framework or some other new thing, but when you’re trying to build a new business you’re able to work at a much better velocity by using something you’re already proficient in. It also makes hiring much easier if you’re using (some) industry-standard tools. It’s way easier to find a competent developer for something like React or Django than it is to find a developer that knows the intricacies of Elm or your custom Rust web framework."
- "Testing may take time now, but if left until later at best it’ll take longer, and at worst it’ll bring the business crashing down.
- "Focus on product - not perception, bureaucracy or hiring."
- "Use standard tools whenever possible. You’re running a business which should put the majority of its effort into differentiating itself based on the usefulness of its product, not on the technical sophistication of its internal engineering tooling."
As for me, I’d add:
"Focus on your core purpose, and be wildly ambitious about the kind of business you want to create. Considering success as more than growth and money will enable you to build a company that’s great to work for, and that truly respects and serves its customers."
Hopefully, these tips will help you take the first steps with your business or point you in the direction of a new focus as you grow.
If you’re looking for more support, Gravitywell is a team of multi-disciplinary experts who know what it takes to build a tech startup. We partner with you with strong technical foundations and a passion for innovative, socially meaningful work to understand your purpose and build scalable, human-centred solutions.
If you’re interested in working with us, drop us a message and we’ll be in touch.