One of the advantages of being in New York is the chance to meet some of the most knowledgeable and experienced people in the world. Thanks to introduction by our VP of Sales Greg Gortz I've got a chance to meet for a breakfast with Andy Parsons, a CTO with impressive resume and first hand experience with building and managing software development teams at several successful startups, most notably Outside.in. While Ljubljana's startup environment has improved tremendously over the past five years, it's still non-existant compared to New York. We read and learn about engineering practices by reading blogs and attending conferences, but we don't have people with extensive first hand experience of working at start ups. My primary aim in meeting Andy was therefore to verify if the best start-ups are really doing what they preach.
Upon reflecting on our meeting, it seems to me that we have mostly talked about the need for being patient. Start-ups are predominantly staffed by young people whose patience is rather limited. Andy has explained to me that it is hard to find an engineer these days who would really commit to company's goals and wouldn't change ship at the first opportunity. Contrary to a popular belief, very few start-ups become overnight success, while most of them need several years (seven on average) to become profitable businesses.
Another issue in startups that has to do with patience is communication of company vision to the team. Founders are under great and constant pressure from the investors to deliver results and quite often they take a shortcut of specifying product or technical solution, instead of spending most of their efforts on communicating their vision and letting the team make the vision happen. Especially technical founders, who are used to make things by themselves, have great problems in transitioning from tactical to strategical role. I was quite surprised to learn from Andy that even New York lacks people who could successfully coach technical cofounders in their transition from hands-on engineers to effective communicators of company's vision.
An hour long discussion with Andy has left me confident that Zemanta's engineering practices are on par with the best practices in the industry. While we definitely have a lot of room for improvements, the deficiencies we have seem to be industry-wide and not Zemanta specific.
After many stints in a supporting role, Andy has recently decided to try his luck and co-founded his own startup. So please help him promote Happify by sharing the following link.
- Startup Leaders on What They Love about Their Company Cultures (idonethis.com)
- Stop Crapping on Start-Ups (javacodegeeks.com)
- How To Avoid The Most Common Startup Tech Mistakes (businessinsider.com)