10 Apr 2021

Startup Principles

TLDR

When I build my own company, I’ll think back to working at a bootstrapped startup and the lessons I learned from our founder.

My business will embody these principles:

  • Believe (obsessively and doggedly believe)
  • Keep It Super Simple 1 2 (radical simplicity)
  • Ship It (ship the bare minimum and get feedback, repeat)

Honorable mention:

  • do things that don’t scale 3 (By the time you have scaling limits, you can pay to figure out scale.)

When I’m building features, finding customers, or planning technical architecture, I’ll think of her and say: WWMD.

My Startup Story

Small startups at a cesspool of ideas, experiences, stress, and joy and I learned a ton through my phases in smaller startups. Today, I want to highlight lessons learned from working at a small bootstrapped-ish startup. I’ve also been reading Ray Dalio’s book Principles 4.

The startup was ~50 people when I left and I was there for 3 years. I joined two years into their journey (~25 ppl total with 6 in engineer). Money was always tight and yet we were moving two digits of millions in revenue when I left.

Beyond learning from my time there, I learned from the 2 years before me… from the example set by out solo founder.

She had a year or two of professional experience in web development focused on design and frontend and had no business experience…. until she made her own experience! She became obsessed with a business problem encountered casually and from then on, lived, breathed, and fought for her business.

She built a truly minimum viable product… and was a shining example of what you can do with radical simplicity. Her busines started with a Google Form. She leveraged amazing productivity and value from off-the-shelf free tools. Turns out free tiers can be pushed REALLY FAR with the right urgency and necessity! If Airtable existed at the time, I think that would have been our database.

She learned what she needed to know about databases, servers, analytics but it was a means to an end of making the business work. She didn’t get lost in la-la land of falling in love with the tech. They were a tool she became proficient with but they didn’t rule her. Technology was a means to an end of building the business. My time with her honed my business approach to delivering the most value we could with available time and energy. We radically optimized for making the biggest bang for the buck, because there weren’t many bucks to go around.

What drew me to the company was her obsession, passion and success. Her fervor and obsession were infectious and I saw my own star rising with hers. I learned to see the world a more like she did, with less rules and boundaries. I bring that with me to my own engineering leadership and personal values in software engineering.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KISS_principle ↩︎

  2. https://medium.com/better-programming/saving-a-non-profit-six-figures-a-year-using-squarespace-airtable-and-glitch-com-23537161e18f ↩︎

  3. http://paulgraham.com/ds.html ↩︎

  4. https://www.principles.com/ ↩︎