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Startups hoho.com

Your tech stack is not the product

If you are the technical co-founder or early engineering lead at a startup, and you want to talk about your microservices, hand-rolled CI/CD, in-house monitoring stack, or any other unique part of your stack, I will say: Cool. Let’s riff. Take me deep, I’m ready.

But there’s something I’m likely to tell you in return, something I’ll probably insist you’re overlooking and need to internalize as soon as possible: Your technology stack is not the product.

It’s easy to get too focused on our tech and tools. Sometimes we think it’s our competitive advantage, other times it’s merely personal fascination and intellectual stimulation. This post is a good reminder:

A mindset of technology being the means, not the end, is uncomfortable. But it will help you stay focused on what matters most (the product and your customers), avoid wasteful misadventures, and maximize the company’s chance of success.

PostgreSQL amazingcto.com

Just use Postgres for everything

Stephan Schmidt warns: “We have invited complexity through the door. But it will not leave as easily.”

One way to simplify your stack and reduce the moving parts, speed up development, lower the risk and deliver more features in your startup is “Use Postgres for everything”. Postgres can replace - up to millions of users - many backend technologies, Kafka, RabbitMQ, Mongo and Redis among them.

He then goes on to list nine things you can use Postgres for that replace more specific solutions: fulltext search, geospatial queries, etc.

Rust Medium (via Scribe)

Using Rust at a startup: a cautionary tale

Matt Welsh:

I hesitated writing this post, because I don’t want to start, or get into, a holy war over programming languages. (Just to get the flame bait out of the way, Visual Basic is the best language ever!) But I’ve had a number of people ask me about my experience with Rust and whether they should pick up Rust for their projects. So, I’d like to share some of the pros and cons that I see of using Rust in a startup setting, where moving fast and scaling teams is really important.

The learning curve and hiring difficulties seem to be the major culprits, in Matt’s experience.

The Changelog The Changelog #514

Beyond Heroku to Muse

This week we’re back for part 2 with Adam Wiggins — going beyond Heroku and the story of Muse (listen to part 1). After a six-year adrenaline high on Heroku, Adam needed time to recover and refill the creative well. So, he moved to Berlin, did some gig work with companies…dabbled in investing and advising. But he wasn’t satisfied. Adam likes to build things.

Ultimately, he was just waiting for the right time to reconnect with James Lindenbaum and Orion Henry — the same fellas he created Heroku with. Eventually they founded Ink & Switch, an independent research lab which led to innovations that made Muse possible. Muse is a tool for deep work and thinking on iPad and Mac. Today’s show is all about that journey and the details in-between.

The Changelog The Changelog #513

The story of Heroku

This week on The Changelog we’re joined by Adam Wiggins, co-founder and former CTO of Heroku, for an exclusive trip down Heroku memory lane. Adam and Jerod are both tremendous fans of Heroku and believe (to this day) they represent the apex in developer experience for delivering code to production.

We talk through the beginnings of Heroku, the v1 most people have forgotten about, the era of web hosting back in 2008-2010, the serendipity of Silicon Vally in those days, pitching to Y Combinator, the makings of git push heroku, the Heroku style and name, the sale of Heroku to Salesforce, potential regrets — and we tee up part 2 coming next week with Adam going beyond Heroku and the story of Muse.

Kevin Lin kevinslin.com

Startup founders: your only real job is finding product market fit

Dendron founder, Kevin Lin:

PMF is not just your only job but it is the job that only you, the startup founder, can do. Your investors can help introduce you to relevant people, successful founders can tell you how they found PMF, but ultimately, you are the only person that can determine PMF for your company.

And don’t forget to talk your users along the way!

Jean Yang akitasoftware.com

Why aren't there more programming languages startups?

Jean Yang:

There’s clearly a lot of programmer pain. But why we don’t see more tech transfer of these “deep” technologies from research into industry is something I have been thinking about since I was in college, when I decided I wanted to spend my life making programmers’ lives better. Many other fields, from robotics to databases, have clearer paths to commercialization. But when it comes to new programming languages or software analyses, the path of tech transfer is often decades-long, if it exists at all.

She goes on to describe a few factors that are in the way of “deep tech” dev tools investing, how some of those things are changing, and how others still need to change.

Paul Graham paulgraham.com

What I've learned from users

Here’s Paul Graham with some wise advice he’s learned from YC’s users — this also tees up a large conversation on this Friday’s episode of The Changelog (talk to your users).

I recently told applicants to Y Combinator that the best advice I could give for getting in, per word, was. Explain what you’ve learned from users.

Here’s why that makes sense.

That tests a lot of things: whether you’re paying attention to users, how well you understand them, and even how much they need what you’re making.

But giving this advice made Paul consider what he has learned from YC’s users (the startups they’ve funded). This one is almost cliché at this point, but still quite true.

Focus is doubly important for early stage startups, because not only do they have a hundred different problems, they don’t have anyone to work on them except the founders. If the founders focus on things that don’t matter, there’s no one focusing on the things that do.

Startups devonzuegel.com

What startups can learn from pirates about compensation

Devon Zuegel draws a comparison that I would’ve never thought of:

Pirate crews developed a surprisingly similar approach to compensation in the 17th century. Just like many startups, they also balanced equity incentives with other mechanisms that would be familiar to a startup employee today, such as bonuses.

These surprising similarities offer an interesting frame through which we can reflect on why startup equity and bonuses are structured the way they are. We can learn a lot about the theory of compensation in modern companies by looking at how pirates designed incentives to organize and motivate their work.

Maybe it’s time to stop hiring “frontend wizards” and start looking for “frontend pirates” instead, matey.

Startups bip.so

How Segment found product-market fit

A very cool case study of Segment’s long journey to creating a product that people would actually pay money to use.

By now they burnt $500K and were left with only $100K. They wanted to tryout something for one last time with the $100K. One of their Co-Founders suggested that they try to productise their open source library. Peter, the Co-Founder & CEO didn’t like that idea at all. This open-source library had only 580 lines of code, compared to the other 2 products which had 100x more lines of code and a very grand vision on how to define an industry.

Side note: what is this bip.so thing that’s hosting the content?!

The Changelog The Changelog #503

Building Reflect at sea

This week we’re talking with Alex MacCaw — he’s well known for his work as founder and CEO of Clearbit. In May of 2021, Alex shared a personal update with the world on his blog. After much reflection, he decided to step down as CEO of Clearbit to go back to his roots. In his words, “I love the early stages of company building. Hacking together code, setting up the Stripe account, getting the first customer. That’s my jam.”

We talk with Alex about this portion of his journey at Clearbit, the Catamaran he bought in South Africa and then sailed across the Atlantic Ocean, and the new thing he’s building called Reflect that let’s you keep track of your notes, books, and meetings.

Startups blog.southparkcommons.com

Move fast or die

Most of our audience knows that we operate on the mantra “Slow and steady wins,” and yet there’s lessons to be learned by reading a post adjudicating the need to “Move fast or die.” Let me explain…

There’s a key phrase that sets this post and its lessons apart from us here at Changelog Media — it’s “Here’s how we did it at Facebook.” Clearly, we are not Facebook, so we should not operate on advice that’s focused on Facebook. However, we can learn something.

Of the the five lessons shared, each can be appreciated, but one in particular stands out.

We embraced asking for forgiveness, never for permission.

This, to me, is synonymous with “Hire people smarter than you,” because it assumes everyone can bring something to the table that former wisdom might not. It gives permission to try something new and see if something beautiful comes as a result. That’s a good thing.

Startups blog.heroku.com

Heroku's "next chapter" doesn't include free plans

It is a very good thing for Salesforce to be more focused on Heroku’s future, but the glaring detail shared by Bob Wise today is the era of free on Heroku is over.

Here’s what they announced:

  • They launched an interactive product roadmap on GitHub
  • They are focusing on mission critical and will discontinue free product plans and delete inactive accounts
  • They are starting a program to support students and nonprofits
  • They will continue to contribute to open source projects, notably Cloud Native Buildpacks and offering Heroku credits to select open source projects through Salesforce’s Open Source Program Office (OSPO)

The Changelog The Changelog #502

Fireside chat with Jack Dorsey ♻️

This week we’re re-broadcasting a very special episode of Founders Talk. Adam was invited by our friends at Square to host a fireside chat with Jack Dorsey as the featured finale of their annual developer conference called Square Unboxed. Jack is one of the most prolific CEOs out there. He’s a hacker turned CEO, often working at the very edge of what’s to come. He’s focused on what the future has to offer and an innovator at scale. He’s also a Bitcoin maximalist and has positioned himself and Block long on Bitcoin.

Greg Kogan gkogan.co

Being swamped is normal and not impressive

Greg Kogan:

I used to think being swamped was a good sign. I’m doing stuff! I’m making progress! I’m important! I have an excuse to make others wait! Then I realized being swamped just means I’m stuck in the default state, like a ball that settled to a stop in the deepest part of an empty pool, the spot where rainwater has collected into a puddle.

Good analogy. Better sentiment. Reminds me of Woody Zuill’s thoughtson productivity vs effectiveness.

The Changelog The Changelog #498

From WeWork to upskilling at Wilco

This week we’re joined by On Freund, former VP of Engineering at WeWork and now co-founder & CEO of Wilco. WeWork you may have heard of, but Wilco maybe not (yet).

We get into the details behind the tech and scaling of WeWork, comparisons of the fictional series on Apple TV+ called WeCrashed and how much of that is true. Then we move on to Wilco which is what has On’s full attention right now. Wilco has the potential to be the next big thing for developers to acquire new skills. Wilco aims to be the ultimate simulator to gain new skills on a real-life tech stack. If you want to skip ahead, you can request access at trywilco.com/changelog — they are moving our listeners to the top of the waiting list.

Founders Talk Founders Talk #93

Building the best mountain bikes in the world

This week Adam is taking the show off the beaten path to speak with Adam Miller, the founder and CEO of Revel Bikes. Yes that’s right, this episode features a founder of a bike brand, not a tech brand.

Adam Miller’s journey to create Revel Bikes is paved with many ups and many downs, a failed partnership, super scrappy weeks and months traveling the world to find the best manufacturing partners, the latest innovations in suspension tech and modern geometry to hit the mountain biking scene, a strong team that’s been with him every step of the way (many of which are as close as family), and truly some of the best premium bikes available on the market today.

BTW, Adam (host) is an owner of a Revel bike — he has a T1000 colorway Rascal that he’s ridden on downhill trails, all-day epics, and everything in-between. If you enjoy this episode, please us know in the comments.

Startups scrapingfish.com

How much money do Indie Hackers products make?

Only 5% of Indie Hackers products make $100k/year…

A sobering statistic, but with a caveat: this only accounts for the 937 products that have their revenue verified by Stripe. The 5% is low, but that’s for a high bar of $100k/year. It gets worse:

A prevalent thinking is that making money as an indie developer is hard and most of the products end up with no revenue at all. Products on Indie Hackers seem to confirm this as more than 54% of the products are not making any revenue at all.

The post also breaks down the best performing product categories. ‘Wearables’ looks like a good one.

(We love the Indie Hackers community and know how hard it is to make it on your own. This post is not intended to denigrate anyone, just provide information.)

Founders Talk Founders Talk #92

Enabling a world where all software is reliable

This week Adam is joined by Robert Ross founder and CEO of FireHydrant — the glue layer between your tech stack and your teams to mitigate and resolve incidents at scale.

Robert shares his journey to become a software engineer, his time at DigitalOcean, this idea of incident management as a platform and how he shifted his focus from creating courses on incident management to recognizing the value of the software he was creating for the course — what is now known as FireHydrant. We also talk through his first experience in raising capital, what happens when the bar is raised on the reliability of the world’s software, and why their mantra is “Hire great people, who build, sell and market a great product, and you’ll have a great company.”

The Changelog The Changelog #495

Actual(ly) opening up

Adam and Jerod are joined once again by James Long. He was on the podcast five years ago discussing the surprise success of Prettier, an opinionated code formatter that’s still in use to this day. This time around we’re going deep on Actual, his personal finance system James built as a business for over 4 years before recently opening it up and making it 100% free.

Has James given up on the business? Or will this move Actual(ly) breathe new life into a piece of software that’s used and beloved by many? Tune in to find out.

Startups herman.bearblog.dev

The problem is that your users hate MVPs

Building products is a difficult and time-consuming effort. Figuring out what the problems, finding a potential solution to that problem, and then building that solution all take a decent chunk of time and effort. It’s due to this process that the minimum viable product was born. The motivation for building an MVP is still valid. Build something small and easy to test, launch quickly, and pivot or trash it if it doesn’t perform as desired.

There is another, less selfish way.

I read an article by Jason Cohen a few years ago which changed the way I think about product development. Instead of building MVPs, we should be building SLCs. Something Simple, Loveable, and Complete.

I like the thinking behind SLCs. So simple, so loveable, so…

Hat tip to Henry Snopek for linking this up in the #gotimefm channel of Gophers Slack! When it comes to thinking about your projects, Henry says:

I like to use MVP for fast projects, and SLC for “effective” projects…

Yeah, I like that framing too. So simple, so loveable, so…

Founders Talk Founders Talk #91

Fireside chat with Jack Dorsey

Adam was invited by our friends at Square to interview Jack Dorsey as part of their annual developer conference called Square Unboxed. Jack Dorsey is one of the most prolific CEOs out there — he’s a hacker turned CEO and is often working at the very edge of what’s to come (at scale). Jack is focused on what the future has to offer, he’s considered an innovator by many. He’s also a Bitcoin maximalist and has positioned himself and Block long on Bitcoin.

What you’re about to hear is the fireside chat Adam had with Jack at Square Unboxed 2022. Jack and Adam discuss the vision Square has for the developer platform and why it’s so central to the company’s strategy.

The Changelog The Changelog #491

Stacked diffs for fast-moving code review

This week we’re peeking into the future again — this time we’re looking at the future of modern code review and workflows around pull requests. Jerod and Adam were joined by two of the co-founders of Graphite — Tomas Reimers and Greg Foster.

Graphite is an open-source CLI and code review dashboard built for engineers who want to write and review smaller pull requests, stay unblocked, and ship faster. We cover all the details – how they got started, how this product emerged from another idea they were working on, the state of adoption, why stacking changes is the way of the future, how it’s just Git under the hood, and what they’re doing with the $20M in funding they just got from a16z.

Startups kenkantzer.com

Learnings from 5 years of tech startup code audits

Ken Kantzer was part of ~20 code audits of companies that had just raised their A or B rounds of funding:

It was fascinating work – we dove deep on a great cross-section of stacks and architectures, across a wide variety of domains. We found all sorts of security issues, ranging from catastrophic to just plain interesting. And we also had a chance to chat with senior engineering leadership and CTOs more generally about the engineering and product challenges they were facing as they were just starting to scale.

In this post he shares some of the more surprising things he’s learned from the experience. There’s a lot to digest in this post, but I’ll highlight my favorite to whet your whistle:

Simple Outperformed Smart. As a self-admitted elitist, it pains me to say this, but it’s true: the startups we audited that are now doing the best usually had an almost brazenly ‘Keep It Simple’ approach to engineering. Cleverness for cleverness sake was abhorred. On the flip side, the companies where we were like ”woah, these folks are smart as hell” for the most part kind of faded.

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