Musings of a Former Start-Up Founder
17 June, 2021
A couple of things led me to start my own company. One was a desire to have a greater impact in the world. People, I think, use experience as a proxy, especially when it comes to the ability to manage. I don’t think that this is necessarily true.
When my co-founder and I first began to plan, we started to think about larger-scope types of problems to solve. The bulk of my own time was spent mentally preparing myself. Could I really start a company? Would I be able to afford it?
Once we started the company, we had to hire a couple of people. I had never hired anybody in my life before that. I realized that I would actively be able to set the culture of the company through hiring.
I wished to imbue my new company with integrity, being as fair and inclusive as possible. Once hired, I asked anybody with feedback to write it down so that it could be discussed without bias. I think that one of the challenges in working for a small start-up is that opportunities for mentorship are not as frequent. You’re going on this journey of defining how everything will work in the company — sales, marketing, fundraising, and everything else. You interact with all of these stakeholders and vendors, not really knowing if you’re doing things correctly at first.
On the other side, you also have to start being the people manager. You hire your first engineer and start delegating them their work. You have to be okay with letting them fail sometimes. They will learn the lessons to be learned. You cannot spend all of your energy micromanaging. There was a process of aggressively letting go of a lot of things.
You will eventually gain a sense of what is working and what is not working within your company as a founder. You have to be very true to yourself and your co-founders in order to navigate any problems that you encounter. Celebrating the triumphs is fine, but being too overly-optimistic may lead you to trouble. You have to always be thinking about your next source of revenue or fundraising. If you lose your focus on this, you will have no way of providing value to your customer.
A lot of people may choose to never start a company because they fear failure. When success impacts not only your paycheck, but the paychecks of everybody who you have hired, a newfound sense of responsibility sets in. It is painful at first. Once you can cut through the noise as an entrepreneur, you will not be taken off-guard by the set-backs along the way.
- You have to be working with people who you trust. Disagreements will happen, but, as people, we were all very realistic. That level of trust allowed us to have very open conversations and feedback sessions.
- Never lose sight of your family and other important support systems. It will have an adverse impact on your mental state.
- Always be thinking harder about how you want to be spending your time.
Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader
Vadim Antonov, Engineering Manager at Meta, details his process of implementing an organized execution system for his cross-functional team.
Engineering Manager at Facebook
William Bajzek, Director of Engineering at Sapphire Digital, remembers the first time that he needed to make the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of the well-being of his team.
Director of Engineering at Sapphire Digital
James Engelbert, Head of Product at BT, shares his deep understanding of the traits of a successful product manager and how to get aligned with the organization’s path to success.
Head of Product at BT
James Engelbert, Head of Product at BT, shares how managing up is all about being an excellent manager to bring the best out of a team.
Head of Product at BT
Rajesh Agarwal, VP & Head of Engineering at Syncro, shares how effectively he collaborated with a newly-joined team as a diverse candidate.
VP and Head of Engineering at Syncro
You're a great engineer.
Become a great engineering leader.
Plato (platohq.com) is the world's biggest mentorship platform for engineering managers & product managers. We've curated a community of mentors who are the tech industry's best engineering & product leaders from companies like Facebook, Lyft, Slack, Airbnb, Gusto, and more.