It’s been a year and a half since I started Rubikloud with Dan and Frank. As we gear up for probably the biggest push in our company’s history (product, customers, team), I wanted to share a few important lessons I have learned as a start-up CEO:
1) Spend 30% of your time focused on hiring. I don’t shy away from the fact that we have built one hell of a team at Rubikloud. We have the smartest machine learning and real time distributed system engineers in the world. General managers for professional sports teams spend most of their time recruiting. Why should the competitive world of tech be any different?
2) Debate your co-founders. Some of the best decisions we’ve made in the business have come from long heated debates between myself, Frank and Dan. Partnering with “yes founders” can be disastrous. You need opposing views and a natural amount of friction. I focus on the vision, customers, and the industry. Dan turns that into a product roadmap and Frank makes sure we can actually build it. Naturally this creates some 10pm debates.
3) Recognize when engineers are in the zone. This one is obvious, but took me a while to figure it out. When I walk into the engineering bullpen and I see them frantically writing on a whiteboard and debating something, I quietly and quickly leave. It doesn’t matter why I originally walked in. We could have just landed a huge client- it can wait. When they’re on a roll- leave them alone.
4) Spend money where it counts. We sleep on couches during business trips and take the red-eye whenever we can. We bought our furniture used and built it on a weekend. We haven’t spent money buying stupid contact lists so I can cold-call customers. Finally, we haven’t spent money on PR or sponsored conferences to get speaking engagements (the jury is still out on whether that was a good decision). We have spent money to lock down our infrastructure and build on the fastest stack possible. We do pay all of our employees an above market salary and provide health and dental. We take care of lunch and offer a monthly “Data Junkie Award.” We visit all of our early customers in person whenever we can. Customers, product, and team are the most important areas of our business. That’s where our money will go.
5) Set realistic deadlines Nothing is worse than missing a deadline. Setting realistic deadlines for customer delivery and engineering sprint tasks is better for everyone in the long run. It’s so easy to try and be a hero in front of a customer and say “we’ll work 48 hours straight to get this to you by Monday.” That might be fine in some industries, but I’d rather deliver the request in 96 hours and have it work and not affect your e-commerce site.