Bootstrap your startup – Part 1 (The “First Day”)
During the earliest stages of a business, a “startup” business, do you ever wonder what would it take from you, as the initial technological authority in the the company.
It’s always exciting to be a part of something new, especially when you start from scratch. It is an amazing feeling.
You are responsible for the care of a new baby – your company. You are the first who will pave the path for the journey. You set the DNA, the processes and procedures and the culture. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be easy. It comes with a price, responsibility. The company now relies on you and it’s destiny depends on you. You need to understand that every step you choose along the way could lead the company in a different direction.
I had the opportunity to be the ‘First One’. I learned from my mistakes and successes. The bad news is that every time you start over it doesn’t get easier. The good news is, it’s exciting and challenging as this process begins again.
So let’s try to imagine your first day: you wake up in the morning, step into the office, warehouse or wherever your “base” is, and need to give birth to our product and turn it into something real. You make yourself a cup of coffee (if you are lucky to have some) sit in front of your laptop and… Now what??
So many things to do, so many plans, ideas, directions. Where to start? Infra? Product- spec? Teams? Servers? To cloud or not to cloud? CI/CD now or later? Services? Microservices? Recruiters? Where? Linkedin? Private? Maybe Outsource? Now? Later? Which teams? Local team? Offshore team? How to structure? Documents Now? Later? Office? To rent now? Later? VPN? Technology? AWS? Google cloud? which Gear? .@#$#@@@@#@^&&$$
First – Relax! Will you?
I will create series of posts, starting with this one, which will provide information and guidance on how to deal with your upcoming “baby” and will share my experience on navigating different aspects of Technology, Infrastructure, Architecture, and Management.
You must keep this phrase in mind:
Eat or be Eaten!
Prepare, prepare, prepare. Stepping into the office on your first day without doing any preparations you have already started it all wrong. So you won’t get paid for the period before your contract signature or perhaps your contract date hasn’t even started – but hey.. You chose a startup. This is your business and you will probably get some equities. Start to think this way or leave now – because Wake up and smell the coffee, startups are not for you. You need to have the willingness to give a lot. That’s the game.
So what do you need to start preparing?
First day preparation points:
1. Business requirements
First, make sure that you understand the product. You don’t really have any product during this stage but, you do have some business clues about where the company is heading. (I’m skipping all the company idea and seed steps as it’s out of this post’s scope).
Make sure you understand the business requirements that you need to fill. If it’s a new industry you aren’t familiar with, take some time to learn it. Search the web for related content and ask your stakeholders for meetings to make sure you understand the environment.
Understand the product integration points. Know if the product is SaaS or PaaS. Perhaps you need to expose API and/or require an integration with future customers. All those factors will influence your timeline and your MVP definitions(upcoming section).
Without MVP definitions you are a dead man, seriously. MVP spec is the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s the set of definitions which you will need to meet for the short-term. I assume you set your development budget. Usually after seed (not first round) you are expected to fill up some MVP requirements before going to recruit another round of budgeting. Pay attention so that everybody agrees on the spec and make sure expectations are set. You must keep it flexible and define the baseline spec.
Focus, focus, focus! It’s very easy to get lost with scope. If you haven’t set baseline you (or your product) didn’t finalize the targets yet. Iterate on that process till it’s polished. It’s your responsibility to demand a nice and shiny MVP draft to work on.
3. Team structure planning
Plan your team structure to fill up your MVP. If you went through my earlier points, at this stage you have good insights about your product and it’s business requirements.
Now you have a clue on how to structure your team. If your product is web application based you need a web development guy or perhaps a full-stacker for the UI and backend. If your product concentrates on backend logic, start recruiting a backend guy and later add devops.
Pick an easy programming language. Don’t be too clever or the coolest guy on this stage. You need to move and move fast. Start with the language that you feel comfortable using. Keep the design flex, it will be easy to change or add new languages in time (who said microservices architecture?:))
Team structure examples:
Backend project: You + backend + Devops/IT(only towards productions)
Web application project: You + Frontend/Fullstracker
Start with a small crew and recruit based on your needs and the company progress.
*Sometimes it’s worth it to outsource some parts of your team at the very beginning. It really depends on your MVP requirements. It’s different from one project to another (outsourcing – when? who? – is out of the scope for this post)
4. Everybody codes
Make sure everyone in the office that needs to code is coding. Including yourself. Each part of the current company must code or contribute to the dev team. Assign tasks to everyone (Programming, Testing, Documentation, etc..). Otherwise, it’s a waste of resources.
Now that we have things ready you can wake up, drink your coffee, and be ready to start your first day!
In future posts I’ll talk about preparing development infrastructure, keeping an eye on your dev budget, defining the development process to move faster and giving you a few tips on recruiting your next employees.