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Your Execution Year.odp
Your Execution Year.pdf
Your Execution Year.pptx


Your Execution Year

Pro tips on life after your B round from your 30th employee.

Given at Startup Festival 2012, Montreal Quebec.


  • Your Execution Year
    • This is you
    • You're at the very base of what promises to be hockey stick growth
    • You've upgraded from ramen to rice-a-roni
    • No longer living hand to mouth after closing your Series A-B
    • You have dozens of employees
    • You have hundreds of customers
    • Post-Revenue
    • Pre-Profit
    • Time To Cowboy Up
    • Everyone talks about begging for change.
    • Everyone talks about the successful exit.
    • No one talks about what is in between - everyone wants to be the cowboy; no one wants to clean the stall.
    • And that is your execution year.
  • Bio
    • Who am I? I'm your 30th employee
    • Name and Position
    • Background
      • Network and Software Engineering
      • First soft job, always technically oriented
      • Technical teams between 10-50
      • Usually in the thirties and forties
    • Six Execution Years
      • Wins - BZ to ADP and SugarCRM
      • Losses - Perpetual Entertainment and ZVUE
      • Jury Still Out - Boxee and Twilio
  • Agenda - Five Keys To Crushing Your Execution Year
    • Hire Like Hell
    • Sell At Scale
    • Stay Hungry
    • Fail Fast, Often and Small
    • Obsess over the Customer
  • Description
    • What It Is
      • Growing, not building
      • Product / market fit should already be snug
      • The strategy is proven at small scale
      • Now executing on it is the paramount objective
    • What It Isn't
      • Pivot o' clock
      • Product identity is finished
      • You more or less have the tools you need to succeed
  • Hire Like Hell
    • The inflection point
      • Your team now eclipses you in terms of impact
      • Leadership and vision are critical more than ever, but you can no longer accomplish your goals on force of will alone
    • Scaling is different than building
      • Team needs to look different
      • Specialists need to come in
      • Experience becomes a premium
    • Pro Tips
      • Attack recruiting with the same priority as engineering
        • Staff it appropriately
        • Optimize for the interview process
        • Place it at paramount importance
        • The only thing more expensive than hiring a good developer is hiring a bad developer
      • Make your culture the best product you ship
        • Product-level investment
        • Work hard, play hard
        • Training - the 101 model
        • Everyone gets the product experience
      • Small teams with big responsibilities
        • Technical people love to ship
        • Product / feature level responsibility owned end-to-end
        • Give them full ownership - large QA teams == worse software
        • No matter what the methodology, they are shipping new code every two weeks
      • Distance is lethal
        • Spectre's Law - the number of bugs you ship is directly proportional to the distance in feet between your engineering and QA / Support organizations.
        • Embed QA onto engineering teams
        • Features determine which customers you get; bugs determine which customers you keep.
        • The shortest distance between two points is zero.
        • Especially if you subscribe to the lean startup school, you've racked up a load of technical debt that needs to get paid down.
        • What kills you this year is not the mistakes you make, it's the mistakes you make twice.
  • Sell at Scale
    • The part no one writes about
      • Wow - that Steve Jobs sure had a great conversion rate
      • Justin Timberlake comp plan for Facebook's advertising team sure was shrewd
      • Least appreciation in our line of work
    • Optmization here has the biggest effect on your bottom line
      • Cheapest win - executing well here is inexpensive in time and dollars compared to product, engineering,
      • Shortest distance between a KPI percentage point and revenue growth
    • Pro tips
      • Comp plans == most important lever
        • Simple, predictable, and responsibly generous
        • Works in good times and bad, and scalable for your business
        • Consistency is rewarded over blowout quarters
        • Get an experience hand to do this early - do not change it mid-quarter
      • One head of sales
        • Inside, outside and channel all report to the same person
        • That person is not the CEO
        • Most competitive group in your company - they should never be incented to compete against each other
      • Marketing is heavily ratio dependent
        • 2:1 engineering to marketing headcount
        • 60:40 program spend to people
        • 50:50 analytical and soft skills
        • Your PR has a shelf life - squeeze every drop you can out of this year
  • Stay Hungry
    • It is easier to spend the next ten million than the first
    • Pro tips
      • Easy money savers
        • Save the miles - fly coach
        • Plug the leaks quarterly
        • Renegotiate unapologetically
      • Go Cloud-Powered
        • Seems a bit self-serving, but it's true
        • Find every opportunity to pay-as-you-go
        • Capex is the enemy
        • Every dollar in hardware is three in maintenance - Total Cost of Ownership is your new mantra
      • Spend smartly on speed
        • Developer time has succeeded the American dollar as the most precious resource a startup can have
        • Always invest in speeding up your engineering team - and I don't mean Aeron chairs. Tools, gear, and great hardware.
        • Don't be gimmicky about comp
        • Pony rides metaphor
  • Fail Fast, Often and Small
    • Learn from the cloud
      • One important architectural technique for distributed systems is the fast timeout
      • If contacting an external resource, your code should fail reasonably quickly and handle that failure gracefully
    • Same goes for your business
      • Limit scope and resources on new initiatives
      • Instrument everything with a feedback mechanism of some kind
      • Dispassionately ditch anything that doesn't drive huge growth - average performance is the enemy
    • Pro tips
      • Continuous Integration
        • Important thing here to remember is that this is a journey, not a destination. You are never done making your release process better.
        • Release small changes as often as possible
        • Keep the main development branch (aka master or trunk) in a releasable state
        • Easier on the web than on mobile devices
      • Beware the product re-arch / redesign
        • How many do you remember went well last year?
        • How many didn't?
        • Some guy who looks a lot like me is going to walk up to you, talk all about the benefits of a new programming language, datastore or other fundamental technology and say it'll take "about 3 months."
        • Everyone maligns PHP, but look at Facebook, Tumblr and Pinterest
        • Programming language is one of the least important factors to scaling your architecture - focus on scaling your business
  • Obsess over the Customer
  • Conclusions
    • Your execution year is the next stage in your startup and like all things in this no-sleep circus, you have to adjust.
    • Five keys to help get through.
    • Buy your 30th employee a beer. He/she probably has a few insights your startup could use.