Blog posts for founders (and early employees)

published 2021-10-31 [ home ]

Over the years, I have accumulated links to blog posts I intend to re-read every time find myself in a position to influence the early stage of a company.

I thought it might be helpful to someone if I published part of that list here. I will avoid links which are too technical and focus on links that can be interest non-technical founders as well.

Note that I haven't included books. There are many good books for founders, but if you must read only one make it The Four Steps to the Epiphany.

If this isn't enough for you, you're always welcome to explore my Pinboard account.

My own posts

Let's get started by mentioning posts from this blog which transcribe the opinions of two influential people, which I share (on those topics).

Titles are Toxic

Michael Lopp (Rands) on issues with giving people titles. Personally I have never liked titles, which can be a source of conflicts and bad decisions. I have also often held titles that didn't really correspond to the job I did - which was almost always multi-faceted. Yet, titles are a proxy used by people who don't know you to understand what you do at work.

Like Rands I don't have a good solution to that. I write some blog posts explaining what I do in more details that a title ever could, for people who care.

In any case I always suggest avoiding giving some titles to people too early, including to founders: having a "technical co-founder" instead of a CTO will make things easier if you grow fast and need to hire someone later on.

Creating a Software Company? 9 Decisions You Have to Make

A list of questions to ask yourself when founding a software company, by Michael Marsiglia, CEO of Atomic Object. It can also be a good idea to ask them before joining one.

The 40% rule

A simple but powerful rule of thumb for SaaS companies by Brad Feld, relayed by Fred Wilson:

annual revenue growth rate + operating margin should equal 40%

Why it’s nice to compete against a large, profitable company

Jason Cohen explains how a startup can disrupt a large competitor by making a part of their business unprofitable and forcing them to abandon it. It's not as simple as this summary makes it sound, and it's not the Innovator's Dilemma. Read the article :)

Product design at GitHub

Kyle Neath on how, in the early days of GitHub, everyone was a "product designer". Many successful SaaS products started with the same concept:

We only hire smart people we trust to make our product better. We don’t have managers dictating what to work on. We don’t require executive signoff to ship features. Executives, system administrators, developers, and designers concieve, ship, and remove features alike.

Actually, I think I have never seen a company ship good product fast without doing some version of this.

Joel Spolsky's Strategy Letters

If you don't know that series of blog posts, you are missing something. They are super insightful essays by a multi-successful founder about building companies.

(There is at least a sixth strategy letter, but it is less interesting IMO.)

Ev William's 10 rules for Web Startups

This post used to be on Ev William's blog which went offline some time ago, thankfully I mirror articles that interest me that much.

Your company's most valuable resource

Just a tweet, but an important one, by William Pietri:

Your company's most valuable resource is people giving a shit. Ask yourself: does your system encourage or discourage that?

Wants, needs, and chasm-crossing

A recent post by Avery Pennarun, Tailscale CEO. It shows how the best strategy to acquire customers is often to solve a single Want - something their current solution doesn't provide - and then to resolve all their Needs (blockers) so they can actually flock to your product instead of attempting to implement any more Wants.

Financial modeling for startups

A slide deck by Rodrigo Sepulveda with a simple and effective approach to business models and PnLs for startups.

Startup Therapy: Ten questions to ask yourself every month

Jason Cohen (again) shares his alternative to business plans: a list of 10 questions to help you figure out where you are and where to go next.

The Small Teams Manifesto

Jason Gorman says small teams win because:

Innovating with purposeful anger

One of the very interesting tools using anger as a driver to innovate is the “You Got Fired!” game.

Get a bunch of managers in a business unit and role-play that their whole team is fired. Indicate also that as a cockup from legal their non-compete clause isn’t applicable.

Then, give them an hour to build a competitor startup that will take revenge on their company on a “That’ll teach them!” mode.

How To Decide What To Build

Daniel Gross (a founder I have been following since his first YC startup, Greplin) on ways to decide what company to build on a personal level. I wish he had published that before my last attempt.

Qu’est-ce qu’un projet entrepreneurial viable?

A blog post in French by Philippe Silberzahn. A viable project stems from an individual acting on an idea and convincing people.