How To Thrive, Not Just Survive, Without a Startup VP of Engineering

Startup CEOs face a very tricky transition period when their software engineering teams are between 10 and 30 people. If you are lucky, your early technical lead can make the transition to managing a growing team and communicating effectively with execs and board members, but that doesn’t always align with people’s interests or capabilities. In… Continue reading

How we externalize product progress to the company, and defuse politics along the way

It’s depressing how many companies accuse their product and engineering teams of being a black box. The accusations aren’t always fair, but they usually stem from two root problems: 1. not enough collaboration, and 2. not enough externalization. Here’s how we are tackling those two things at our company. Collaboration: We run a bi-weeky “qualitative… Continue reading

Rebuilding Trust in a Product Organization

When I first joined Axial, the product and engineering side of things was pretty broken, and there was a serious absence of trust. The team didn’t trust leadership, and leadership didn’t trust the team. The rest of the business — actually, even worse, customers — didn’t trust product/engineering. The culprits may sound familiar to some of you: Features took… Continue reading

VCs get all the headlines, but there are more financing options out there than you think

Last week I had breakfast with a founder-CEO who had been through the wringer. After spending years building a successful services business, she got squeezed out and screwed by an unscrupulous business partner. Not one to stay down, she picked herself up and started a new firm, only to be diagnosed with cancer. But she… Continue reading

Defining our product & engineering team values at Axial

The product and engineering team at Axial has undergone a lot of change in the last year or so. We survived a major (and fraught) re-architecture effort, we rebuilt the core recommendation/matching engine at the heart of the product, we’ve gone from shipping code every few months to shipping almost everyday, we’ve upped our qualitative… Continue reading

Control Your Narrative

A former colleague of mine, Anil Podduturi, used to exhort everyone that worked for him to “control your narrative.” My interpretation of his saying is that we all need to get pro-active about how we are perceived. The hard truth is that people make judgements. They will make judgements about you as an individual or… Continue reading

Getting Tactical: Iteration Planning Meetings

There are many good ways to run an agile process, but an astounding number of teams do it badly. In particular, they do meetings badly. There are really only three reasons to have a group meeting: you want to collect inputs from a group of people in a collaborative way you want to create shared… Continue reading

10 Rules for Startup Leaders

I’ve got a new group of managers reporting to me today, and it made me think explicitly through what I value and expect: lead by example push decisions down whenever possible be inside the team circle, not outside of it face the hard decisions, and don’t dither doing so lift the team with positive energy,… Continue reading

Waiting for Perfection

When you spend enough time in pre-product-market-fit startups, you pick up certain rules. Some don’t stand up to new context or wisdom, but here are two related rules that have survived intact for me: 90% right is good enough Solve the problems coming up, but not the problems down the road You can usually get… Continue reading