It's taken me a long time to come to the single biggest realisation that will help me in my startup journey.
For a long time I've put all my effort into defining the product and trying to build it in my spare time. I would take on the responsibility of design, development, managing servers and marketing. Needless to say, this has been holding me back as it ends up in a long drawn out piece of work that I would eventually lose passion for. You see, for the majority of my career I've been someone who finds it easiest to try and do everything myself. This is a bigger problem than I first realised, and it must be fixed.
After watching a video by Elon Musk, he described how the challenges with Tesla aren't now about building a great car (they've done that), but rather it's is about scaling the way they build the car.
Build the machine that builds the machine
This hit me. Hard. It is the missing piece to a puzzle I've been struggling with for months. Let me explain.
I have two problems. The first is my day job. I lead a team which has grown organically over the past 10+ years. I am pushing to unleash the power of that team and 10x the work we do. But I can't do it. The team is not ready. There is no structure, culture or workflow that will make this happen. It's a tangled mess of unclear visions, undefined expectations and no clear structure.
My first steps are to carefully untangle this mess and find the root causes of inefficiencies. Then I must design the correct new workflows, processes and incentives. I'll be covering more about this on this blog.
The second problem is that I'm trying to bootstrap a startup Zaro with my co-founders but very quickly I find I'm getting bogged down in lots of smaller, time consuming tasks such as configuring production servers, setting up blogs and accounts, trying to get the backend and front end to talk to each other after a bit a rewrite of API interfaces, etc.
I now recognise that my co-founders and I need to engineer the right platform to make the design, development, testing, deployment and feedback a continuous, automated process. This will include things like continuous integration and reproducible build environments on developer machines, etc. They are all critical to make a fluid platform to spend more time innovating on the product, than dealing with the consequence of the product.
The bottom line is, I now recognise the true value of looking inwards and building a platform of innovation. Without this platform, the product can't quickly find it's market-value fit, scale or defend off competitors.
Boy does this get me excited.
How do I start? Firstly I am reading books on devops for streamlined automation. I will experiment with my own team of 9 people to get rapid feedback of what works and doesn't. I will also explore other books in the area of change management along with deploying what I've already learned about productivity and motivation.