What are the best lessons you have learned from working at companies like Google and Twitter? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
I think that for anyone who starts a company, you basically end up copying a lot of the methods and philosophies of your previous employers. Incredibly lucky for me, Google (where I was from 2005-2009) and Twitter (where I was from 2009-2012) taught me some of the key things that I argue made Envoy even have a slight chance of surviving: fighting to hire only the smartest people you can find, transparency in communication, and building products that focus on the end user.
That 10X engineer truly does exist, I've seen it an incredible amount of times. These are people who are super detail oriented, who dig into root causes of everything, who think holistically about everything rather than just their little piece in the company. They're the ones that refuse to accept being just a cog in the proverbial machine. It's these unbounded thinkers that'll transform the company. Give them whatever they want.
You suck at communication. Well technically, I suck at communication, but so does everyone else. Fast growing startups grow faster than one's ability to learn, especially learning to communicate well. Transparency in the early days is a way to control for that, where you basically talk about everything to everyone as a way to control for needing to decide what's relevant and what's not. But as a company grows, and people don't have context, giving everyone the context is very hard because you might not know what information you've already told them, where they came from, their preferences, etc. It's no longer a one-size-fits-all and people can be downright offended if they hear something and don't have the background. This is especially relevant for the more junior folks who haven't been at another company before and have only heard horror stories from friends and TV shows about the evil corporate overlords out to screw everyone. Surprise: it's definitely not evil people, it's just people who are bad at communication, and who are forgetting to cover certain things. But hey, who doesn't love a great conspiracy theory? :)
The third main learning is around focusing on the user. Not the buyer, but the end-user. Envoy grew because people saw our product at people's offices, liked it (mostly), remembered it, and brought it to their own companies. It's that viral motion which has gotten us to where we are today. We didn't have a real sales team until maybe 2-3 years ago, marketing only started a few months ago. It's critical to build products focused on the experience because that's the thing that gets people to bring it with them and recommend it to others. Your enterprise SAML integration or SOC2 compliance or "advanced integration" will get cloned overnight by competitors -- clones usually don't understand experience. The iPod was a clone of the MP3 player, but with experience tacked on. Guess what people remember now?
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