Every investor, and we are not an exception, is interested in the scalability of business. And because many companies are built on technology, it involves scalability of technology. In conferences, you hear about systems scalability – how to build a website to handle millions of visitors; how to store petabytes of data and search them; how to pass a hundred thousand messages per second thru your Kafka cluster.
These topics are sexy for geeks, me included. And they are necessary from a certain point. But that’s just one dimension of scalability and I dare say the easier one to handle. That’s because it’s already fairly well established field and there is a ton of material and tools to help you. Cloud platforms removed the necessity to build datacenters. Thanks to tools like Kubernetes it’s easier than ever to run auto-scaling apps. Traditional relational databases are able to handle unbelievable workloads these days.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying these things are easy, but it’s easier to tackle than the second dimension of scalability and that is scalability of your tech team.
It’s great that your product was developed by your genius of a co-founder and it’s the most efficient piece of code on the planet. But how about when you actually do get that investment and you’ll need to hire ten more developers to work on it? Suddenly, things other than your search algorithm being 10 milliseconds faster than your competition begin to matter more.
Is your code understandable and readable? How long does it take for a newcomer to deploy their first task to production? Is your system divided into logical modules or microservices, so more people can work on it? Do you have a fully automated build and deploy process? Does the build include a test run? Do you monitor and measure all important business and technical metrics so you can immediately react when deployment goes wrong?
These are the questions we consider when evaluating scalability of technology. It’s not just about those thousands of requests.
I’m always shocked by emails that I call “I have a dream, but I’m not willing to sacrifice anything for it.” They usually come from people over the age of 40, who often have a pretty good idea, but they aren’t willing to give up anything from their living standard.
They mostly don’t need anything to start their dreamed-of project, except courage. Absolutely nothing, or at worst a twenty grand or so to code an app, which is something they should have saved up, considering their age.
Instead of gathering their courage and undertaking a bit of risk, they come to us and say: “I need a ton of money to hire this many people, so I can get rich and live the life I’ve dreamed of. I do not want to live the corporate life anymore! But of course, I need a paycheck, because I have bills to pay…. now I make $300,000 a year, but I’m willing to go down to $250,000!”
These people usually have an amazing presentation, which they mastered in the corporations where they have worked and where they haven’t been happy (as they all say). Basically, they think we’re here to give them the money. And we often feel the contempt when we reject them, because …. isn’t it unfair that others got money from us and they did not?
In the end, despite the negativity, I love even this part of my work. I gain even more respect for those who were able to build something amazing. Who sacrifice what it takes to make it. Who give up their free time and invest massive energy, while taking on all the risks of starting a business. Those are the ones we welcome with open arms.
One of frequent worries of almost all founders is, how to spend marketing bucks. Where are those proven channels and methods, that will get them the customers and revenues? And I always tell them: Do a thorough checkup of what you have now, what works, and scratch those that do not bring measurable results in the first place.
Let’s start with Google Analytics and sort the visitors sources by number of conversions and analyze them, one by one. Are your AdWords campaigns optimized for value for money? What about the blog you are writing, is it really bringing you the converting customers or is it just an ego-play? Do you really need to visit those 10 conferences in a year? What is your value proposition and how it ranks amongst your competitors? Why are your leaflets on the gloss paper – is that necessary for conversions? And do you need printed leaflets at all? Those are hard questions I ask, and quite often we find lots of money that can be invested elsewhere.
Sometimes it is really just the right question, that was not asked by anyone for some time, that makes a lot of difference.
Marketing is a living thing, it cannot be “set up” and left for good. Especially in the online world it is necessary to analyze, optimize and look for new ways almost constantly. At the same time, marketing also has its own rules and someone with wealth of experience can help you avoid death alleys. We at Reflex do it for free, but it is well worth even paying for if you don’t have the resources yourself.