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Your Startup is Slow - Let's fix it

Ok, so I got your attention because you have some doubts regarding the velocity of your startup. "Are we fast enough?". Trust me, I've wrestled with this very question, and it occasionally still keeps me up at night. However, recent breakthroughs have significantly shifted our trajectory. We've transitioned from cruising at a steady pace to blasting off like a rocket on a mission to Mars, and I'm eager to share how we achieved this transformation.

Why should we even care?

Every seasoned founder and savvy investor will emphasize one thing: the essence of rapid iteration. This principle is the cornerstone of discovering product-market fit, scaling your product, and steering your company toward success. The reality is perfection is a myth; mistakes are inevitable. Quickly identifying whether your efforts lead to a dead end is the key. The more experiments you conduct, the more insights you gather, enhancing your ability to achieve your objectives and pinpoint strategies that resonate with your vision.

Minimizing decision-making costs

Reducing the cost associated with decision-making is challenging yet crucial for enhancing your startup's speed. The greater the cost and stakes of a decision, the more time and resources are spent pursuing the "correct" choice. This often leads to prolonged deliberations over what action to take, driven by the fear of error. Such a cautious approach trickles down the company, creating a culture more focused on cautious decision-making than agility. Ironically, the "correct" path is unclear in many situations, leading to significant time investment only to discover mistakes. This creates a self-perpetuating cycle of slow movement under the guise of meticulous decision-making. Sound familiar? It's time to break free from this cycle by believing you can move quickly and adjust your mindset. The tendency towards costly decisions is a significant barrier to progress.

Firstly, let's challenge the notion of "strategic decisions." Labeling decisions as strategic often triggers an overly cautious mindset, leading to ignored data and a biased attachment to certain ideas, which can cloud judgment. True strategic decisions are far less common than we think.

Secondly, for new ideas, the focus should be on determining the absolute minimum required to test them. Embrace extreme measures like "fake door" experiments, where you might add a button that leads to a waiting list to gauge interest without full development. When a fake door isn't suitable, aim for an MVP — but keep it genuinely minimal. Avoid the temptation to add more than necessary. Initial data from these efforts can guide whether to expand upon or abandon the idea.

Though challenging, prioritizing the reduction of decision costs is fundamental to maintaining momentum.

Focus on building tools

"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime" perfectly encapsulates the power of equipping your teams with the right tools. Providing tools to various business units—product, marketing, or sales—proves far more effective than crafting bespoke solutions for one-off scenarios. With the understanding that a significant portion of new initiatives might not succeed, the ability to rapidly iterate becomes invaluable. What could be more efficient than building a system that allows endless experimentation?

It's a muscle you need to train, but it's definitely worth it. This approach extends beyond just feature development to include data analysis. Empowering business units with the tools to conduct their own analyses makes the path from concept to validation significantly quicker. The fewer people in the loop, the faster an idea can be validated. Aiming for a model where the business operates with a high degree of autonomy, supported by a robust infrastructure of tools and systems.

From my experience, enabling product managers to independently initiate and manage experiments, including selecting key performance metrics, has been transformative. Engineers can focus on creating highly adaptable features with configurable aspects such as copy, graphics, and CTA. Meanwhile, analysts ensure all the business metrics are up to date and available for product use in the experiment dashboard.

Another recent example is that we've enabled marketing teams to launch popup campaigns targeted at specific user segments, complete with customizable parameters like titles, hero images, and calls to action, as opposed to continuously asking engineers to build very specific popups for specific use cases. Similarly, in managing our feed, we've created a flexible environment where parameters can be adjusted on the fly without an engineer, fostering a culture of experimentation and rapid iteration.

Leveraging low-code solutions for these back-office systems has been a game-changer, allowing us to iterate swiftly without getting bogged down by the intricacies of best practices, testing, and other potential delays. Retool has been a favorite tool of mine, though the choice of platform should align with what best suits your team's needs.

However, it's essential to approach this strategy judiciously. While empowering, it's not universally applicable to every aspect of your operations. Use it thoughtfully, recognizing where it can be most effectively applied.

Align everyone on the same goal

Context is much more important than skills. When individuals have context, they can make the right decision, take initiative, know where to cut corners, and perform much better.

As founders and leaders, our goal is to give our team as much context as possible. Precisely, what's the goal you're trying to achieve and why? Making everyone bullish on the goal has a massive impact on actually achieving this goal.

Take the time to explain why you are doing these initiatives, how they contribute to the greater goal, and the hypothesis around it. Let them challenge these assumptions and bring them closer to the decision-making. Turn your culture into a business impact-driven culture that celebrates moving the needle.

It will take time and effort to align everyone. You will also feel you are overcommunicating, but it's part of the game.

Autonomous decision making

If you achieved everything above, this one should be fairly easy. You want to create an environment that encourages individuals to make day-to-day decisions without waiting for anyone else. For example, an engineer finds a new edge case and now has to ask the product manager how to proceed. This seems like a tiny thing, but it accumulates into several days of delay. In contrast, the engineer could have decided on their own. When everyone is aligned on the goal, making the right decision is much easier. And over time, individuals will improve their decision-making, creating a much healthier and more scalable organization. In the worst case, if decisions are cheap, it's easy to revert. Members should feel safe to make these decisions, and you should be very careful with "punishing" them for making the wrong decision. At first, they will make lots of mistakes, but it will reduce over time. Autonomous decision-making of tactical decisions is vital to move fast.


It is time for some remarks; everything above is based on my experience as a B2C founder of a remote company. Take it with a grain of salt, tweak it, and personalize it to your needs. Improving the velocity is a time well spent, so make sure to work on that. That's the only way forward.

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