Austen Allred Profile picture
Jun 13 11 tweets 3 min read
As startups grow there is extremely strong pull into what I call the death spiral of bullshit.

More people -> more teams -> more buy-in required -> more meetings -> being persuasive rewarded more than building -> builders leave -> nothing gets done
This force is VERY strong.

The mistake many founders (myself included) make is assuming the death spiral is an unavoidable part of working in a bigger company.

I’m growing convinced that the single most important cultural aspect of a company is if/how they avoid this spiral.
I began noticing this pattern when I read that Amazon had an explicit goal to have *less communication* - the intent was to have the code speak for itself.

I believe this was one of the reasons @JeffBezos pushed so hard to for everything to be microservices + APIs.
Facebook built a culture of “move fast and break things” - an explicit attempt to reward building things - even the wrong things.

Apple was perhaps simpler. Jobs was the dictator and de facto head of product. If you weren’t shipping what he liked you were fired.
Musk got in trouble for dismissing spreadsheets, meetings, and anything else tangentially related to the death spiral (despite the fact that Tesla utilizes all of the above).

Netflix only hires very senior people and fires a lot of them.
Examples go on and on.

There are perhaps many different angles or cultures, each with different tradeoffs.

But the thing that is true at most great companies is they found a way, or many ways, to retain focus on product, and to keep the death spiral of bullshit to a minimum.
It’s actually natural for most founders to despise the death spiral, but they can get tricked into thinking it’s an unavoidable part of growing up.

It’s not.

Or, at a minimum, the goal should be to have as little of it as possible, not to embrace it.

Things I’ve seen work:
* Teams as small as possible
* Extremely high talent bars
* Explicit decision-maker + disagree and commit
* Permission assumed in all things
* High tolerance for the (good) failure
* High tolerance for (good/non-infra) technical debt
* Zero tolerance for not being in details
I suspect there are many more flavors I'm unaware of.

But probably the most important part is to know:

1. The pull of the bullshit death spiral is EXTREMELY strong
2. Do everything in your power to fight it
Reaction from someone at Facebook (will remain anonymous):

“You used to famously be able to have an idea and ship it in the same day. You would get fired if you did that today.” Image
I asked what happened at Facebook:

Hypothesis: Regulatory scrutiny became so intense policy team are the bottleneck and run the show now, eng and product have to ask for permission to do anything.

Tricky one to solve. ImageImage

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More from @Austen

Jun 11
I don’t understand this about iOS:

Why is the default action when I tap a phone number only call or cancel?

99% of the time I want to copy the number or send a message. Image
(Or add to contacts)
I literally just took a screenshot and used the text recognition in photos because it was the only way to access the number.
Read 4 tweets
Jun 7
Me: “Hey buddy are you doing OK?”

Six year old: “Yeah, I’ll figure it out.”

Me: “Well what’s on your mind? Maybe I can help.”

Six year old: “…Well, Mercury is the closest planet to the sun, but Venus is hotter.”

Me “…”

Six year old: “It doesn’t make any sense!”
Rest of the conversation, paraphrased:

Me: “It says here Venus has a thicker atmosphere of carbon dioxide, so it’s like it’s covered in a warm air blanket, keeping the heat in.”

Six year old: “OK that makes sense.

But how did we learn that if we can’t go there?”

“…”
There should be a name for the phase of life where your kids go deep on random topics then realize you don’t know very much after all
Read 4 tweets
May 7
Photo of Tesla’s moat
Why other electric carmakers aren’t absolutely beside themselves scrambling to build a fast charging network I’ll never know
Charged to 86% in 15 mins.

The efficiency of the chargers is getting wild too.

I now probably spend less time charging each month now than I used to spend at gas stations, because 95% of the time you charge at home.
Read 4 tweets
Apr 23
This app is absolutely out of control ImageImage
The wealthiest person on the planet at the head of companies with 100k employees, and the guy still fires off tweets like he’s an anon account with 150 followers.

It’s a modern miracle that no one has been able to stop him.
h/t @TechEmails for this one Image
Read 4 tweets
Apr 16
Many reasons:

* For-profit education with pure skills/not moral focus = evil

* High stakes: Even 99% changed lives means 1% HATE us (not yet at 99%)

* Seen as only shot at better life for some amplifies the above

* Didn’t dispel undeserved praise, so get undeserved criticism
* A reporter who thinks I’m evil (see above) said we lied about our data. He’s not evil, just wrong

* If we succeed broadly it devalues things that give people immense status & self-worth. This should be higher up

* I’m don’t apologize if I don’t think I’m wrong
Read 5 tweets
Apr 11
Couldn’t decide what my favorite part of this was.

At first I thought it was the unnecessary “contingent on a background check” just to make you wonder.

But I think at the end of the day you just can’t beat the foreshadowing of, “there will be distractions ahead. but…”
Feel bad for Parag. Works his way up through the engineering ranks to be handed the opportunity of a lifetime when activist investors kill the founder/CEO.

Only to find himself between the super-rich guy trying to change the company and an employee base that kind of hates him.
Read 4 tweets

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