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Startup Principles


How to Interview an Engineer for your Startup

There has been some concerns about putting our hiring process “out in the open” while we’re still interviewing for our Lead Engineer position, don’t fret — we’ve got plenty more fun case studies like these! If you are looking for your next adventure and want to join an awesome team, shoot me an email:

Also, there is a great discussion thread going on over at Reddit.

Over the past week, I’ve been interviewing for the Lead Engineer position here at ToutApp. I’ve never been a fan of interviewing. No matter how elaborate the process, we all know it often comes down to that team..

3 Lessons I Learned From Hiring in 2011

I did quite a bit of hiring (resulting in both successes and failures) through 2011. As I’m gearing up for continuing to build our core team here at Tout, I thought it would be prudent to write down some lessons learned based on the things that worked well this year and the things that didn’t.

This is not meant to be a huge world-changing post by any means, just three simple things that I know I want to be more mindful about in the coming year. No big deal.

#1 – Growing the team does not necessarily mean you can do more things

Every time I brought someone on this year, I made them..


Experienced Hires at Startups: Don’t Forget The Prime Directive


Bringing in an experienced hire into an immature organization (such as a startup) is a seriously delicate endeavor. I saw this first hand at my previous job when a company that traditionally hired smart kids from Ivy League schools started to hire seriously seasoned professionals to get us closer to “excellence.” Ignoring or perhaps conveniently forgetting what I had learned during that time, I did the same as I started to hire in Tout. I wanted to bring in someone seriously experienced in Sales so that we can build out our systems and processes and you know… sell more of Tout.

While a..


Customer Service at Startups

One of the things I’ve been thinking about lately as I build Tout as a business is how we deal with Customer Service. It’s the natural progression of things, you first figure out how to build a product that people give a damn about, then you get them to actually use it, and then you come to the realization that a) people aren’t perfect and b) software isn’t perfect. Enter: Customer service, and the pursuit of “Great customer service.”

“Great Customer Service” is not a real goal

After nearly a year of growing Tout, I went from doing all our customer service via email — to getting a..


The Suboptimal Outcome

Every day, an event occurs in your business that falls short of expectations. Whether it was a missed deadline, a failed deal, a frustrated customer or even a small tiny bug in your latest release to production. As human beings, we are pre-programmed to look past these seemingly small suboptimal outcomes and forge ahead — we’re accustomed to keep doing, we’re creatures of habit, and unless something huge happens to stop us on our tracks, we’re by and large going to continue to do what we do and keep ignoring these suboptimal outcomes.

Why Suboptimal Outcomes can Kill your Business

I learned..


Is it time to reorganize your startup’s ToDo list?

As a single-founder, developer, designer and general biz-dev guy, my Basecamp To-Do list has been invaluable in tracking all the moving parts of an aspiring new startup. But today, I had to stop and take the time to completely reorganize how I group my tasks in Basecamp. Here’s the story of why.

How I originally used Basecamp ToDos

I keep a project for each product, and over the past year and change, my To-Do lists have served me really well. I always kept multiple ToDos based on the general area of focus (e.g. marketing, a major feature, a general theme). Here’s a snapshot of what my..


3 ways to show screenshots of your product

As I’ve been working through and applying my 9 Principles behind an Effective Landing Page, I’ve been experimenting with different ways to “show” what Braintrust and Tout does. So far, I’ve found about 3 ways to effectively show people what your app does, and 1 that I’m absolutely in love with.

There is the “show the app in all its glory, and point to stuff and explain what is going on without getting in the way”

Then, there is the “show the app in all its glory, but don’t count on people moving their eyes back and forth AND reading so put it the explanations on top of the app” way



How to efficiently follow up with new customers using Tout

Since both Tout and Braintrust are in their infant stages, I like to get in touch and personally talk to most new customers who sign up for one of the services.

I wanted to share with you my process for doing this, since it has been working out reasonably well for me.

  • I set up a template in Tout called “New Customer Signups.” Here is what it looks like:

Subject: Greetings from Braintrust

First of all, thank you for signing up for Braintrust. It is a new service and we’re really excited about it.

I wanted to reach out to you personally to see how everything is going with your new team..


The most fundamental principle for startup success

It bothers me how there is so much dogma going around on how to effectively build your startup. The latest was Paul Graham’s essay on how you should only work on organic problems.

Although I love his essays, this particular one inspired me to think about the principles around picking the right problem to solve, because I don’t think its simply about “my problem” vs. “others.”

While thinking through this in a principled way, I think I came across what I believe is the most fundamental principle for any business (including startups). The principle is: Focus on problems you can understand.