Urbian's founder and managing partner, Anton writes a weekly short piece which he posts on our company Notion board called 10,000ft view musings. It's a way for all of us to peak into his ideas, insights and views on everything from world affairs, to work and people, to Urbian as a company and the work we do here everyday.
The following is an un-edited collection of the best of these musings, we're hoping to be able to post more of these in the not too distant future.
Small Teams Win
Small teams have always been and continue to be the way to really get things done.
Small tightly nit units of highly skilled people are an order of magnitude more productive, efficient, and produce better quality work than floors of larger dev teams. This could probably be applied to not just development but to UX design and data science as well but becomes most obvious in a development environment.
So there are many examples of companies that have built amazing world class products and businesses using small teams as their secret sauce.
Obviously WhatsApp is the most famous example of this (before they got bought by Facebook). Basecamp is also a good example and so we could go on.
Interestingly enough there are a few recent startups that are going after pieces of Google’s business and again are claiming that small high performing teams with a strong culture are the reason for their traction this far:
The guys at Superhuman are re-inventing email with a team of no more than 10 engineers across iOS, Android and browser based apps.
The team at Notion, going after Google Docs, etc. are also known for their small tight nit team of quirky friends with a great culture. I think everyone would love to be part of of a small team of awesomeness producing amazing work. I know I get super energised by small amazing teams iterating on products. So how does this happen?
- You need to be working on some awesome stuff because most of the time awesome projects attract awesome people.
- Then once you’ve got the above you need to find a way to put those awesome people in a team of complimentary skills where the sum of the parts are greater than the individual.
Sounds easy enough. 😉
What a word. It’s one of those fragile things that if you break is hard to fix. If you have it you can move mountains.
When it comes to trust there are a few things that come to mind immediately:
Do what you say Simple. If you say you’re going to send an email update. Make sure you send that email. If you say you’re going to get back to someone, get back to them.
If you can’t be trusted to do small things how can you be trusted to handle big problems or situations where the future of companies are at stake?
Be worthy of trust.
Trust is given, not earned. Many swing this statement the other way round. “You have to earn my trust”. For me the thing with this approach is that this will take a very long time, how long does someone have to show that they’re trustworthy in your eyes? I say be generous and give trust to people in various measures. So in a working environment when you’ve just started working with someone give them your trust. Then allow them to prove that trust to you in their actions in small ways. Did they send that email, did they finish that task. When they don’t, call them out on it.
Under promise, over deliver. So in order to be someone that is worthy of trust it’s probably not a good idea to be a ‘yes’ person.
Because at some stage you’re going to over commit and will be left with the following options:
- Work yourself unnecessarily hard trying to deliver on all your promises and burn out.
- Not deliver on your promises and begin to build the unfortunate reputation as someone who can’t be trusted.
Awesome, so let’s trust each other from the start and be early to talk to each other when that trust has been broken so we can help each other break bad habits.
Founder > Idea
Something I’ve always known, but actually really only learnt from experience this year is that the quality of the founder of an idea is 90% more important than the quality of the idea itself.
At Urbian we’ve gotten into many ventures through the years and will continue to moving forward. As I write this, we are currently negotiating 2 ventures as we speak and are in discussions about another one.
So this really does apply to us. There is nothing more disheartening than spending precious time and money building a product and even more time getting it to market only to realize the entrepreneur you’ve partnered with is not capable of making a success of the business.
What’s dangerous is falling in love with the business idea and the problem it’s solving more than the ability of the founder to realise its potential.
I actually think that the right founder could start with one idea and pivot it as many times as needed to reach success.
So, the trick to venturing for us is to not fall in love with an idea first, but to rather find ways to evaluate the quality of the entrepreneur first, and only then to assess the idea.
Some potential ways of evaluating a founder:
- Look for tenacity: If they’ve started something else before, what adversity did they go through and how did they overcome it?
- Look for customer-centricity: Are they more in love with the pain they are wanting to solve than their idea of how to solve it. How in touch with their customers are they?
- What do they do, no-one else does: They need to know something that about their industry, market and opportunity that they feel gives them an advantage. Essentially, what secret have they seen that they believe no-one else is seeing which is why they are going after this?
The Trainagle Rule
I thought I would share an old and well used illustration I use in various contexts when talking about getting anything done, not just software.
I use this when talking to clients about a new project, to team members and even to remind myself when needed.
This rule is as fundamental as gravity. You can only ever pick two options:
If you want something done fast you need to choose between: 💰 Having to pay more to have it delivered with quality. — OR — 💩 Not paying more and accepting a low quality.
If you want something done with quality you need to choose between: 💰 Having to pay more to have it delivered fast. — OR — 🐌 Not paying more and accepting it being done slower.
If you want something done cheaply you need to choose between: 🐌 Having the quality done at a slower pace. — OR — 💩 Accepting a bad quality delivery done fast.