Unlike fantastic beasts, you don't need to know how to find tech problems. As an early-stage startup technical co-founder, you probably already know how: they just come to you. Every single day.
But imagine if we launched a spin-off: tech problems and how to solve them?
Now that's one hell of a magic trick.
Let's present the cast that will unveil the mystery of this movie (and make your backlog go poof by the end of it).
Daniel Undurraga built from scratch the grocery app Cornershop, being its co-founder and CTO. The startup was eventually sold to Uber for over US$ 3B. You know, just one of the most significant successes Latin America has ever seen, no big deal 💅
Yuri's a co-founder and the CTO here at Latitud, while Jared is our principal engineer. These two teamed up not only to build the operating system that supports Latin America's new generation of tech entrepreneurs. They also go way back, as co-founders in a previous company and as long-time tech experts.
Our squad's looking pretty magical. Now, here are some tech problems and how to solve them for you to build your startup from product success since day 0:
Let's start with a problem for every technical co-founder at an early-stage startup: conquering the best tech talent, in a world where competition has never been so fierce.
Daniel says that there are various approaches to hiring. And defining what exactly is "the best tech talent" depends on the approach you choose.
For startups, Daniel favors the approach of hiring entrepreneurs. At Cornershop, the first 100 engineers were hired based on attitude, not experience. The main qualities he looked for in candidates were curiosity and eagerness to learn.
These are people that feel the urge to create. They study and maybe even build side projects in their free time. When you throw them a new thing to learn, they get excited, instead of crossing their arms and saying that's out of their skill set.
"I'm inspired by and like to work with entrepreneurs. I like people who feel ownership of the problems and what they are creating. Anything technical can be taught or learned. But attitude and entrepreneurial spirit, either you have it or you don't," Daniel says. "I'd rather train an entrepreneur to become a great engineer than hire someone who's a great engineer on paper but maybe doesn't have the ownership that's needed."
If you are the technical co-founder of your startup, you're probably living a stressful double life. And we're not talking about the cool, James Bond-ish type of double life.
You have to build both the tech and the product. We're here to tell you that we understand how you're overwhelmed. And we have some good news: your non-technical co-founder can help you, even if it's just reviewing the final screens.
Even Cornershop did that, so why can't your startup follow suit? According to Daniel Undurraga, here's how you can better divide tech tasks at your startup:
Know your co-founders like the back of your hand. Search for complimentary partners, that are better than you at a lot of things.
Daniel had the good luck of having worked with his co-founders previously. With time, they nailed down each other's strong and weak points. The result? You threw them a task, and the three of them already knew who was gonna do it.
At the beginning of Cornershop, the co-founders divided all the work. And that included development. Daniel was more into building code and looking at the product's backend. And even though Oskar Hjertonsson was the CEO, he was also focused on the customer-facing side of the product, looking at its front end.
Combining technical and non-technical, these co-founders built a product that conquered the masses.
Some tech problems can be solved with a simple code review. As a co-founder, these are not the challenges that live rent-free inside your mind. You should be thinking about problems that have multiple answers, and therefore hard to optimize.
Not catching our drift? Here's a practical example.
When you're just starting out and your business needs to connect people, density can a problem. Maybe there are few users in your app, maybe there are few suppliers, and maybe both are scarce.
Cornershop had that problem. Imagine the startup receiving its first orders, but with such a small number of suppliers you could count them on one hand. They needed to make difficult decisions every minute.
A delivery order in the western part of town: do we give it to the courier that's just finishing an order but it's on the other side of the city, or do we wait for the supplier that's in the same zone but still in the middle of an order?
That's a problem with multiple best answers, depending on what you favor. Gas can be a higher concern than time and vice-versa. And that can only be solved with an ever-changing code, says Daniel.
You have a startup. It needs to constantly measure, learn, and improve because that's how you'll find product-market fit someday. Priorities might change when your business has to test new ideas, and your product development should follow suit.
You need to communicate this effectively to your tech team: operations will affect software development because they're the ones filtering customer demand.
"When you're building a system, your goal should be to optimize your systems to delight the customers in the present. Time will tell you where to go and what to optimize in the future." (Daniel Undurraga, Cornershop)