Thursday, November 15, 2007

The key to starting up

I write these monthly letters to my team. I call them PM Notes. In these letters, I outline the state of affairs in the various sub-teams of the product, progress, and finally concerns/issues that I see us facing the near future. Invariably, engineering is the least of my concerns. Why is that?
I believe I have never seen the kind of engineering talent that Google has amassed within its confines. I have a Bachelors and Masters in engineering myself, and am no pushover where it concerns software or hardware. However, the kind of issues that would take a week or more to deal with, is solved within a few hours out here. Truly the prime reason for Google's success is the quality of its engineering. Larry and Sergei were hard core technologists too. Though it is true that they had to build an ecosystem of business savvy people around them to get to where they are now.
Where am I going with this?
My point is that the key to starting up is engineering talent. If you want to start a company, find a great technologists and then wrap them up with business acumen. I have spent the last two months helping a friend kickstart her company, and the biggest challenge we face is to help her find a great engineer. I can figure out the financing, help her write a business model, fine-tune target segments, do what it takes for her business to have a shot at success, but if I cannot code, she can't even get started.
A good engineer can take a company from A to D, a good savvy entrepreneur with business acumen can take it from D to Z. But without the first few steps, everything is useless.
It is actually quite ironic. When I was an engineer, I used to look at people with business sense with awe. Now that I am on the other side of the fence, I look back at my engineering days with a lot more respect and awe.
So, if you are first time entrepreneur struggling to get off the ground, the first person you should be actively looking around for should be a fantastic engineer. That will ensure that you get from A to D. Don't bother about ideas, ideas come when smart people get together. Find that engineer.