Earlier this week, someone asked how was my first couple weeks at Appature. I had to stop and think for a second… you mean it hasn’t even been three weeks on the job yet? Wow.
But yes, it has in fact been three weeks since I first left the comfort of my big law firm job at Cooley and joined a scrappy software startup Appature. Given that I’ve been at this a few weeks now, have already traveled to the bay area, New Jersey and Philly, have interviewed more than a dozen potential new hires, have been asked questions I’d never thought about, have expanded the job description more than I anticipated, and have started preparing for pitches to new potential customers, I figured I can safely make a few initial observations. Here’s a few initial thoughts:
- Developers are magical. So I knew our Appature Nexus product was cool and the customers and prospects I’ve spoken to really love it. But I’ve gotten the chance to see our team build the new release up close — I’m amazed to see what can be done with really smart people and a focus on what customers ask for. Truth is, these guys and gals are magical… it’s like they are making unicorns or something!
- Startups are agile – really agile. I’ve been amazed at how quickly our team is able to identify a challenge, discuss options, and move on the best action. I enjoyed working with lawyers, but getting the firm to start using Twitter was a long process that involved a committee and a memo. It’s great to see a problem and fix it — immediately.
- Sales drives the engine. While the development team makes something amazing, it still takes someone to go out person to person and sell it. And that process involves building a consensus with multiple stakeholders. You can try and build a product that “sells itself” but you still need someone to pick up a bag and get that product in front of the people that will buy. And that involves airplane flights, drop-of-the-hat meetings, and a passion for the product. It’s much harder than I ever realized.
- Not everyone is cut out for a startup. As I’ve interviewed people, most everyone loves the allure of building the next Microsoft, Oracle or Google. It’s exciting to think about… but taking that from abstract concept to reality isn’t something for everyone. For example, in one interview, I was asked a question about the career path and mentorship program. Yeah, your career path is “we’ll figure it out” and our mentorship program is “hey, I’m working here too.”
- I work more; not less. As a lawyer, I worked a lot and was certainly okay with that. My clients were busy and there was always stuff to do. Now, I work more and think about our challenges and opportunities all the time. I used to be able to put each client in a box and when I wasn’t working on their question or transaction, I didn’t think much about them. When the only client is your company, you think about it a lot… which is great.
- It’s about people. Going from a 1,500 person law firm to a 20 person company may seem incredibly different. However, the truth of the matter is that in both cases it’s about people. The only real difference is we now have to be even more careful that there are appropriate personality and cultural fits. We just don’t have the leeway to make mistakes.
Three weeks in and I’m enjoying the hell out of it. Yes, there are challenges, but at a startup company those just seem like opportunities.
Who knows what week four will bring…