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Stephan Schmidt
Stephan Schmidt

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Better work alone

Better work alone.

When I look into startups as a coach, every one of them thinks more is better. Every time I was working as the single developer and product manager in a startup, I was the most productive. I could make decisions in my head in the morning about a feature, write it, deploy it in the early afternoon, see how it does and tune it in the evening. The next day a new feature. When I worked as a CTO in larger companies with several development teams, all of this would take days. And things that took me days to develop would take weeks. With teams and layers, there is communication, async waiting, misunderstandings and a significant amount of time is spent on alignment and consensus-building. Alone I feel I can do the amount of three developers.

Better work alone. No alignment, no discussions.

More and more startups are founded by single developers who stay single and do not grow the organization. One person SaaS companies are a thing.

There are some benefits to working in a group. You can scale better to become gigantic. As the sole developer, you are most productive but you can't scale to become Facebook. You get unblocked faster with problems as a group. As a single developer, I often get stuck on problems for longer than a group would be stuck. I have company and social exchange at the coffee machine - though with everyone working remotely at home, social exchange is way down. The major downside of working alone is it is exhausting making all the product and development decisions on your own. Every decision takes some energy. The outlook that you need to solve all this on your own can be exhausting. Having a sparring partner where you can bounce ideas as a single developer makes your life much easier.

The rapid progress of web technologies is not reflected in how we build companies. We build them the same way as twenty years ago, but we've learned so much in building applications. With too many developers on a team, this results in constant rewrites and complex architectures and stacks to spend the surplus time.

Better work alone.

Reap those productivity benefits. Use an app platform like Digital Ocean or Google to automatically deploy and scale your application. Use a managed database with managed failover, upgrades, scaling on a click, and backups. Use a static website generator and a static hosting platform that automatically pulls from Github. Use a potent CSS framework. Buy instead of build. Use ready-to-use single sign-on and auth solutions instead of building your own.

Embrace radical simplicity. Use only one database, only one programming language, do not use an API but server rendering with Hotwire. Use less, know less, less boilerplate, less code to write, less code to upgrade and maintain.

Better work alone.

Stephan is a CTO coach. He has been a coder since the early 80s, has founded several startups and worked in small and large companies as CTO. After he sold his latest startup he took up CTO coaching. He can be found on LinkedIn.

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