Thanks for taking the time to read this blog. Everything I share here is 100% my thoughts and beliefs. It's based on my experiences, so feel free to disagree or drop your thoughts in the comments. Enjoy the read! :)
This blog recounts my experiences working at an early-stage startup. I've been a Software Engineer at Nintee for over 3 months now, and in this blog, I share my insights and reflections on this period. I hope it helps you decide whether working in a startup is something you'd consider and provides a glimpse into the workings of early-stage startups.
I worked as a software engineer at Geekyants from Oct 2021. It was where I began my corporate journey, shipping my first line of code. Working at GeekyAnts was a fantastic experience with amazing community support, providing opportunities to learn something new almost every single day. Things were going well. In the second quarter of 2023, I started feeling the need to shift my focus to building products alongside writing code. I wanted to experience how the product cycle works and how decisions are made.
I believed startups were a great way to learn about this, so I decided to make the switch and join a startup where I could take full responsibility for building something meaningful in a product that adds value to people's lives.
2023 was a tough time, with news of layoffs circulating online. I kept job hunting but wasn't actively looking for a switch since the market was unpredictable. One day, while randomly scrolling through Twitter, I saw a tweet mentioning, "If anyone is hiring for React Native roles, please comment below." I noticed Paras Chopra's reply with a Google Doc link, filled out the form, and within a week, I got a call from the company. The interview process lasted for three weeks.
I know some of you may be interested in the interview process. Let's discuss it on some other day. I promise I will share it soon. :)
I cracked the interview and got a job offer. I was a little confused in this unpredictable market, wondering if I should even consider working in startups. I talked with my friends; the offer was good, but I had no idea about the company and the founder.
These are some points that I considered before joining Nintee.
Founder: As a core member of a team, you always bet on the founder, even if you believe in the idea as much as a founder does. The founder decides where we should head, and as a contributor in the initial days, the founder does the same to you. Since you are going to contribute heavily in the initial days, I realized Paras (Founder of Nintee) is an amazing human being. He often shares his wisdom on Twitter, and he has already built a bootstrap company, Wingify.
Funding: This is a subjective topic. If you are joining a startup that does have funding and has at least 1-2 years of runway, then that's a really good place to start working. On the other hand, initially, when they don't have funding and whether they want to build a bootstrap startup or are looking for funding, it's important to consider how they are going to survive until they reach the point of a little push up. After knowing the wonderful history of Paras, I did not consider funding as an important factor, but Nintee recently raised a seed funding round by Sequoia Capital.
Team: This is the most important factor, and you should take this seriously. As your team is going to be small, you are going to work very closely. Hence, it becomes important to feel comfortable around them, to not hesitate to share your opinion, and to be honest with the team. As a core member of the team, your contribution will shape the product somehow, whether you are honest with the team or not.
I simply asked one question to Paras, "So are we going to build an MVP, right?" He said no. He said we already have an MVP in a Discord server. I was a little shocked here. I was like, how is it possible to validate an idea without building a prototype of an app or web app. I was wrong. It turned out he did a pretty good job in the Discord server, and people were/still are using the Discord server. Soon, I realized this is the place I was looking for to work. I joined the company in the first week of September 2023.
I got the role of Senior Software Engineer, and my primary goal is to build a mobile application for Nintee. I am not going to talk about what Nintee is; I think our homepage probably justifies that. One thing I'm excited about working here is that if this works, we can make an impact on a huge number of people out there, helping them live a better life. This would be a moment of feeling proud and it keeps me motivated to work.
We are a very small team at Nintee. In the engineering department, we have a total of 6 people, including CTO Abhinav Saxena, who is my manager. We work remotely, and since the team is small, we work very closely with each other. The brainstorming sessions are quite helpful to learn and build as a team. Fortunately, I have a manager who is really talented, and he has amazing work experience like building the messaging app Hike from scratch. Remember Hike? A messaging app that was popular in genZ back in 2016. He keeps sharing his work experience with us, which keeps us inspired to work.
Since the team is small, the feedback loop is fast. We have 1:1 sessions twice a month, in which we share feedback and talk about personal and company growth. I feel very fortunate to work with someone like Abhinav.
Technically, it was sorted. We are having a good time building an app. We face obstacles often, but we always come up with solutions. As I said earlier, it's been more than 3 months, and our shipping cycle keeps iterating. One thumb rule of a startup is that feedback shapes products. In order to keep iterating on that feedback, we started shipping faster. We aimed to make two production releases every week. One will have a major features update, and the second one contains bug fixes.
Here's the catch: we don't always make 2 releases a week, but most of the time we did two releases. We started inviting external users and onboarded them via video call. Users are kind enough to give us honest brutal feedback. Their support helps the product a lot to shape the product in the initial stage. I felt astounding knowing that there are people out there who want to try something new and are ready to give feedback.
When you don't know whether the idea is going to be a product-market fit, you have to do lots of experiments. The faster this iteration loop, the closer you come to the idea of a product-market fit. Most decisions, whether related to engineering or product, are done very quickly.
In 3 months, we moved things quickly – introducing a UI library, shipping new features, bug fixing, and inviting external users to use our app. Sometimes I refuse to believe we made this much progress so far. There is a time where you may need to redo things, and that's a really common thing.
I personally consider not falling in love with my work unless it's useful to others.
As I said earlier, I work remotely. This means I have total control of my time. This is a myth that startups don't have work-life balance unless you don't know what you are doing in your job. I too agree that sometimes we need to pull up our socks and start working hard, but that's not the case often. This is a thrilling time when most startups are about to ship something exciting they've been working really hard on.
If you are a really good developer and you know what you are doing, then building features won't take much time. It's more about understanding what you are building, finding edge cases.
You have to take full responsibility for that feature. You have the control to make decisions in your domain. There's a new term in the market, "Product Engineer," and most of the time you have to act like a Product Engineer.
On the other hand, I never worked in an office. Although we did 10 days of co-working together, and that was also a good time. We found ourselves productive. I am not against working in an office, but since I have spent most of my time working remotely, I feel that it's more productive.
It worked for me, but it may not work for you. So feel free to disagree.
That's the summary of pretty much how my life took turns in 2023. I feel very proud of the decisions that I took in my past. If I did not open Twitter, my life would have been completely different that I can't even imagine.
There is a famous quote, "You are an average of five people you hang out with." I feel very fortunate that I am working with folks who are extraordinarily talented, whose wisdom shapes me somehow. These things only happen when you work at startups.
I will finish this blog with one quote by me:
"Working in a startup is like gambling, either you fly so high or you fall down really fast, but you shouldn't forget you can retry anytime."
Thank you for reading this blog. You can share your thoughts in the comment sections. I will see you with another blog.