On Fractal Quality and Startups
Some recent interesting blog posts have talked about the fractal nature of quality: quality items (software, restaurants, whatever) will exhibit the self-same high-quality at every level. A great restaurant will not only have great decoration and great food, but a well-serviced coat-check and high quality napkins. No detail is left to chance.
Companies like Apple epitomise this concept, designing even the parts of their products that people rarely see, such as the underside of laptops.
Startup software companies need to exhibit this to compete with larger competition, yet by their very nature it’s incredibly difficult. A startup usually has to employ only those people they can get away with employing given their limited cash; this usually amounts to a few software developers. So how are they supposed to also know about great user experience, interface design and customer service?
This is why I’d suggest that startups always try to find a Generalist among the first 3 or 4 employees. It’s too easy for startup founders to fall into the trap of employing people-who-look-like-them: a developer entrepreneur will look for more developers. A generalist who knows how to develop may not be as quick as a specialist, 100% developer, but the additional value they bring can help to round-out the shape of the company and approach problems and solutions from a new angle.