How Engineering Mistakes Can Kill Your Startup
Hands down, engineering is the most critical component of a tech startup. Without making the right technical choices, startups won’t be able to deliver value to their clients and will hardly get the funding they’re looking for. Engineering mistakes can sink the whole company unless you know how to avoid them in the first place. Let’s take a look at how lousy engineering can kill your startup.
Building a startup is much like walking in a minefield. But we want you to be armed with information to survive on the market. Here’s what you should keep away from as a tech startup.
70% of failed startups have premature scaling to blame. Why? It usually comes to premature scaling when entrepreneurs have too optimistic views on the startup’s future. They immediately start building a product for a large scale based on their own belief, not on the actual product’s performance. This is when a startup starts behaving like a big, established company.
With premature scaling, you risk spending too much of your funding on the unnecessary work. Also, scaling makes early-stage startups less agile. Once you’ve decided to build a product for a large scale, it’s almost impossible to change the company’s strategy, which means you’ve got yourself in a trap without an emergency exit in case things go wrong.
For an early-stage startup, it’s vital to be as lean as possible. In other words, you should be careful with your resources. And you really don’t want to spend your efforts, time and money on something that’s not worthy. Premature scaling means handling problems that don’t even exist yet. At the early stages, your main goal is to deliver a simple product. Clearly, scaling should be your startup’s last concern when it comes to building an MVP or a POC.
Another fatal engineering mistake for a startup is adopting the latest technology. True, there’s nothing wrong with using up-to-date technologies. The mistake startups make is chasing the hype over what’s really needed for the product. A new technology is always attractive for both entrepreneurs and software engineers since they want to show how relevant and modern their product is. And you can’t blame them: they really want the startup to stand out on the market and be better in any way possible.
Too bad, though, that using hype technologies has its pitfalls. First of all, a new technology may still be not tested thoroughly, which means that you put your startup at high risk if you decide to use it. New hype frameworks often don’t have enough libraries and that makes working with them feel like sailing uncharted waters.
The truth is, your engineers will probably spend most of their time trying to figure out how things work instead of creating a reliable and valuable product. On top of that, hiring becomes complicated if you need experts in a hype technology. And don’t forget that technologies change quickly. Imagine how exhausting it would be to rewrite the solution every so often just to be able to call your startup leading-edge. So, please, choose the tools that suit your startup best. It’s always better to be pragmatic and go with something more reliable.
Startup engineering does differ from software engineering in an established technology company. It requires having a specific mindset that allows an engineer to be lean and agile, and a common mistake early-stage startups make is hiring people who are not suitable for working in a startup.
Assembling the wrong engineering team from the very start will cost you a lot because the fate of the product largely depends on those who build it. So, if you want your startup to be successful, pay attention to the people you hire. For instance, engineers that are used to working for big companies may find an MVP creation unusual and complicated.
You have technical debt when you compromise between the short-term benefit of rapid delivery and long-term value. Technical debt (TD) is like shortcuts you take while building a product. But you have to keep in mind that they come at a price, and you will have to address those issues later.
The truth is, you can’t launch a product quickly without having any TD at all. And it’s okay for a startup to have one. What’s really dangerous for a company is increasing technical debt. Sure, an early-stage startup will probably get away with all the shortcuts it took for the sake of quick product shipment. But as the company gets bigger and the product gets more complex, it’s time to pay your debt. An increasing TD will slow down release cycles, make the code hard to maintain and the introduction of new features impossible. If you don’t manage the technical debt you left behind at the early stages of product development, your startup will sink.
While engineering is vital for a startup, it also may bring pitfalls that can cost you a lot. An early-stage startup can be trapped in premature scaling. Choosing a hype technology can make it difficult for you to build the product. Also, a lot can go wrong if you hire non-startup engineers to work in your startup. And don’t forget that increasing technical debt can slowly kill your company.
Luckily, the solutions are simple. Build a product for a large scale only when you have enough resources for that. Choose a well-tested reliable technology over the hyped one. Hire people who have relevant skills for your project. And always pay your debts on time.