2023 W12: No boring weeks
Every week I post about one thing that happened at Rows. We're building in public!
Instead of focusing on one special thing that happened at Rows, this week I will talk about the speed at which these special things happen, and the effects of that.
TL;DR: There are no normal weeks in a startup.
The best thing I've done is to abandon all hopes of normal, predictable weeks, and embrace the flux:
Aggressively box my work time to enable a healthy life outside work, including family (2 kids), sports (3x/ week) and chill time (most weekends).
Pick 2-3 key things that I want to complete in the week that are big for Rows, and pursue those fast and with quality.
Everything else is filtered in layers: users, team, product, investors, email, processes...
No normal weeks
There are a few normal topics that are predictable and don't destabilize the week.
Demos: At Rows we have Challenges to accomplish, and we use Demos to iterate on them. While Demos are not pre-scheduled, they are "normal" in the sense that they're common and predictable: fast, fun and objective.
Analysis. Every team does weekly async run of our metrics and projects. We add comments and share it in a public Slack channel. This is important to sync with the team on our status.
Quarter planning: 2 days of intense discussion where we align the next quarter. (FYI: Q2 is about some pretty wild changes so that we get 5x more active/ retained users, and a new AI system and many surprises).
But most of the topics are "bombs" that land on our lap!
"what to do about OpenAI". In December ChatGPT exploded and then the whole internet suddenly remembered that there was an API for OpenAI. So we launched got a SWAT team (of 2), built it an launched it.
"Sh*t, now about GPT 3.5". "And what about GPT 4?". Those new topics needed fast responses too. Again, more important than sending SMS and WhatsApp messages about it, it mattered that a couple of people picked this up and solved it. You don't want to overreact, but the best strategy is to create something, then evolve etc. Luckily, our spreadsheet has APIs in every cell, and we prototyped it all even before writing a line of code.
"A journalist called, can you do a piece on X?". That has happened 2 times recently. One was a call last Thursday, then a photo shoot a few hours later and the article (PT) was out on a large distribution newspaper by Sunday.
"Person X is thinking of leaving Rows". This is one of the hardest messages to get, mostly because while it is normal that it happens, it has a profoundly negative connotation. To be honest, it stings every time, whether you are close to the person or not. On the other hand it also requires tasks to be done: you have to fight for the person (if its the case you really want them to say), and then if they still want to move to a new challenge, your job is still to say goodbye and wish them luck; then you also have to adjust the org, and hire a new person; and finally you must get the company back to the main job of fighting for users!
"I talked to X who would be an amazing engineer for you". This is the reverse of the previous topic, but no less work. Every other week I receive an inbound of a spectacular person who loves spreadsheets, has great practical skills (Engs, Designers, but also EMs,PMs, etc) and is at the right time to switch. Some of them contact me directly. Just now we're talking to one of these people who also showed us a spectacular spreadsheet portfolio.
"Hi, I'm organizing this webinar or workshop, wanna participate?". I get these a lot, and end up participating in events every week. Last week spoke at the Porto University and Torben spoke at Cloud Ecosystem in Switzerland, the previous week I demoed Rows at a Starkness event (crypto), the week before that at a workshop by our investor Armilar.. etc.
"Hello, I use Rows and ..". By far the most common, the messages that I get the most are of Rows users, via email and twitter, praising us, asking for help, asking for features, and the occasional "goodbye forever".
"Have your heard what happened to J? He fell and broke his arm.". By far the worst kind of news are the ones that someone got hurt. We had a retreat last quarter and one of our colleagues fell and fractured his arm with some severity. That meant many extra tasks - to help him get better, to deal with the absent capacity, and a not so little amount of overhead work (several types of insurance). While this is managed by HR, these topics inevitably pull managers, colleagues and founders. (Our colleague is recovering btw).
"Hey, know our account with Silicon Valley Bank? Well, I read this twitter thread and..". We all know what happened with SVB. (A dive → followed by a bank run → and then a shameless me-me-me by many titans of our Tech industry → and finally a bailout). Rows did have most of our cash with SVB, and so from Thursday 9th March until Sunday 12th we the founders of Rows probably had >100 interactions on the topic. These tectonic events are rare, but not as rare as I'd have imagined.
These are just some of the unpredictable stuff that happens while you're a founder.
There are no normal weeks. There are no boring weeks. (And that does make Building in Public quite exciting).
See you next week!