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An interesting question for technical founders

August 31, 2020

As a technical founder coming from engineering, I have this background process in my head that constantly thinks about how things will scale, even when talking product.

It's not easy to turn it off, unless you are aware of it.

In a way it's an asset, because it assesses in real time the difficulty of what you are discussing and can steer you in the right direction.

Most of the time though, if you are a product decision maker, it is severely limiting. Especially when having open-ended discussion in which you think broadly about a direction to take.

To fight this, I came up with this question that I answer completely disregarding technical details:

How would you (re)build your product if storage, compute and scaling weren't a concern at all?

  • What basic assumptions would you change?
  • What feature would you add?
  • What would you allow your users to do?

This exercise is useful because we are trained to deeply consider technical concerns at all times. It's second nature. How would I implement this? Which data structure? Which algorithm? The DB schema? This is bullshit.

We are at a point where scalability is an implementation detail, not something that should cloud your judgement when thinking about product. It should have way less space in your head.

We have established technologies that make scaling someone else's problem for cheap (S3, DynamoDB, Lambda, ...)

You can fix your scalability issues once you strike gold. Once your idea is its final PMF form. Avoid premature optimization until then. That's what I'll try to do.

Unlearning is part of becoming the best at what you do.