Startups, agility and the power of the franchise player

Ian and I have been having a ton of fun with AppStoreHQ – our mobile web app + developer discovery engine. We haven’t been at it all that long, and at the moment it’s just the two of us. But the other day we were reviewing our roadmap and backlog (which we track on two tabs of a Google spreadsheet) and Ian remarked:

I think I’ve shipped more code in the past month than I did in three years at Amazon.”

There are good reasons why big enterprises with lots to lose have to proceed cautiously with their development process. And moving fast and running lean can definitely cause trouble down the road, as hasty architecture decisions today cascade into time-consuming and risky fixes after complexity and load have scaled. But the sheer amount of software that one skilled dev can ship (especially with the help of a framework like Ruby on Rails) is truly astounding.
Last week we heard a great story from Urbanspoon on Tuesday and Ian turned it into a product by Thursday. Then the guys at Cooler Planet shared a tip on Friday and Ian shipped a riff on the idea today (if you don’t want to follow the link, just check the widget below). And these opportunistic projects are on top of the usual load of core data, search and presentation work.
What’s exciting to me about this model isn’t raw speed-to-feature (no one ever won a competitive fight on features alone). It’s the power of one agile developer who’s comfortable working at any layer of the stack to turn ideas into working code almost as fast as you can come up with them. Because getting fresh code in the hands of customers is the most powerful way I know of to test ideas and figure out what works.
Given the scale of investments we make at Founders Co-op, we can’t afford a lot of expensive specialists on our founding teams. We like to say we’re looking for “franchise players” – guys (and girls) who have the skills, resourcefulness and confidence to make the product and business happen without asking anyone for permission. We have more projects like AppStoreHQ up our sleeves, so if you like to ship code early and often and have an interest in the startup life, give us a shout.