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The World of Startups W/ Matt Hackett

Flatiron School / 18 June 2013

The following is a guest post by Carlos Lazo and originally appeared on his blog. Carlos is currently a student at The Flatiron School. You can follow him on Twitter here.

On Thursday, June 6th, 2013, me and my current classmates here at the Flatiron School were given the unique opportunity to hear from and be inspired by Matt Hackett.

Who is Matt Hackett?

Who is Matt Hackett you ask? Here’s a brief summary from his website:

And here’s a picture of him at our very own campus here at the Flatiron School:

You can almost taste the happy.

Matt visited us and shared his insight into the startup world.

A Simple Breakdown of Startup Phases

Matt was able to break down startups into five distinct phases:

1 –> Pre-Funding

  • Team is incredibly small (e.g. 1-3 people).
  • Willingness to take on lots of risk to explore idea.
  • OK with being unpaid and potentially contributing persona funds.
  • “Just get something done” attitude.

2 –> Early Team

  • Success at an early team place is based upon two main things:
    • Awareness of the environment – knowing where you at.
    • Willingness to adapt to change and take on new direction.
  • Experience isn’t necessarily required: “can-do, will-do” attitude.
  • Constantly checking in with the team is extremely important:
    • Is my vision aligned with the rest of the team?
    • Am I doing things right?
  • Focus on agile development and continual process improvement.
  • Cultural fit is the biggest part of this stage.
  • How excited are you about the product itself?

3 –> Growth

  • Cultural fit isn’t as emphasized as much; things are more team based.
  • Passion still helps in getting hired, but having skills is most important.
  • Expect more technical interviewing along with 30min pre-interview phone calls.
    • Pre-interview coding is fairly regular (e.g. 1-3 hours of pre-work).
  • Important to start finding your own specialty within the code base and product.
    • Focusing on breadth vs. depth is the key.
    • Knowledge and skills will become critical as team scales at a greater pace.

4 –> Hypergrowth

  • Specialization is the most important given the rate at which the company is growing.
  • Incredibly specific hiring process is enforced (for specialization).
  • Overall time-line to reach this spot is around 1-2 years since the Early Team phase.

5 –> Mature Company

  • Output from hypergrowth leads into a mature company – specialization is still important.
  • This is the stage where “traditional” things like performance reviews begin to show up.
  • One of the main goals it to get bought out by a larger company and GET PAID.

Closing Thoughts

Matt’s overall recommendation was for us Flatiron School students, future web developers here in New York City and elsewhere, is to target startups in the Early Team and Growth phases of development. This would give us all enough time to find our place, both learn new skills and hone currennt ones, and be part of something amazing.

He also mentioned that as junior developers looking to work at startups, we need to find companies where we feel passionate about the product. Matt encourages us to never settle and to find the company that fits our own requirements for culture.

Taking a position at a more mature company also isn’t a bad idea, as you can “learn the ropes” before you dive into the deep end of startup culture.

Thank you for imparting your wisdom, Matt!

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