Death by CTO

A few days ago, I pointed to an article written by Dan Luu. Ostensibly about recruiting developers, the article looks at some of the nastiest biases that come into play when we recruit software developers. It looks at the habit of only hiring the trendiest, only recruiting from the same six schools and ultimately driving up prices for junior developers who match a certain pedigree while rejecting vast swathes of highly competent and productive developers.

I am a Saskatchewan based startup founder and have felt the problems recruiting and retaining good developers. Startup developers are a rare breed. They have to be a little bit obsessive, prone to march down deep rabbit holes in the pursuit of worthy gains, and completely committed to the cult of early stage. They also have to be comfortable with bleeding edge stacks. You can’t just take someone out of a provincial government software development gig and expect them to be happy or productive in a tech startup.

Going fully remote is an attractive possibility, but it ignores some of the economics of startup developers. If you are a startup developer, unless you are extremely entrepreneurial, you have the most career opportunities if you live in one of about eight cities. These cities have major startup communities with highly advanced angel investor communities and entire ecosystems built to make startups succeed. Because of how sophisticated investors are and how much of an advantage the ecosystems are, smart developers tend to move to these cities because if they don’t like their job, they can walk down the street and get three more offers. This opportunity comes at a certain cost – cost of living tends to be higher. As cost of living increases, wages have to rise. Simply, if we raise money at Saskatchewan valuations and pay developers San Francisco rates, our companies will die.

So, what is a founder to do?

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Building high ROI marketing campaigns – one hour at a time

One of the questions I hear most from (especially new) startup founders is along the lines of ‘how can I increase my marketing ROI if I only have a few extra hours a week?’ My answer often seems to catch people out of left field because it has nothing to do with new customers. In fact, it has to do with old customers.

Still, if I only had a few hours a week and I wanted to do something with a high return on investment, I would talk to my existing customers. They don’t have to be long conversations. Ultimately, I’m interested in what they like/dislike about working with my company, what they would improve if they were in my shoes, and what made them decide to do business with me.

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A reasonably complete guide to cold calling

Cold calling.

Few phrases strike as much terror into the hearts of entrepreneurs as that one. Inherently, we all know that it’s a great way to move the needle, but holy shit, cold calling is scary.

I’m here to tell you that you can do it. And I’ll show you exactly how I have built successful cold calling campaigns that have moved the needle on my own businesses.

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Public Relations For Startups

Years ago, my friend Stacey and I published a magazine. It never got huge, but it got big enough that we started attracting inbound interest and press releases. Through learning how to handle those and talking with real journalists to learn how they handled those, I developed a sense of how to work with the media when you’re new and don’t have a track record.

For me, it always comes down to story. Journalists do not exist to be your personal marketing force – they exist to find truth in compelling stories. This implies a couple of things. The first is that they likely won’t print any finely crafted marketing speak or sales pitches. The second is that they will seek balance – they will interview your competitors or print quotes that are critical of you and your business. They will also comb through your social media accounts and read what other people say about you. Just because you don’t give them a quote or access to a source, it doesn’t mean that they won’t seek out other quotes or sources. The entire finished piece may be extremely critical of you and your business and if so, it is the mark of an incredibly good journalist, not an asshole. Got it?

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Towards happier developers

(Subtitled – This is not another mental health/diversity post)

While I acknowledge how important mental health and diversity are, I am not going to talk about either. Instead, I’m going to talk about ways that we can make all developers on our teams feel more comfortable and productive. While developer happiness and mental health/diversity are directly related, this post will be about the business case behind truly happy developers.

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