I received a trackback from Tim Bray’s Saving Data Safely post on the Android Developer’s blog to my Don’t fear the fsync! blog entry, so I guess the cat’s out of the bag. Starting with Gingerbread, newer Android phones (starting with the Nexus S) will be using the ext4 file system. Very cool! So just as IBM used to promote Linux by saying that it was scalable enough to run on everything between watches and mainframes, I can now talk about ext4 as running in production on cell phones to Google data centers.
Working on Technology at Startups
Richard Tibbetts has called me out for conflating Web 2.0 startups with all startups in my recent blog posting, “Google has a problem retaining great engineers? Bullcrap”. His complaint was that I was over generalizing from Web 2.0 startups to all startups.
He’s right, of course. The traditional “technology startup” by definition does have a large amount technology work that needs to be done, in addition to the business development work. However, things have changed a lot even for technology startups. Consider a company like Sequent Computer Systems, which started in 1983. At the time the founders had a key idea, which was to use multiple commodity intel CPU’s to create first SMP, and then later, NUMA minicomputers. But in order to do that, they had to design, build and manufacture a huge mount of hardware, as well as develop a whole new Unix-derived operating system, just to bring that core idea to market.
Google has a problem retaining great engineers? Bullcrap.
Once again, there’s been another story about how Google is having trouble retaining talent. Despite all Eric Schmidt’s attempts to tell folks that Google’s regretted attrition rate has not changed in seven years, this story just doesn’t want to seem to die. (And those stories about Google paying $3.5 million and $7 million to keep an engineer from defecting to Facebook? As far as I know, total bull. I bet it’s something made up by some Facebook recruiter who needed to explain how she let a live prospect get away. 🙂
At least for me, the complete opposite is true. There are very few companies where I can do the work that I want to do, and Google is one of them. A startup is totally the wrong place for me. Why? Because if you talk to any venture capitalist, a startup has one and only one reason to exist: to prove that it has a scalable, viable business model. Take diapers.com for example. As Business Week described, while they were proving that they had a business model that worked, they purchased their diapers at the local BJ’s and shipped them via Fedex. Another startup, Chegg, proved its business model by using Amazon.com to drop ship text books to their first customers. (The venture capitalist Mark Maples talked about this in a brilliant talk at the Founders Showcase; the Chegg example starts around 20:50 minutes in, but I’d recommend listening to the whole thing, since it’s such a great talk.) You don’t negotiate volume discounts with textbook publishers, or build huge warehouses to hold all of the diapers that you’re going to buy until you prove that you have a business model that works.