From the Crowd

Commentary and analysis from outside voices in venture capital, hedge funds and economics

You're doing it all wrong

October 14, 2011: 7:11 AM ET

By Bruce Roberts, contributor

Close your eyes. Imagine, if you will, a startup that meets the following criteria:

  • Their recruiting process is fundamentally flawed
  • Their operations are a mess
  • They make engineers pretty much do everything, which leaves almost no time for coding
  • They don't (care) about charity or helping the needy or community contributions or anything like it
  • Their facilities are dirt-smeared cube farms without a dime spent on decor or common meeting areas
  • Their pay and benefits suck
  • They don't have any perks or extras
  • Their code base is a disaster, with no engineering standards whatsoever except what individual teams choose to put in place
  • The CEO is an infamous micro-manager and doesn't care, even a tiny bit, about the well-being of the teams, nor about what technologies they use, nor in fact any detail whatsoever about how they go about their business unless they happen to be screwing up.

Sounds like a disaster, right? No lunchtime yoga. No tea times. Over worked, and under appreciated engineers. Micro managing CEO, out of touch with underlying technologies? Shhh, if you listen quietly enough you might even hear the gentle waves of the dead pool lapping up along the shores of sorrow.

Now, open your eyes.

The above description was pulled from a letter inadvertently posted to G+ by veteran Valley engineer Steve Yegge.

The company he is describing? Amazon (AMZN).

The micromanaging CEO? Jeff Bezos.

Amazing that a company doing everything so completely wrong can get so much right. And that's the point.

Everyone is doing it all wrong. Bezos, Page, Zuckerberg and most likely us. We're probably doing it all wrong too. The playbook that works for Bezos won't work for Page. The playbook that works for Page won't work for  Zuckerberg. And none of their playbooks will work for us either. We'll do it wrong too.

There are no universal right answers when it comes to building our businesses. If there were, we could condense an MBA into a single blog post and all get back to work. But, there are right answers for us individually. Fearlessly discovering and acting on them should be at the heart of the products, teams and companies we're trying to build.

Bezos was so wrong he was right. So was Page. So was Zuck.

In the end, being so uniquely and painfully wrong is the only way to get it right.

Bryce Roberts is a co-founding partner of O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures. This post originally appeared at his blog.

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