Team > Tech

[I originally wrote this on The Bitcoin Pub]

You may have already seen this video… but, if not, please give it a view.

There are a number of serious topics covered in @peter’s video, but, I just want to square on one of them and expand my own thoughts on it.

Team Is Everything

When I first started building my career I didn’t think twice about people… all I cared about were the projects that I could get to work on and the problems that were trying to be solved. I chose all of my professional decisions based on those two levers… and if they could be pulled nicely, I’d take the gig.

I quickly learned that I had it entirely backwards.

You see, what I learned very quickly is that regardless of how cool the technology was or the problem that was trying to be solved… if I didn’t respect the folks that I worked with (and for) then those former things just didn’t matter.

In fact, I became miserable and I job-hopped for a time early in my career, stumbling through a number of really poor decisions. Ultimately, what I realized was that the people that I worked for and with were infinitely more important than the problems and the technology and the products that were being build.

In short, if I loved the people then I could essentially work and build anything (this is especially poignant as an software engineer as every “technical problem” eventually looks pretty damn similar…).

People > Product, 💯 of the time.

This changed the way that I not only interviewed for new jobs but also how I eventually cofounded companies. If you look at the last few ventures that I’ve started you’ll find a very clear pattern of relationship-driven decisions:

  1. Enterprise SaSS company cofounded with friend and personal mentor…
  2. Education startup cofounded with long-term friend …
  3. Open Source product and media company cofounded with another long-term friend of the family… we actually lived in his basement for a while before launching…
  4. And, of course, Decentralized TV with my twin brother who’ve I’ve known for nearly 4 decades.

The first one is on its way to be a massive success. The second and third one were acquired, one by a Fortune 500 company. The other by two leaders in the open source (WordPress) space.

But these weren’t my only startups… the ones that failed were the ones that I cofounded with folks that I didn’t really know very well… but thought that I could somehow “work” that out in time. Those ended up in the garbage heap and are very distant (and a little bit painful) memories now.

The point is this: Whatever your “due diligence” process is for reviewing a project, a new job, a career, a ____fill_in_the_blank____ … you should spend most of your time asking questions about the people, the related culture, and getting to know as much as possible your (future) leadership.

What you’ll find is that this solves a multitude of short and long-term problems… if your team and leadership are top-notch then you can trust in their ability to get you through the hard-stuff… and any of the “cultural” problems that you might have can be solved with integrity and honesty.

So, how does this relate to Substratum, DataDash, and the rest of the video?

Well, I just want to say this: If someone has a sketchy history, it’s worth taking into consideration. I believe in second-chances… hell, I believe in giving people a lot of chances! I’ve needed more than you can count…

What I don’t get is when people choose to die on one particular (cryptocurrency) hill, especially when there are 1,000 other projects to invest in with your limited resources. And, if 50% of them are created by crooks (or folks who have sketchy backgrounds) then… just skip them. Invest in the other 50% that have just as much potential as the ones that you’ve decided to pass on.

If you don’t believe in the leadership or if you have reason to doubt their integrity…. just walk away. Life’s too short to just “hope” that they “prove out”. You have so many other options. Just move on. You won’t miss the investment. Trust me on that.

Your diligence for cryptocurrencies should have a ton of research into the folks behind them. As much as you can stomach. And then do more. You want to invest in good, trustworthy people.

In regards to DataDash… he’s young, inexperienced, barely old enough to drink (maybe not even 21 quite yet). Honest mistake I guess. But, a surprising one. That’s all I’ll say about that.

Focus on the team folks. Technology will come and go… but the people behind the projects will still be there, even and especially after they take your money.