Venture Capital

Collecting best practices

By February 22, 2010 4 Comments

Reading through emails and blogs yesterday afternoon I came to posts from engineers at Disqus and Twitter via Fred Wilson’s Code is craft post.  I read them partly because Fred recommended them and partly because I was interested to hear what presumably talented engineers at successful services like Disqus and Twitter had to say about improving the speed of a service and identifying the root cause of service problems respectively.

I’m interested to read these stories not because I am ever likely to need to do something similar myself (I am nowhere near that technical) but because I need to be able to recognise a good engineer when I see one.  That helps with figuring out whether we should invest in a company and in hiring senior techies into our existing portfolio companies.

I had two takeaways from the Disqus post:

  1. Separating the code which deals with dynamic data from code which deals with static data offers possibilities for performance improvement, including using CDNs
  2. For widget companies loading code onto a page asynchronously helps improve their customers page load times and is therefore a good thing

I will remember the Twitter post for its description of how they went about identifying the cause of a performance problem and having read it I will now experiment with asking CTOs to describe the last performance problem they encountered and how they dealt with it to see if it helps me form a view on how they would deal with problems they encounter in the future.  Additionally, there are two takeaways, that they helpfully put at the end of the post:

  1. First, always proceed from the general to the specific
  2. And second, live by the data, but don’t trust it

When I hear stories from companies that are consistent with these concepts and ideas I will take it as a good sign, and when their are contradictions or absences I will want to understand why.

As a VC I have to cover a lot of ground.  In fact, one of the reasons I enjoy this job is that it is one of the last bastions of the generalist.  I need to be conversant in best practice across sales, marketing, engineering, finance, and general management as well as form a view on markets and opportunities for startups generally.  Reading stories like these, and their equivalents in other areas (many of which I post on this blog) is one of the ways I try to stay on top of this challenge.

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