Heads down building.

How to build a startup: week 8

Heads down building.

This is a weekly update on the step-by-step process of building Headswap, a community marketplace for organising offline educational activities. Our goal is to make knowledge transferable and this is part of that mission.


  • Savings: 15'285.40 CHF
  • Team: 4
  • Beta-test signups: 158 (+2)
  • Twitter Followers: 90(-3)
  • Facebook Page Likes: 141 (+2)

This week we were building the product. This is not the most exciting thing to report. It is mainly heads down squinting at code.

We had some exciting developments from La Forge Demo Day the week before, including good advice from an interested advisor and an exciting development that will have to be reported in full later.

It reminds me of two pertinent things I remember from one of the Y-combinator lectures.

  • The first was that the most successful founders are always pushing it, the ones that email you back within a few hours and have something new to report every week.
  • The second was a talk from one of the early employees at Facebook who was contrasting the reality of starting up to the portrayal in movies. In the film there is little heads down working and much more partying, in reality the vast majority of time is spent sitting, largely inanimately at a computer building the product.

We did however still managed to read a little this week. The two highlights would have to be the talk by A World Where We Can Belong Anywhere by Mark Levy, on Airbnb’s focus on employee engagement for driving users engagement.

The second was a First Round piece about Radical Candor — The Surprising Secret to Being a Good Boss. The piece focusses on the importance of giving the hard feedback of what people on your team are bad at and the idea is summed up quite succinctly in the following image:

From http://firstround.com/review/radical-candor-the-surprising-secret-to-being-a-good-boss/

One question that has been in mind since reading this is where the line is between giving such feedback and standing back enough to allow people to have their own responsibilities and not micro-managing.

That aside, we are starting to understand each other more and the flow between design, product and marketing feels like it is beginning to emerge and is heading in the right direction.

So this one is a short post — and I will get back to head down, working up .jade files for our email templates again.