Developer inefficiency drives hundreds of billions of dollars of lost software output annually.

The sum is striking but also predictable in light of data showing we don’t even come close to maximizing developer productivity.

Mountains of technical debt and poor development practices burden and bog down developers. We lose billions as a result.

The Developer Productivity Manifesto has three parts, this is part 3:

In part 1, I talked about falling developer productivity and how spinning the…


In software development, more (developers) isn’t always more.

In part 1 of “The Developer Productivity Manifesto,” I argued that developer productivity, measured in terms of new software, falls over time as low-hanging fruit is picked and new ideas become harder to find.

An understandable response would be — why not just throw more engineers at the problem?

If you’ve ever worked in software development, you know adding more cooks to the kitchen rarely helps. For those who haven’t worked in software development, this essay tells you why.

The Developer Productivity Manifesto has three parts, this is part 2:


TL;DR: I invest in productivity-enhancing tools for software developers and other technical knowledge workers. If you’re building something along these lines, ping me at nnamdi@lsvp.com

I’ve been obsessed with developer productivity for a long time.

As developments within software tooling, application infrastructure, and data science over the last decade have vindicated my quixotic enthusiasm, I thought I’d finally articulate my rationale in writing.

Manifestos should have mission statements. I’ve always loved Stripe’s:

Our mission is to increase the GDP (gross domestic product) of the internet

They say great artists steal. My artistic design skills are, frankly, terrible (especially relative to…


Red pandas are cute. But for a while, that was the only thing they had going for them.

No longer. As with whales (Docker) and elephants (Hadoop, Postgres) before them, red pandas finally have the backing of a hardcore application infrastructure technology.

Meet Redpanda, a real-time event streaming platform backed by Vectorized. We at Lightspeed led the company’s recently announced Seed and Series A rounds, and we couldn’t be more excited about the potential for Vectorized to revolutionize real-time streaming.

Vectorized is one of the most technical companies I’ve ever worked with. But unlike many products, where deep technical innovation…


We will never have enough software developers.

Developers are dropping out of the profession in large numbers despite efforts to grow the number of computer science graduates and software engineers.

Here’s why.

Developer dropout is real

Software development has a serious retention problem:

  • At age 26, 59% of engineering and computer science grads work in occupations related to their field of study. By age 50, only 41% work in the same domain, meaning a full ~30% drop out of the field by mid-career
  • In contrast, engineering and computer science majors who join unrelated fields upon graduation retain at much higher rates, with only 10–15%…


Age. Race. Gender. Sexual orientation.

In an ideal world, none of these factors would matter for what a software engineer earns. As characteristics, they shouldn’t necessarily influence the productivity or value of a developer, and hence shouldn’t affect pay.

Turns out, however, they do — though not always in the way or to the degree you might expect.

In this piece, I explore how these demographic characteristics match with developer pay, tease apart correlation from causation, and explain the confounding factors driving some of the more surprising results.

Key findings:

  • Earnings peak around 45–50 years of age
  • Racial minorities make…


An investor once shared with me a simple framework for the fundamental skills of venture capital:

  • 👁 See (the deal)
  • 🧠 Analyze (the deal)
  • ❤️ Win (the deal)

Success in VC demands all three. But that doesn’t mean they’re equally important.

👁 Out of sight, out of mind


Why SaaS revenue retention is a double-edged sword ⚔️

“With great retention comes great volatility” — Uncle Ben in Spiderman

OK — that’s not exactly what Uncle Ben said, but it makes an important point: retention is a double-edged sword.

Higher retention means customers stick around and pay you longer. Customers paying you more over time is even better.

Improving retention increases the value of your business, all else equal.

However, higher retention also drives higher valuation volatility.

The reason is clear to anyone who’s ever traded bonds.

Cohort Math = Bond Math


They measure the size of your pride, not the size of your business

Waitlists, registered users, and other cumulative measures are vanity metrics.

By vanity — I mean they better measure the size of your pride than the size of your business.

First-year MBA operations courses emphasize that long lines should be avoided and certainly not optimized for.

Unless you are in fact a vanity or “prestige” product, bragging about these metrics destroys your credibility in the eyes of potential investors.

Most importantly, in paying them too much attention, you fool, distract, and mislead your most gullible stakeholder — yourself.

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you…


Why your doctor understands customer retention better than you do

In SaaS or consumer subscription settings, small changes in churn can radically impact revenue growth.

Product managers, growth hackers, marketers, data scientists, and investors all need to understand how business decisions impact user retention.

With so many recurring revenue businesses going public, Silicon Valley should get the picture by now.

Believe it or not, however, medical researchers measure customer retention better than you do.

What?

Sounds bold, but it’s not. Over decades, clinical researchers have refined precise and rigorous ways of measuring retention-except instead of customer retention, they measure patient survival.

The gravity of life and death means researchers take…

Nnamdi Iregbulem

Partner @lightspeedvp DevOps, app infra, and ML nerd. Soft spot for devs ❤️. Former: Product @confluentinc VC @ICONIQGrowth MBA @Stanford Economics @Yale

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