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  • Adrian Wright

Scaling just got easier for Start-Ups



Start-ups often hit a point when new orders are coming in just as they need to scale their platform – and at the same time, they’re trying to build new features and support existing customers. You can’t do everything at once so, under conflicting pressures, founders often make at least one of the following mistakes:

● Chasing new customers and neglecting existing ones - you probably have contractual obligations and there’s reputation risk in ignoring them

● Making unrealistic or undeliverable promises to new customers

● Hiring expensive contractors for general (and often long-term) work

● Ignoring technical debt - it will cripple your future agility

● Renting bigger, more powerful servers: it won't solve your software design problems and locks you into higher costs

So, what do you do? In our experience, start-ups can handle this transition well by:

1. Protecting their core value (e.g. IP, feature roadmap, uniqueness)

2. Having clear policies for what and how to hand off low-value tasks

3. Using specialist partners to scale the business

Protecting core value

Once you understand what makes you special, it’s easier to channel effort into strategic activities and high-value customers. Here are our top recommendations to help you focus on what’s important:

Create, maintain and share your roadmap

Set out ONE clear vision that’s easy to understand and update. Everyone should know what’s coming up in the next 6-12 months and the capabilities they need to deliver it. The roadmap is the place for your business priorities, the scale of your ambition, and the commitments you’re making to current and future customers.

Split out work and teams

Most start-ups burn valuable energy context-switching – key staff get diverted away from business value and towards triaging daily problems that prevent you from scaling. Think automation, paying down technical debt, and dedicating teams to root cause analysis.

Stop managing infrastructure

Unless your start-up is focused on managing infrastructure, you don’t want to deal with servers, networks, or databases. Instead, use cloud-native solutions (e.g. AWS) or a PaaS (e.g. Red Hat OpenShift) and pay for what you need.

Publish success criteria

People need to know when they’re getting it right. If your teams understand the roadmap and when they’re executing it well, they’ll add value by making recommendations that you can reject or approve.

Handoff low-value tasks

Handing core value (key features, road map, strategy, etc.) to a partner will only damage your existing teams’ motivation. While you could use a partner’s skilled resource to scale your team, you’ll grow quicker if you can find pieces of work, or entire functions, that a trusted partner can own. Here are some examples that other start-ups have outsourced:

Multi-cloud

If you’ve built everything using AWS-native services but your customers are on Azure, there’s work to do - how do you port something written in AWS Glue to Azure Data Factory? While a partner will need some guidelines, this represents a neatly self-contained project.

BAU

BAU means giving existing customers your attention with enhancements and fixes. Having a dedicated partner team to handle this frees your core teams to develop new business.

Innovation incubator

Want to try new ideas on customers without distracting your team from their roadmap? Having a partner run an innovation incubator turns concepts into a reality.

Shift to cloud-native or PaaS

One of the toughest decisions start-ups make is when to invest in the next generation of their platform. The reality of delivering customer orders and new features is that it’s hard to find the time – look for a partner who has experience in your target architecture.

Partnering for success

It is difficult to let go so here are some tips based on how other start-ups have successfully scaled using a partner:

Culture fit

Outsourcing work successfully is as much about cultural fit and peer-to-peer relationships as it is about speed and specifications. Insist your partner works to your standards and approach - they shouldn’t impose their culture on you.

Keep things flexible

Your partner should give you the flexibility to handle peaks and troughs in demand. To avoid burning too much time on- and off-boarding remote teams, make sure any new team has at least three Sprints of work.

Grant autonomy

Teams are motivated when they have ownership. Focus the partner team on a specific capability or feature and make them responsible for the development, quality, and support. You can maintain oversight through your own Product Owner and architecture or code reviews.

Invest in DevOps

Automating build pipelines, containerised code, and test automation make it easy for new teams to join your existing delivery process.

Incentivise quality

Most start-ups carry technical debt in the early stages: getting features live is often more important than technical purity. You must pay down debt without stopping work on everything else. Use metrics and peer reviews to set and track quality goals.

How Estafet can help

As a nearshore partner with significant experience in helping UK start-ups move to multi-cloud native solutions and container-based PaaS solutions, we specialise in freeing up founders to focus on strategic growth while scaling cheaper and faster than growing the permanent team.

Want to find out more? Book a 30-minute scaling new product discovery session https://www.estafet.com/book-a-session


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