Advice on working with a startup

Hi @cpytel. This is a direct question to you. You gotta help me on this. It has been one month since I joined a startup. Basically I started the building the project from the start. And I am kind a newbie with web development. And my boss wants to build the prototype as soon as possible so that we can show it to the users and investors for some feedback. I started out with TDD but later boss told me to skip it as this was taking time. So what do you think about this?

  1. I just had a meeting with my product manager and we all 4 are totally want this startup to work so we al have our own ideas regarding the product. So I just wished I could tell them that we all are not on the same page and need to slow down and make one feature which will be core part of the product and build from there. What my product manager wants me to do is follow some BRD from top down.
    And I think by following this we wont be able to find out quick enough the features we do need in the product.

Can you start a conversation here? I badly need some advice. Do you also do mentoring?


I think this is where Thoughtbot services come into play. If your boss has 4 employees and he’s telling you to skip out on TDD, it might be a sign that this is the first time he’s taking an idea to product. That’s not a bad thing, but he might be better off paying money to Thoughtbot to establish the Product Experience.

Note: I don’t work for Thoughtbot.

Well, this is why I joined the startup. I wanted to learn from the pain. You cant learn anything until u face such issues. I had got 3 other job offers from service based companies who used to build products fro startups. But I wanted to see what goes inside while building a product for the consumers.

Well its definitely pain, but you do learn a lot! What have you tried so far to tell them they’re not on the same page?

Told the product manager.Boss i cant make this. I dont want to waste my effort on something that is gona be thrown away. I want to make the most of my time in this startup. Then I explained what I meant. That everyone is thinking of their own features. You guys show know what I am capable of making and what users might really want. They are building the product without any special algorithm like anyone with some knowledge on web app programming could make it.

I just wish they built something that was fun to built and is not just a chore.

What did they respond with? I can only add 3 replies to the Discourse app since I’m a new user, so I guess I will have to continue asking questions tomorrow.

In response to your text below, after their response to your feedback, did they say anything to re-organize how they approach the product?

Well sorry the way I described it. It was no so rude. I just talked to the PM to go slow. And think very hard on why are creating something and why. We had some discussions but I am still lost considering they we need to develop so much and I dont have enough braiins to do it.

@charlieanna it’s not clear to me what you perceive the actual problem is.

If you can provide a little more detail, it would help:

  • Are you building a throw away prototype? If not, what are you building?
  • Is there special algorithms that you think should be written over the basic features?
  • does the company have customers yet?


Hi @cpytel. We are building a product which will help change the behaviour of people towards their health using technology. So we would be giving the pedometer to each user and then start tracking user and make sure he chooses a health lifestyle by gamifying it by giving him points, levels and badges as he achieves bigger targets like walking 10k steps day or 300k steps in a month.

The prototype I am building is not a throw away because we will be using that to understand users response and then based on that change or modify the product. My boss has already started taking services from a design firm for building the MVP. The thing is we are a team of four and I am the only developer and rest all are big MBA guys. And the only experience I havd had is 3 yrs in mobile dev and IdleCampus which can not be called a big system.

The other guys in the team have so many ideas that I start worrying that building a product is not an easy thing and takes time. I don’t see any well planned out way for this startup and I whole heartedly want this startup to work but right now we are just aiming for the stars without anything.

The only algorithm we would be having is tracking each user and based on their fitness level present him different challenges. We would be taking his pedometer which he will sync with his laptop that will send his data over to the backend for analysing. And then increase his engagement on the prduct by using facebook and adding more social elements. My boss says that there should be a feature were people could comment, like posts, add articles on health etc. I just dont understand the right procedure of how to build this complex product. He wants me to build everything right now while i want to build one feature, test it out with users and take feedback for the next iteration which I think is called Agile dev and is best suited for startups.

We dont have any customers, we are building the product for enterprises first and then the customers or first B2B and B2C.

Do you think I should get myself a mentor? I told my boss about it and he said he will be happy to pay for the mentorship if it is best for me and the product.

I don’t have any questions but I just want some guidance on building this product. My boss has said that the MVP should be released by April end. The prototype by this week end and a full fledged product by this year end. I have started to work on the the prototype and also I need to do the UI myself.

Ok, the fact that you’re not building a throwaway prototype does mean that you should be doing test-driven development.

If you upgrade to Mentoring, we might be able to help you work on these issues, but honestly they sound larger than we can probably help with via short mentoring sessions. This is more like your company needs to hire us to help them build the right product :wink:

The way you need to go about approaching this is to be working with your team to make sketches/wireframes of the various functionality. Through these sketches you will identify all of the features (stories) that you are have in your product. Then take all of those features and have the business stakeholders prioritize them. As a group you should also estimate them. This can be as simple as labeling them “Small”, “Medium”, and “Large”. By doing this prioritization and estimation together as a group everyone will understand what decisions are being made and what time is being spent on certain features.

Finally, based on that prioritization, you will be able to begin to actually build something, working in priority order. Also, based on the prioritization and the estimates, you will have a much better sense of what can actually be done by the deadlines that are being imposed.

I walk through most of this process in the playbook video series.

I feel compelled to point out that while what I describe above is not one we follow 100% of the time, it’s what I’m proposing as a solution to the problems that @charlieanna is describing.

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@cpytel my boss did think about hiring a tech agency to do the tech part. But I told him that the reason I came to this company is so that I can build the product and grow as a developer. If he decides to do that then I will have to quit.

Even he said that he wants to build a team and not offshore the work somewhere else. We have already given the UX part to another company.

That sounds drastic.

I’m not advocating thoughtbot actually do this work, but for example, if we did, we would work with you and your team to help you succeed. You’d work alongside us and learn, and we’d help grow your internal team while providing valuable expertise to your team in terms of how to actually successfully build and launch a product and iterating from there.

Anyway, I hope my guide for how to break down the work is helpful.

That isnt possible. We are in India. :). What about just mentoring? Since that isnt possible what can we do from our end? I was thinking of getting Arun as my mentor. He could atleast help me code and architect the product.