On Uniqueness: A Startup Strategy Beyond Frameworks

Martin Lünendonk recently spoke to Karthik Rau, SignalFx’s co-founder and CEO, for the Cleverism interview series. Martin and Karthik discussed the origins of SignalFx, achieving a customer-centric approach to product development, the new paradigm for infrastructure monitoring, and what makes a company beautiful for team members and founders alike.

Every company is a snowflake. Every company is unique. Frameworks are helpful, but introspection and observation of all possible externalities are what drive companies forward. Entrepreneurs face bias and the shadows of products, businesses, and markets that have come before. But, ultimately, the important decisions are the hard work of founders who have to create and execute a strategy that perfectly fits their specific set of resources, capabilities, and opportunities.

Here are some highlights from the Cleverism interview with Karthik Rau:

  • During the development stages of the product, it’s important to know when the technology finally serves its purpose of solving real problems. At that point, it’s crucial to find design partners in the market. Early customers help you see how well you solve those problems and what other problems you should be solving.
  • Entrepreneurs too often forget that they have an opportunity to not only build something impactful to users, but also beautiful for all the people involved. Stop to smell the roses, and relish the wins more than you suffer through the losses.
  • Hire really curious people. The best engineers will see themselves as part-owners of the business, and great operations people will invest in and contribute to the product.
  • Hiring field salespeople who can listen to the customer creates a powerful advantage. The sales cycle is one of the best ways to observe important trends earlier than everyone else and adapt to the market as it evolves.
  • The rise of cloud-based infrastructure and the decline of monolithic applications has helped product teams become more aggressive, responsive, and focused on growth. But the embrace of open-source technologies and elastic environments presents three basic problems that monitoring helps address: the unpredictability of everything but change, the massive complexity of a services-based architectures, and the difficulty of managing hundreds or thousands of distributed components.
  • As important as it is to comprehensively monitor everything from the system performance level all the way down to individual services, analytics are the only way to prioritize meaningful changes that may impact the end-user experience and alert on the metrics that are actionable in the user’s specific production environment.

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