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I've worked at 3 startups. Every single one of them has (or had) the problems you describe.

Is there some known principle that governs this, something that could be named along the lines of Parkinson's Law or the Peter Principle?

I don't remember the source but I read about there being several inflection points in terms of team size where communication overhead changes suddenly...IIRC the first one is 8: beyond this you start needing to have 'managers' (their title may be different), i.e. people responsible for organization & team communication rather than directly making the product/sales/etc.

Anecdotally I noticed that even with 5 people you usually have someone starting to act as adhoc part-time manager, and this role quickly become too much for a part time responsibility as the team grows.

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