Edit: @Waterfowl posted the specifics:
this article about how gumroad works was at the top of the front page yesterday.
I recently took a job with $MEGACORP after 5 years with start ups. I forgot how much $MEGACORP likes meetings. I found myself thinking about how gumroad has no meetings. I asked myself the same question as the OP.
I am discovering that I need to significantly increase prices to compensate for the additional navel-gazing inherent in working with a large company.
It's one of the reasons I still remain bullish on the strengths of small companies: large ones just begin attracting people who apparently enjoy frittering their education and talents away on pointless zoom calls.
Meetings are a way of "doing something" without actually doing something. Most megacorps waste millions spinning their wheels on nonsense, but they're established and make money so it doesn't matter.
A strong small team working on a specialized product will always win - that's why they get gobbled up eventually by the megacorps - there's no way they can compete with that internally.
Also, strong, small teams usually don't scale well - which is why they sell themselves to megacorps who can (e.g. megacorps are much better when it's time to localize to 20 countries on 3 continents and navigate the legal labyrinth necessitated. All that work requires meetings to coordinate, even if legal ends up only asking the engineer a single question)
There's too much bureaucracy to innovate. A potentially great idea could be snuffed out because it threatens the internal ambition of a middle manager, or the silos required to overcome results in burnout and good devs leaving. Even if a good idea is approved, you need 20 different teams, requiring 20 different meetings, and overall meetings, and then you need status meetings to watch the budget, etc etc.
> Also, strong, small teams usually don't scale well - which is why they sell themselves to megacorps who can
They sell to megacorps to make money, not to scale their product.
I should have been more explicit. Scale is the arbitrage opportunity exploited by megacorps: Buying an upstart at $X means they project that they can make a multiple of $X out of the transaction, based on their ability to scale (or integration with other products). If smaller team could easily make the same multiple of $X, then they wouldn't sell at $X.
I find smaller or more experimental companies to be much more unstable, and in my thirties I just want something stable and nice so I can save money and retire with a bit over a million in the bank at 40.
Just want to be done with it
Shoot, the article yesterday had me searching for how I can apply to Gumroad on top of my day job. They were claiming $50-250 per hour with as little as 10 hours a week. You want to save money? Have a stable day job and work at Gumroad for 10 hours a week. With such a short work week I can't imagine you'd be doing much more than simple bug fixes. I can swing 2 hours of that a day.
> retire with a bit over a million in the bank at 40.
You might have to set your sights a little higher. That's not gonna carry you to potentially 85 years old.
The conventional wisdom in this community is that if you invest a sum of money in equities, you can withdraw a certain percentage annually without ever running out of money. That is, you mostly live off of the growth of your investments. Generally, 4% (inflation adjusted) is considered a safe withdraw rate. So if you have a million dollars, and you can live off of 40K a year or less indefinitely, then you can retire.
Obviously this is a simplification and there are more considerations. Let me know if you have any questions. This is a topic I am passionate about and happy to give my 2 cents on.
One conclusion I've come to is that after people "retire early", they almost never actually stop making money. It just tends to end up being more entrepreneurial stuff that they make money off.
You don't "have to" work, but you "might as well", and all the sudden you may even find yourself in a more lucrative gig than you started with because you changed your focus and found a niche you can fill nicely.
Life is too short to do anything else in my opinion. unless I guess I end up with a family but that's not really in my plans
Anecdotally and ironically, many tech people that do this end up making a loads of money after they "retire". They don't sit on a beach and do nothing. The ability to be highly selective about what they work on, and to defer any compensation, often leads them to invest all their time on software projects they are passionate about, which not infrequently ends up throwing off a large amount of incidental income even though that wasn't the objective per se. I like the term "recreationally employed" to describe this lifestyle. I know many engineers who ended here and some of them make more money "retired" than they did work the 9-to-5 grind at a big company.
This basically means either Southeast Asia, or some parts of Latin America. Asian languages tend to be extremely hard, and it might be a lot easier to sort of blend in with the populace in Latin America. The last thing I want to do in my retirement is draw needless attention to myself.
You realize the median US household income is like $40k/ year right?
The median American household doesn't have all this luxuries.
In the Atlanta area for example, there are plenty of nice 2-3 bedroom houses for $200,000 or even less, which puts your mortgage at $1,000 / mo. That leaves $1,500 / mo for a car, utilities, and food, which is plenty doable. Rent out a room if you want to for more income.
It's hard to figure how much to save for kids college, because the spectrum is so wide. For example, do you plan for the worst case scenario (ivy league, no scholarship or out of state state school, no scholarship) -- $250k and climbing.
Or the best case scenario (they take tons of ap courses and courses at local cc until transferring their jr year to in state school with full tuition scholarship) -- ~$20k?
Maybe try to aim for the midpoint? It's a hard problem.
What I've read that mad sense to me, though, is that kids can borrow for college and you can't borrow for retirement (reverse mortgage notwithstanding).
That would change the employment calculus for a ton of people.
If you want to get sucked into every ad campaign that comes along, you'll end up broke even if you get a huge windfall. Which is in fact exactly what happens to many lottery winners, sports stars, musicians, child actors...
I suspect the problem of sport stars et cetera is that they have to focus most of their time on their career, thus most don't have time to learn about finance (and not being from rich families means they can't simply copy the strategy of their parents), but it is publicly known that they are rich, and there are scammers who specialize on exactly this kind of victim. That is, I suspect that many sport stars will at some moment of their life meet a "financial advisor" with references from fellow sport stars, who offers to take care of their finance, and they go "lucky me, now I can focus 100% on my training", only to find out later that the money is gone.
To get rich, you need two different skills -- one to make money, and one to keep it -- and they both compete for your time. If you only focus on being good at what you do professionally, you may see lot of money flowing through your hands, but the part that you don't spend will somehow disappear anyway.
> Most people who get rich get that way by saving money. That means living on less money than you can make. Indefinitely.
That's true, but it is much easier to save money if you already started with a large amount. With enough starting money, it simply means not spending more than the interest you get (after adjusting for inflation).
I suppose that's one assumption to make. You know that the last time the US GDP grew more than 4% was back in 2000, right? And 2010 worldwide? Both with a continued downward trend since at least the 60's?
(This obviously doesn't preclude >4% ROI, but that in turn means increasing income inequality, and at some point, there's a price to be paid for that)
It has been outpacing GDP because increasingly, production is being concentrated in fewer, larger companies. So right now, they are growing. There are limits to that growth if GDP isn't growing as well - there are only so many smaller companies you can put out of business.
This - investing into SPX, or VFIAX, or any other market aggregate - is a viable strategy in the face of unlimited growth. It's a reasonable mid-term strategy. It's entirely unclear that there will be unchecked economic growth for 40 years. In fact, there's very good reason to assume there won't.
As for "get some portion to work higher yields" - those yields carry risk. They're not just making you more money, you stand a better chance to lose money, too. Which in turn means much less return, even if you manage to maintain 4%.
And to make matters worse, you're timing dependent - if you'd invested $1M in 1999, you would've been back to $1M in 2012. Except, if you'd lived off it for those 13 years, you'd be down to half your initial investment, ~$480K.
FIRE is a high-risk strategy. I'm not saying it can't work out, but over 40 years, there are a lot of things that can happen, and most FIRE proponents have very small safety margins. The crux is that that doesn't seem particularly problematic in your 20s and 30s - worst case, you start again, right? Except "start again" in your 50s, 60s, 70s is a really sucky proposition.
Ultimately, everybody takes their own risks, but let's not underplay those risks.
And there are a dozen TSLA on the horizon.
And the market keeps making new ones.
Historically, about 4% is the safe drawdown rate. FIRE folks tend to be a little more conservative than that, though, because of the even longer time horizon involved with retiring earlier.
Check out a tool like https://www.firecalc.com/ that is designed to run backtested simulations to see if your drawdown rate from your starting assets would historically be safe for your time horizon. The UI is clunky but the math is good.
Its a mix of some big Investment Trusts some wealth protection like Personal Assets RIT and Capital Gearing and a few more speculative bets
Though I have yet to figure out what they’re really about.
An easy way to pass the time? People relying on them to validate their salary? The only way a weasly middle manager can get himself heard? Cargo culting? Probably a mixture of all and more.
Basically nothing can be done / no decisions made without a meeting.
Why? Because X number of people feel they need buy in. If you don't get them onboard and give them a chance to voice opinions you'll be pushing uphill to get work done.
And meetings are actually a fairly effective way to do that -- you have a group's attention for a set amount of time. If you just sent a doc then you'd have to follow up, etc.
That sort of becomes the default, so there are meetings even when that sort of buy in isn't necessary, bc meetings are just how things get done.
Now back at another startup (10 people), we have no meetings other than a 20 minute Monday call for some sync-up that otherwise doesn't occur naturally. It's wonderful.
And possibly their unproven business model. Which can lead to managers making petty decisions about money and individual worth.
Since not every 10-person startup becomes the next Google. Instead, most of them becomes the next Froogle, that probably shouldn’t have existed to begin with.
In the past 3 years I haven't worked a full year due to the companies I worked for going out of business.
$MEGACORP isn't all bad. The pay is about the same, but I have much better benefits. For the first time in 5 years I have a 401K.
I've decided that I'm not going to work for another startup, unless I'm a founder. That way I have enough potential upside to make it worth the risk.
I work at a company this size. We've almost gone under quite a few times. We're still here. It's an interesting way to live. It's certainly not for everyone, but you get an enormous amount of influence and autonomy. The pay isn't "great", but I make enough that my wife can stay home with our three kids and the numbers in the bank account just keep going up.
Of course, a lot of that is lifestyle decisions, but working at a small company is a lifestyle decision as well.
Sure, startups aren't for everyone, just like big corporations aren't for everyone. For me, working for a /particular/ startup is unstable and risky, while working for startups generally has been extremely stable. Other people find them too risky, and that's fine.
Some people love the perceived stability of a large company. OTOH, big corps are known to do across the board RIFs, independent of how well a particular division is doing. Or killing off a whole department on what seems like a whim. YMMV.
This was just my experience. These are large companies so there is really no one overall experience, especially at MS.
Oh and I was an IC at both companies. More junior at MS.
If you have played a lot of Counterstrike, have real-world technical skills, and are interested in a flexible autonomous environment much like Gumroad, feel free to tell me about your recent projects: email@example.com
I could charge more, but since I don't have the overhead of a large company, I can get by with less and my users get an extremely affordable product.
You can definitely get more than a few servers for $120/month
Engineering is distributed around the world, so it happens in a highly asynchronous way centered around GitHub issues, the vast majority of which are in public repos. Slack and Zoom are used, but if they're used to make decisions, the recording is saved for others to consume and the decision is documented on GitHub.
Meetings are discouraged, but not non-existent. To give some context, I'm a manager of two teams and this week I had 4.5 hours of meetings (including 1:1s), which is pretty normal. When I was an independent contributor on a single team, I often had weeks where I had a single 30 minute meeting.
In practice today, I suspect an engineer at Elastic will spend an average of ~2 hours a week in a meeting, with a few spending a great deal more than that and others spending less.
This culture is demonstrated top-down and has been a common thread from the early days, through the IPO, and continues today.
Edit: We also have a general philosophy of features being done when they're done rather than when we reach some arbitrary date. This doesn't mean we don't have timelines (we have ~2 month long release cycles), but if we can pair down scope to make a release, we will, and if we can't do it then we'll just move the feature to the next release instead.
We've codified a lot of the philosophy that feeds into this workflow here: https://www.elastic.co/about/our-source-code
That said, it's important that we do have guiding processes and principles here to ensure that everyone is being evaluated both fairly and effectively, so it's not like the wild west or something.
Every "track" has levels with defined expectations in terms of the type of work they do, the impact they have, the interactions they have with teammates, others at Elastic, the community, etc. High performers would be folks that are at least meeting the expectations established for their level, which is where promotion comes in.
Promotion is not necessarily role-oriented in the sense that you don't get promoted out of being an engineer into management or something like that, they are different parallel tracks. For example, I technically took a demotion to switch from a Tech Lead to an Eng. Manager role.
Processes do vary a bit team by team, though they've become more consistent over time and are pretty similar now. This is how things work on my teams:
I have 30 minute 1:1s with each person that reports to me every 2-3 weeks depending on their seniority. This is pretty informal, but the consistent face to face gives us opportunities to talk frequently about how things are going.
Every quarter I do a longer review with each team member. This isn't super formal or anything, but it is more structured with a corresponding doc that I fill out in advance and that we both expand upon during our meeting. Nothing should be a surprise here as I give positive or critical feedback more regularly, but this is where we can really dig into aspects of their performance, rehash current expectations for their level and make plans with them for how to achieve their professional goals, whether it be promotion, type of work, transitioning to a different role, etc.
The 6 and 12 month reviews are a little more comprehensive as I also include anonymous 360 feedback from peers and others throughout Elastic.
That said, at this very moment we happen to have a boatload of more senior positions available. There are a couple less senior ones though.
We’re very transparent about our financial and business goals. My only scheduled meeting is a weekly dev sync that I do think is very helpful, but we don’t do daily standups or daily calls. All comms are done through Slack, GitHub PR comments and Linear comments.
I will likely be hiring a contract python (or full stack) dev in Q1 as well as a growth marketing position. Feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org
This alone avoids a lot of the “not my job problem” or people trying to encroach on someone else’s job. In turn, this reduces chances of conflict and politics.
Additionally, we keep communication extremely focused on work. There are no slack channels for watercooling, there are no “get to meet each other” zoom calls.
We (including founders) log on, we do our work, we communicate (via text) about issues, wins, concerns, questions, and we log off. There’s no expectation of working hours (save for that weekly dev sync I mentioned).
We also don’t preset deadlines. I’m not going to sit here and say we don’t have target dates, because we do. But it’s an explicit function of engineering to determine the scope of a feature and to assign it an effort. Based on that effort I can then forecast when it might get done. But there’s no deadline. This is just good engineering practice and also helps us improve our code quality over time. We do not share forecast completion dates with users and customers. The most we will say is that we’re working on something. No etas.
We’ve also built in a culture of shipping constantly. Shipping a feature or a release isn’t some big event. I might log on in the morning and see that a feature was finished over night (including final QA, etc.) and I’ll just release it. This takes a lot of pressure off development. Because we’re so comfortable releasing, even if there was an issue, we could just roll back. I’ve had to do this twice now and it was a non issue. The release notes hadn’t even been emailed to users yet, so no harm.
This has less personal contact, and therefore the only politics will mostly be focused on work. As long as things are scoped tightly and you are self-motivated, this should work pretty well. But, you have to have your own social life, since you won't get it from work.
It doesn't completely eliminate politics but it comes pretty close. When it hasn't worked out, in most cases some coaching of people one-on-one has helped them improve, and in the other cases - where they seemed uninterested or unwilling to change, we just fired them.
Maybe you meant to say - you don't have office politics. If you are not "dealing" with it then you are creating a bigger problem.
I believe politics are a side product of humans working together. It'll just be there. Just like eating causes you to fart.
Related interesting read but looks good only on paper - https://hbr.org/2016/06/how-facebook-tries-to-prevent-office...
To me, that mindset sounds a bit like office politics itself -- i mean, using a negatively loaded word for branching a bit outside one's usual work tasks.
I'd generally be fine if my coworkers sometimes worked in"my" parts of the code base (or whatever it is) but it seems as if at where you work, they're not allowed to do that
I've just launched a site which has a goal to collect different companies that support Gumroad's model - https://creatorjobs.co/
I've listed your company there. Please let me know if you have any concerns about that - email@example.com.
Basically it means one person.
Since everyone is freelancers, most work for other clients or have regular full-time jobs. Everyone has flexibility on hours, but we try to pick those who have overlap with the team, especially for those who need to interface with our clients. Some in our team prefer to travel around, others stay fixed in a location.
Rates-wise, we don't prescribe a formula for what others should charge, nor do we usually try to negotiate anyone down. I believe everyone should make the decision of what their time is worth themselves. That is one of the biggest benefits of self-employment after all. Ultimately it comes down to what that time translates into value, so that's the lens we view it through.
I would say it's worked well for us, although I do see the value in employment for our most dedicated team members. Those who are truly full-time should be given full-time employment I believe, since it better protects them (benefits, unemployment, etc). Others who want to have a freelance life should be allowed to do that too. We will likely be offering both options eventually.
If anyone knows about this type of company, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I've launched the newsletter now, so if you're interested you can subscribe - https://creatorjobs.co/
We have an office, but everyone can work from where-ever he wants to (actually the freelancers are from all around the world). Since Covid hit we're operating 100% remote before most of the time we worked with 2 people in the office the rest of us remotely.
Everyone works as much or less as he wants, can take days off whenever he feels like.
We do have voice calls from time to time when it's appropriate, but in 99.9% only two people are involved and it usually happens when we have the feeling it would clarify faster as by asynchronous chat (for example when screen share is involved to demonstrate something). Actually I wouldn't even call it meetings because we mostly don't even setup a schedule, it just naturally happens (for example chatting about a specific topic, then deciding a call would be easier / faster).
It works well for us, but I think it would be a lot harder if we were more people as we don't have anyone who organizes or manages the project and the people.
Just thinking out loud here, but that may be a good target for a niche job board? That’s maybe already a thing.
Most team members are contractors, even those working on new top-secret products, which might be because the core team is small and based in Texas and most devs are geographically elsewhere. It does seem to take up some time to build trust on new commits, which is a bit discouraging at first, but reviews are usually within 24 hours. Pay is based on deliverables, not hourly or salaried, so you don't get paid for time spent learning or experimenting, but free training and classes.
The core team seems a bit old school and conservative in tech choices (not much in the way of k8s, for example), and there's not much in the way of "team" tools like you might expect for a geographically distributed team, which seems to slow things down a bit and reduce communication velocity, but they're very responsive (this might be because it's a smaller, security-focused company). Also a rather complex 10-page NDA.
Putting my best future prediction hat on, this means only a few people know what's actually going on. If the company grows there'll be competing antagonist efforts from different parts of the business. You'll start scheduling strategy meetings to avoid this because it's a waste of money, and that will drive away your early hires who joined because there was a culture of no meetings.
The first is when you have NxM meetings. What does that mean? Well, you have, say, N people representing one interest, and M representing another. You put them all in a room together. This usually only happens when a decision has to be made, and it sucks (note: it's fine if you're just brainstorming, where no decision is being made). This is a great place for leadership to exist; if instead you take the lead from N, and the lead from M, you reduce it back to a 1-on-1 meeting, and then each of those individuals can go back to their teams with what was decided, and have 1xN and 1xM communication.
The other instance is where that 1xN or 1xM meeting feels unproductive. Note the nature of these meetings - they are mostly informational. They're either getting information to inform a future decision (and possibly decide on what the team's position is depending on how egalitarian the org is; I still consider these an informational meeting, since then the leader is more a representative, and trying to find out what the group believes, in order to represent it elsewhere), or they're communicating that a decision has been made. These can likely be done via some asynchronous mechanisms rather than meetings, to avoid it feeling like an unnecessary meeting (and to have documentation of the information!). If it is done as a meeting, be aggressive with providing an agenda, and ensuring only members of a single team/department/etc, and ideally hierarchy level, are included. If you have more than that, you almost assuredly are having a meeting that is 1x(N+M+...), because you're including multiple groups. And those groups have different priorities, interests, etc, and at least part of your meeting is almost assuredly going to be boring and unnecessary for them.
- 2 co-founders
- 2 up to 4 people part-time as contractors
- full remote, almost zero offline retreats
- growing the user base around 10% MoM
- all communication happens on our Discord server
- bootstrapped, no founding
It's not clear if this model will scale easily, but I can see us growing to at least 10-15 people this way.
You could theoretically also serve some relevant ads (products or services for Software Engineers) but the conversion would be probably very poor.
The alternative is to build what you want, that has been my current plan. My only problem is that I want to make everything open source, and have no idea how to monetize my work.
Is it possible that I list your company there? If yes, please contact me with additional information - email@example.com.
See https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/what-remote-work-looks-like... (paywalled) for a good description of it.
It's a little different for Gumroad because they started as a company with an office and became this, but for many side projects, they start out without meetings, without offices and remain that way earning a couple of thousand USD per month.
Send new jobs to: firstname.lastname@example.org
they previously raised money, and is now recently profitable.
very rare in this space.
Here's my LinkedIn so that you can see if I'll be a good fit for the roles you've in mind: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jie-poh-813748159/
"Good read on how Gumroad experiments with work, structure, hiring, and compensation. Re: part time... Little known fact: I hired @dhh
quarter-time (10 hours a week) to build Basecamp way back in 2003. That's all he had, and we made it work."