Everyone wants to make their company the total package. Easier said than done, but here are some tips that just might get you closer to your goal
“Full stack” is a word thrown around a lot lately – whether referring to Jedi developers that are fluent in both front and back-end technologies or companies that offer comprehensive technological solutions. This article will deal with the latter and suggest ways that you can pivot your software startup into a full stack company.
The term “full stack startup” was coined by Chris Dixon, General Partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz in a blog post that attempts to explain the success of notable technology companies such as Uber, Tesla, and Apple. Dixon explains that these companies, which are also often “unicorns” in the tech world, are full-stack startups because they offer technological solutions that overhaul existing industries and because they do many things well at once. As Dixon explains it: “The old approach startups took was to sell or license their new technology to incumbents. The new, ‘full stack’ approach is to build a complete, end-to-end product or service that bypasses incumbents and other competitors.”
While it’s unlikely that any of us will stumble upon an idea for the next Apple, there are a number of ways that you can scale your software startup to reflect the fruitful business practices of full-stack startups:
1. Make operations and technology one and the same
Software startups tend to focus on three major aspects: technology, management and marketing, however, they could be missing out on a key opportunity to drive their business forward. By placing equal emphasis on technology and operations, software companies can create a flawless customer experience that will challenge competitors to do the same. Think of it this way: if you provide a software service, but no customer support or engagement, how do you know that your product is still relevant for users? Adding a stellar operations team to your business ensures that you are in tune to the needs and wants of your target audience, and that you’re constantly improving your technological offering to become something closer to a full stack solution.
2. Fix things when they are broken, and not before
Bugs will always be there, so know when to confront problems and when they can be brushed aside for a later date. If your company fixates on bugs, it’s likely its product won’t get very far. Once a feature works well enough, run with it and collect user feedback that will gradually help you improve and pivot in the right directions. Feeling around in the dark or assuming what users want will, firstly, usually delay the release of the product and secondly, prevent your company from reaching full stack scalability. Ditch the fixation with bugs if you really want to reach a full stack quality product.
3. Hire people who will grow with you
This point should be pretty obvious, but for a lot of early (and late) stage software startups, it isn’t. Usually, these companies will hire people to get a certain task done – development, building a marketing outlook or the first user interface for the product. However, this single-minded approach can actually be painful in the long run if you are aiming to create a scalable company. Instead, hire individuals who don’t mind being a bit bored at times (i.e. don’t have an explicit project to work on) and are self-starters. Remember that Steve Jobs was notorious for letting go of employees who couldn’t explain their contribution to Apple during an elevator ride. While it’s an exaggeration, remember the Jobs example when deciding on your level of hiring selectivity.
4. Have strong core competitiveness
Where would Apple be today without Microsoft? That may seem like a strange question but it is exactly the kind of observation that helped Apple reach full stack status and dominate the world of consumer electronics. Apple was able to learn from Microsoft’s weaknesses to offer a full stack solution that not only creates a unique a user experience and interface, but offers complete service (the Genius Bar) to its users while creating an inviting brand culture. All of these elements and more helped Apple surpass Microsoft in the technology market and transform the consumer electronics industry as we know it. The same should be true of your full stack startup – outline your core competitive offering (sometimes known as a competitor map) and excel at delivering a polished product to your users. It may take time to figure out exactly what the needs are in your specific industry, but definitely take this time if you want to be off on the right foot further down the road.
Full stack startups aren’t built overnight. It took time for Apple to penetrate the consumer electronics industry and for Uber to break down the cultural and regulatory barriers to using its platform. However, these companies are obviously enjoying huge payoffs, and more than that are beacons of innovation and inspiring trailblazers in their industries.