Jonathan Holloway, Consulting CTO

Founder Help

Getting a startup off the ground is tough. I've been fortunate enough to be in co-founder position on several occasions, some success, some failures. I've seen lots of common problems with start-up/scale-up in their early, mid and late stages of development. Some of these include:

  • No market need for the product
  • Not the right team
  • Poor product
  • Not using network/advisor

Why startups fail?

This can be attributed to the challenges and problems faced by founders when building a startup, several of which are described here:

Ten biggest challenges founders face

So what can you do about it? I'd highly recommend you read up on product management, development process and engineering over a few weekends. Not only will you be more clued up on what it means, you'll be able to have better conversations around building products.


Product Management

A key part of this is the interface between product teams and their customers, but also between product/engineering. There are a few models for structuring product/engineering, but I firmly believe that product/engineering should be one team in an organisation, because:

  • The metrics by which they are measured are too closely aligned when delivering value to customers
  • Product owners need to sat within engineering teams and understand the day to day problems and be there to advise engineers - reducing the feedback loop

If you're a founder wanting to understand the foundations of product management more, I'd suggest reading the General Assembly book here:

The Practitioner's Guide To Product Management (Top 5 Things Learn/Hard Way)


Development Process

Another common problem involves a lack of understanding around development process. Understanding this takes time, hiring a CTO early on is expensive. A part-time, fractional CTO is a better way to do this. Lean startup is a great overview of

I often find the term cargo cult used when it comes down to process and technology. I'll give you some examples

  • Adopting the "Spotify Model"
  • Doing "Agile" properly

You can read up on these, but the important part is that adopting a model from a company carte blanche is a recipe for disaster. That model might have worked for their given size, constraints and product, but it doesn't mean it's going to work for you. A great introduction to the development process is Accelerate

Other Essential Books For Founders

Five Dysfunctions of a Team - essential in understanding effective teams and people:

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable (J–B Lencioni Series)

Lean Startup - great introduction to build/measure/learn and iterating on a product based on user feedback:

The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses