The Anti-Startup Experience


Behind Wishtack features described in our previous post, resides our philosophy.

Unlike most young companies around the web world, we are not a startup. We are fighting for freedom, our freedom and your freedom as users. We have no investors and are 100% bootstrapped, making this adventure grow thanks to you. We want Wishtack to answer your needs and not those of any investors or stakeholders.

We do not want to grow fast. Right now, we are only two here, working directly from our home labs (oh yes, we don’t like that “office” word), one is in the sunny part of France and the other in the snowy one, and that’s enough to ensure a good pace.

Lionel is our User eXperience expert.

Younes is the pythonic lead-developer.

Most people think that having a team of 10 developers will make us go 10 times faster, but as eXtreme Programmers, we can tell you by experience that most of the time it’s the opposite, specially in the beginning. Of course, it’s interesting to have 10 different ways of thinking but it takes a lot of time and energy to merge all these energies and thoughts and make them aim to one same direction. In addition to this, we would probably need a bigger lab (not an office :)) etc… and we would need to generate 10 times more revenue just in order to survive or ask investors and get into this “investor-dependency” thingy we don’t really like here at Wishtack.

Well, maybe we are right, maybe we are wrong but we know about stories like 37signals(the company behind Basecamp and Ruby On Rails) who started building Basecamp back in 2004 with 3 persons including only one developer for a couple of years and they are more than fine now even if they have less than 50 employees. You can ask Jason Fried about all this or read his book “Rework” (or add it to your wishlist on Wishtack ;)) or subscribe to 37signals blog,

The other part of freedom is about motivation and our way of working. We work on what we want, when we want and where we want.

The “motivation”: We think that the motivation counts way more than this fuzzy “man-hour” unit. We don’t care about “productivity” (another word we don’t like), we focus on motivation. When motivated, one can do a quality job 10 times faster than that guy who’s still struggling with his yesterdays-party-you-dont-remember-hangout but is forced to be at the office at 8am for a meeting whose main objective is to schedule the next one.

Another priority is to fight boring tasks. If one of us considers that some task becomes boring, we do our best to get rid of it using automation. For instance, we automate all our tests that cover every feature in Wishtack to keep it clear of bugs.

If one of our tools doesn’t fulfill our needs, we move to a better one (we did it when we moved from casperjs to protractor), if it’s not enough, we improve it and if it’s still not enough or if we can’t find the tool we need, we make it. But concerning development, most of the time, we find all we need in open source projects. Sometimes, things go wrong, we fix them and contribute to these open-source projects.

Another example is that we hate system administration, that’s why we are using Heroku and it’s great add-ons. Before creating anything, check the web, if you find what you need but it’s still not enough, improve it instead of starting from scratch.

To keep the team’s motivation, it’s better to spend a week making or setting up a tool than an hour every week in accomplishing a boring task. Boring tasks hurt team motivation. Getting rid of them is a priority.

The “when”: We work when our brains are ready for that. If one of us wants to work in the calm of the night, then he’ll do it. If he’s not in the mood of working, then he should take a nap or have a beer. He’ll work when he’s ready for that. Didn’t it ever happen to you to fight a problem for hours then one day or one week later you solve it in 5 minutes?

The “what”: As eXtreme Programmers, we work in weekly iterations, we release our new features as they come (sometimes daily). All our features are planned but not in a strict way. They are prioritized but for features with almost equal priority, we pick the ones we want. If one of us is tired of server-side development, he’ll move to client-side development. If he’s tired of development, he’ll move to marketing etc… If he’s tired of working, he’ll pick a beer. So when we are working on something, we do it with our guts and the brain follows.

The “where”: Same as above, if you are comfortable in working from your bed then do it. If you need some sun, take your computer and go to the beach or to a park. If you need calm, go home and shutdown your cell phone and instant messaging.

And you? How do you work? What would your boss think of all this? Ask him! It might change your life! 😉

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