Igor Plotnikov brings 30 years of technology product development experience. He has held a number of senior engineering management positions and had co-founded a string of startups that led to $1B+ in product sales. Two of his startups were acquired by F5 Networks and Cisco. One of the startups that he’d worked for during the mid-90s had been acquired by the Netscape Communications. In this episode, we talk about how to hire top-notch engineers and build highly productive teams
Key takeaways from Episode 02
- Don’t let the M&A process go sideways if you company is getting acquired. About his startup InSoft being acquired by Netscape in April of 1996. “This was a mixed bag in a sense. We had a great product. Essentially today you use Hangouts and Zoom. We were doing a very early version of that. Netscape bought us and trimmed down the product making it the part of Netscape Communicator’s suite.” Igor said. “When I switched to working on a media streaming and Netscape decided that we didn’t want to compete in the space and essentially they canned the product. After which I quit. The lesson to me was that the acquisition didn’t really go all that well. I swore to myself that never ever again will I let an M&A process go sideways. And I think I did well on that with my other startups.”
- The best hiring happens through personal networks. Unfortunately it doesn’t scale. “Well, I hired through my personal network. I hired people I knew, friends, their relatives”, said Igor. “For me, it had worked out very well. However, that said, people do fall out. In a startup environment, you do experience a very intense relationship with the key people”.
- Several traits differentiate great candidates from the good ones. “It boils down several things. First is the smarts. Individual productivity varies by the factor of 20. If you measure productivity by the lines of code or documentation produced than the differential in the output of the top performer and the weakest one can be 20 to 1. However, nobody is paid 20 times more. So it’s always better to find the top producer and pay him as opposed to hiring 10 mediocre ones.”
- To scale team fast comparmentalize your technology. “To scale team fast compartmentalize your technology. Don’t build a monolithic code. Try to keep the islands in your product. You will have to face and overhead of the cross-team communication, but you’d maintain the sense of ownership which is very important. This keeps the pride and accomplishments.”
- The pros and cons of localized and remote teams. “The fundamental truth is that nothing beats the colocated team if you can afford it. nothing can substitute for spontaneity of a brief chat at the water cooler”, said Igor. “The caveat is that if you can afford it. with remote teams the cost savings are were, they are just not as large. And there’s always overhead. With the remote team, you burn the candle on both sides because of the time difference. Plus there are cultural aspects to consider.”