10 lessons I learned about growing a startup in 2023

Getting users to adopt a new product is hard.

For us, it took 7 failed launches, and then the 8th version of our product - Jam, a browser extension for creating bug reports with automatic dev logs, worked! In 2023, Jam grew 10x and crossed 1M Jams created.

I learned a lot this year, about what it takes to build a successful product. It boils down to the team, the code, and user feedback.

Here are the 10 most important lessons I learned from growing a startup in 2023:

  1. Hire people who love what they do so much, they listen to podcasts about it. (Or read, go to meetups, etc) Their passion will light up the energy in every meeting, Slack, Zoom. It’s infectious. And it’s amazing. Here's Jam's startup recruiting playbook.
  2. Get good at being uncomfortable. The uncomfortable feeling is a sign of growth. If the company is growing, the problems you face will change, your job will change. It’s expected. 
  3. Quality quality quality. Doing something is easy. Doing something that works every time, on every device, every network condition, is hard. But it matters. We’ve learned we need to have half the engineering team always investing in our baseline infra for keeping quality as we scale, while the other half can race ahead on building new features. 
  4. In engineering, you have to go slow to move fast. Times we just sprinted, we ended up paying it back with weeks of fixes later. But when we spent a little bit of extra time planning upfront, and a little bit of extra time cleaning up, then we were able to move faster in the long term because we prevented a ton of technical debt.
  5. You can’t build your company out of order. First PMF → then, stability → finally growth. We started the year working on major infra and code upgrades. I wanted to skip to growth mode sooner, but you can’t grow a product that isn’t 1000% production-grade, just like it doesn’t make sense to stabilize a product that doesn’t have PMF. You can’t skip a step. You have to build in order.
  6. A players really do hire A players. Steve Jobs was right! One really inspiring moment for me this year was when the engineering team told me that in order to extend an offer to a new engineer, that new engineer needs to bring a new perspective or expertise to the team. Their goal being that every time the team grows, it also levels up in a new way. Great people want to work on great teams. They don’t care about ego or politics, they just care about building something incredible together. I love our team, and I feel really lucky to get to work with people who think this way.

    P.S. You can listen to Jam's Head of Engineering talk about what it's like to hire engineers at our startup on the Building Jam podcast.
  7. Do things that don’t scale to get user feedback. My co-founder is still constantly chatting with users in customer support. I reach out to the top 100 users every week to check in. The insights we learned from users were the building blocks for the company’s growth this year. And for me, it’s the single most motivating thing to know that we are building what users want and need.
  8. Ask for feedback every single time. I used to ask for feedback only sometimes. This lack of consistency made it a bigger deal, and harder for people to give. This year I started asking for feedback in every 1-1 (thanks to a nudge by Irtefa), and I got so much more feedback that I needed to hear.
  9. Name your wifi jam.dev and soon your neighbors will start jamming.
  10. Don’t take the moments for granted. Your startup will grow up. And you get to live each phase of it once.

Now, onto 2024! Excited to continue the Jam journey with all of you. Thanks for being a part of it.

Happy holidays and new year!

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