Thinking about joining something new in 2023
This year I’ve been working on some really exciting product exploration, together with Ed, Matt and Andrew. That’s wrapped up a few weeks ago (I hope there will be some public output) and now it’s time for something new.
I’m currently freelancing for some clients on smaller projects, but I’m curious about joining something more long-term again. I would like to be part of a small team that explores something new or a radically new aspect of something existing. The most suitable title for me would probably be product engineer or founding engineer.
I’ve been talking with people working on interesting projects, but I also felt that a little more serendipity could be useful, since the very early projects are usually not that visible.
What I’m looking forA small team of a not-yet or newly founded company or within an existing company (that has been given the freedom to explore something new autonomously). With some vision, but also with enough comfort for uncertainty, so that objectives are not defined too specifically just yet. Either in Berlin or remote-first.
I’m especially interested in products that make use of AI, new forms of interaction, tools for thought, realtime multiplayer, decentralisation and decentralised social. Some examples of product directions I would love to work on (related to the aforementioned fields):
- Social networks that don’t overly incentivise the exploitation of strategies that provide reach and cause all the numerous problems, that became very apparent in the recent years
- Information consumption tools that help you achieve your highest-level ultimate goals, rather than just “read more books/articles” (which miss the point)
- Multiplayer real-time products that enable open-ended exploration and discovery, rather than focusing solely on task completion and productivity
- Richer, programmable documents. Projects like Jupyter are great, but how can we make such tools more accessible to non-programmers and gradually enrich the documents? (Potluck is a fascinating project related to those questions)
My past work and approach to building products
Over the past two decades I’ve created and worked on various products, the most well-known probably being Twitter. As part of the founding team and lead engineer, I developed the app, built the public API, and worked on figuring out product features like the character limit and following (widely used now, but completely new back then).
I also co-founded and was the CTO of Amen, a startup that aimed to create structured data about “the best” in the world using a combination of AI and a unique playful mechanism. I built and led a team of engineers, worked on product and growth and was involved in raising venture capital funding.
With both products, we created entirely new and unique social products. Additionally, I also saw the need for public APIs, implemented them to be available from day one and actively encouraged experimentation and the creation of various clients and interfaces. (In Twitter’s case, l wish it would have continued on that trajectory after my departure, rather than closing its APIs)
This has instilled in me the value of openness, bottom-up design, and insight-through-making. It has also taught me about the challenges and pitfalls of building a social network, finding product-market fit and the trade-offs you have to navigate when taking a rough prototype all the way to a high-fidelity product with a large user base.
Since then, I’ve helped companies like Radicle, MUBI and Deutsche Grammophon with product, strategy, engineering and exploration of new ideas. Throughout the past few years, I’ve also enjoyed mentoring early stage founders.
I’m grateful that I’ve had a chance to work in many different roles and contexts. Because of it I’m able to think broadly and deeply across many aspects of building a product and running a company. This also allows me to find high-leverage trade-offs more easily. Often what you are giving up and what you are gaining in return are not in the same area of expertise.
Ultimately, I’m happiest at the intersection of creative and execution work. I strongly believe that at the earliest stages, the same people should do them.
A long time ago, I focused more on the backend (I’m a Rails core alumni), but since then most of my engineering work is more broad (Typescript, React, Next.js, Python, Pandas, etc).