How to Find a Technical Cofounder

I have a technical background and get about an offer a month to join some engineering team or be a technical cofounder. Active software engineers probably get two or more offers a month.

If you are a non-technical entrepreneur, it can be very, very difficult to find a technical cofounder. But it is not hopeless. Here are some ways to find a technical partner for your venture.

Work for a company that is known to have great engineers
Be a great product manager, marketer, or whatever your role is, and foster deep connections there. Find like-minded people and fostering genuine friendships. Or, at least, solid & respectful working relationships. Also, do a kick-ass job in your role. If you are known as a sharp individual, others will more likely want to follow you.

I was lucky enough to have worked for Yahoo! (YHOO) in its second act. The dot-com bubble had just popped and amazing talent was all over the market. I was able to hire phenomenal software engineers and grow a strong team culture. Many of us have said we’d love to work with one another again. This means we all have access to a large pool of talent. With all the funded startups that are unable to hire, that’s a huge ace up our sleeves.

This is a relatively slow method, however, depending on how quickly you can connect with someone. But such a connection can be long-lasting and meaningful.

Learn to write code yourself
Go to hackathons and developer meetups. Or even contribute to an open source project. The development community is a friendly one (for the most part) and you will often find many people eager to help you out. You can earn the trust of other developers if they see you willing to do this. Also, you will be able to speak their language.

This can be a difficult journey for some. You may have little interest or patience to learn how to program. That lack of motivation can make this method fairly time-consuming. But if you are able to hack it (no pun intended), there are a ton of free resources out there for you. From Codecademy and Try Ruby, to free programming books and free online courses. If those don’t work, pay for a programming course at a local college or workshop. Sometimes having a human being who can answer your questions can help.

Be an inspirational champion for your cause
This works if your passion and business idea serves the community and the world in a greater way. Get yourself involved in various organizations & volunteer groups and be a recognized leader. Build up your personal brand both offline and online. Become someone that others want to follow.

I know of one charismatic individual who has done this via Quora, Twitter, guest blog posts, and various speaking events. He doesn’t have a technical background, but his charisma just radiates.

The common denominator of all these tactics is building meaningful relationships with others through proof of your abilities and talents. I will trust you more if I have worked along side you, seen you try to write a web app yourself, or know you to be an inspirational leader in your field.

What do you think?

CSS Humor

You can blame Hacker News. Specifically, this discussion thread on sarcastic CSS3 Rainbow Dividers. Here’s the sequence of comments that got the ball rolling:

lol at #tongue{position:cheek;}

Did you know that CSS caused one of the big disasters?

How about
.einstein {position: relative;}


I thought it was all so hilarious. Sucker for cheesy geek humor I am. So naturally, I tweeted it. (I wonder if that word is going to make it into the dictionary one day.)

A bunch of friends chimed in with more CSS humor. While my geek funny bone was being thoroughly tickled, my pattern recognition bone wondered, “Is available?” And indeed, it was!

I purchased it, installed WordPress as a quick & dirty CMS, set up some random theme, and invited some friends to submit more CSS humor. I got a bunch. Most notably, nine from the generously hilarious & prolific Groxx, who would later submit a total of thirty-one entries to date. It’s enthusiastic users like this that make small projects such a pleasure. Eventually, I redesigned the UI and made it mobile-friendly.

And that’s how got started. As Gary Larson once said, “I don’t know how interesting any of this really is, but now you’ve got it in your brain cells so you’re stuck with it.”

A Modified Active State for Some Other Awesome CSS3 Buttons

Catalin Rosu just published the article “Just some other awesome CSS3 buttons” that showcases some cool image-less CSS3-only buttons. This article made it to Hacker News, where elii had this comment:

From the technical aspect this is well done because it shows the power of CSS. From a designer’s point of view it is quite far from perfect. The icons look weird and the active state looks quite uninspired with only showing an inner shadow.

The icons don’t bother me as much, but the active state could certainly use a rev or two. Here’s my attempt at a revised active state. Building this solution required me to swap out Red’s use of em units for px units, so I could alter the padding of the active state to give it an “activated, pressed down” look. It’s not quite perfect, but feels better than an inner shadow to me.

Add Edit Delete

And here’s the modified CSS code:

  display: inline-block;
  white-space: nowrap;
  background-color: #ccc;
  background-image: -webkit-gradient(linear, left top, left bottom, from(#eee), to(#ccc));
  background-image: -webkit-linear-gradient(top, #eee, #ccc);
  background-image: -moz-linear-gradient(top, #eee, #ccc);
  background-image: -ms-linear-gradient(top, #eee, #ccc);
  background-image: -o-linear-gradient(top, #eee, #ccc);
  background-image: linear-gradient(top, #eee, #ccc);
  filter: progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.gradient(startColorStr='#eeeeee', EndColorStr='#cccccc');
  border: 1px solid #777;
  padding: 0 30px;
  margin: 10px;
  font: bold 1em/2em Arial, Helvetica;
  text-decoration: none;
  color: #333;
  text-shadow: 0 1px 0 rgba(255,255,255,.8);
  -moz-border-radius: 4px;
  -webkit-border-radius: 4px;
  border-radius: 4px;
  -moz-box-shadow: 0 0 1px 1px rgba(255,255,255,.8) inset, 0 0.5px 0 rgba(0,0,0,.3);
  -webkit-box-shadow: 0 0 1px 1px rgba(255,255,255,.8) inset, 0 0.5px rgba(0,0,0,.3);
  box-shadow: 0 0 1px 1px rgba(255,255,255,.8) inset, 0 0.5px 0 rgba(0,0,0,.3);

  background-color: #ddd;
  background-image: -webkit-gradient(linear, left top, left bottom, from(#fafafa), to(#ddd));
  background-image: -webkit-linear-gradient(top, #fafafa, #ddd);
  background-image: -moz-linear-gradient(top, #fafafa, #ddd);
  background-image: -ms-linear-gradient(top, #fafafa, #ddd);
  background-image: -o-linear-gradient(top, #fafafa, #ddd);
  background-image: linear-gradient(top, #fafafa, #ddd);
  filter: progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.gradient(startColorStr='#fafafa', EndColorStr='#dddddd');

  background-color: #ccc;
  color: #f93;
  text-shadow: 0 0 2px rgba(255,255,255,.8);
  background-image: -webkit-gradient(linear, left top, left bottom, from(#ccc), to(#eee));
  background-image: -webkit-linear-gradient(top, #ccc, #eee);
  background-image: -moz-linear-gradient(top, #ccc, #eee);
  background-image: -ms-linear-gradient(top, #ccc, #eee);
  background-image: -o-linear-gradient(top, #ccc, #eee);
  background-image: linear-gradient(top, #ccc, #eee);
  filter: progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.gradient(startColorStr='#ccc', EndColorStr='#eee');

  outline: 0;
  background: #fafafa;

  background: #ccc;
  background: rgba(0,0,0,.1);
  float: left;
  width: 28px;
  text-align: center;
  font-size: 1.5em;
  margin: 0 25px 0 -29px;
  padding: 0 3px;
  -moz-box-shadow: 1px 0 0 rgba(0,0,0,.5), 2px 0 0 rgba(255,255,255,.5);
  -webkit-box-shadow: 1px 0 0 rgba(0,0,0,.5), 2px 0 0 rgba(255,255,255,.5);
  box-shadow: 1px 0 0 rgba(0,0,0,.5), 2px 0 0 rgba(255,255,255,.5);
  -moz-border-radius: 4px 0 0 4px;
  -webkit-border-radius: 4px 0 0 4px;
  border-radius: 4px 0 0 4px;

/* Hexadecimal entities for the icons */

  content: "\271A";

  content: "\270E";

  content: "\2718";

  content: "\2714";

  content: "\2709";

  content: "\2764";

  content: "\279C";

  content: "\2605";

  content: "\2737";

  content: "\25B6";

If you’ve got some suggestions for a better active state, let me know. Thanks!

How to Find Great Software Developers

I’ve been asked by at least ten people in the last two weeks how to find great software developers. Skills range from CSS & JavaScript to Python/Django & Ruby on Rails. Wherever they are in the technology stack, the plea has been the same:

“How do I find these people? I need more of them TODAY!”

I consider myself damn lucky to know a strong network of great developers. But no, you can’t hire them. Practically all of them have fantastic jobs already. The rest are starting their own companies.

So instead of turning this network over to these hiring managers, I’ve been telling them how I found the developers in the first place. Here is what I told them.

  • First, it helps that I was a developer too. My programming skills have waned a bit, but I understand the programmer mindset and lingo. If you don’t have such a background, have a developer be a part of the technical recruiting team, either as an evangelist & advisor, or full-time member. They will be able to communicate with potential candidates better than non-developers can. This is a key differentiator for your company over other recruiting teams.

  • Next, craft an enticing job description that includes your technical vision describing how you plan on accomplishing the overall vision of the organization. Developers care about the success of the organization because they want to be a part of something great, but I have also found that having a grand technical vision is key. Just stating that the developer will work with XYZ technologies isn’t enough. Draw them in with the technical challenges and lofty aims. This technical vision has to sound immense enough to be daunting, yet exciting enough for candidates to say, “Holy crap, I could never do that myself. I need to be a part of the team that will do that!”

    If you don’t have a technical background, ask your developers to help you write the job description. In my experience, many will give you a plain & straightforward job description. They won’t include any of this visionary detail. To get it, ask your developers to describe the most exciting parts of their jobs. Then ask your technical architects and senior developers about their grand technical vision. You can take this material, edit it for clarity, submit it back to the technical contributors for a sanity check, then publish it as your official job description.

  • Third, search through typical developer hangouts. Github. StackOverflow. Various StackExchange sites. Hacker News. Developer mailing lists. Developers’ blogs. Developers’ Twitter accounts. There are dozens upon dozens out there. Or perhaps someone enterprising enough will build their own way to scour these sources.

    Ask your developers which communities and blogs they frequent. Visit each of those sources. If it’s a blog or Twitter account, check out who they link to, who they respond to, who they mention, who they write about, and who they quote. Blogrolls and Twitter lists can be especially helpful. Not all of these people will be interested, or even qualified, but they make up the peer group of your target audience. Through them, you will be able to find lots of promising candidates.

    For the online communities, it is important to pay attention to their rules. Some frown upon job listings, some welcome them, and many now have job boards. Use those job boards. For an extra bonus, keep track of the number of candidates coming from each, the number that get interviewed, and the number you actually hire. Not all communities are created equal. Some will give you a better return than others. You can use this data to make your searches more efficient.

  • Fourth, identify which candidates are worth interviewing. Like I said, not all will be qualified. If you have a technical background, you can look through their public code or ask for code samples. If not, have the developer on your team help you. The goal at this step is to identify who is at least worth a phone call. Your organization’s procedures may differ, but I generally prefer code samples first, phone call second, in-person interview last. All of this is possible within a week or two if you hustle, depending on the speed of the candidate’s responses.

    For some roles, I have also sent candidates an at-home exercise. If you do this, make sure the exercise looks fake enough that the candidates don’t think you are trying to get free work out of them (and, it should be said, DON’T try getting free work out of a candidate) – while at the same time make sure the exercise effectively tests for the skills you seek.

I should note that this entire process is time-consuming. It is not for the faint of heart. I had a busy schedule while doing all of this hiring, but made it a priority anyways. Other tasks had to fall off my plate. Investing time into an effective recruiting process is worth it if you want to find great developers.

Build it Backwards

There’s this philosophical exercise where you write your own eulogy, then use that as a model of how to live your life. By laying out your life’s goals first, you can better structure your life to reach those goals.

For example, if you want to be remembered as a good parent, reconsider ditching your child’s baseball game for another hour in the office and prioritize your child first. If you want to be remembered as a generous person, give generously to charities and those in need. Etc etc.

The same can be said about a startup.

I believe it was David McClure who I heard say the words, “build it backwards” during some startup conference. He talked about starting with a vision, then going backwards to build the business, the team, the offerings, etc.

That’s not quite the same as a eulogy, of course. Writing a eulogy for a company doesn’t make as much sense as for an individual. Instead, how about writing the About page for your company five, ten, twenty years from now? Or a Wall Street Journal article describing your company’s impact on the industry, your customers, and perhaps the world.

From that page or article, think about the steps needed to get you to that end goal, that vision. Then use that as the high-level steps for building your startup backwards.

And, as an extra bonus, consider writing your own eulogy too. It can be an intriguing and thought-provoking exercise.

Biz Ideas from Twitter: Part II

Twitter It’s fun coming up with business ideas. Whenever inspiration strikes me, I’ll often tweet it. Just because. (I’m not one of those people who believes ideas need to be hidden and sheltered.)

Since the last time I listed all of the ideas I’ve tweeted, I’ve had a ton more. It’s not easy to search through one’s Twitter feed unfortunately. It appears to be limited to a week or two of previous tweets. Instead, I used FriendFeed to put together this list.

This is mostly for my own benefit, though perhaps this will inspire someone to go create someone wonderful. Also, I find it amusing how some of these ideas exist now. (And how stupid some of them are.)

Biz ideas from Mar – Dec 2009

  • How about a site that creates stock portfolios from companies that match the principles from biz books e.g. 30 Mar 09
  • Nose plugs for runny noses. Oh wait, it exists already! 31 Mar 09
  • Re-branding energy bars (eg Cliff bars) as a quick portable meal for busy on-the-go working professionals 4 Apr 09
  • Scalable network of food & history tours in major culinary cities. Indie ones exist already, how about a streamlined nat’l op? 8 Apr 09
  • Niche airline for obese passengers. I’m listening to an NPR report on this topic right now. 20 Apr 09
  • User-friendly apps for doctors (eg patient data, scheduling, etc). Seeing their awful apps just begs for change. Tough biz tho. 21 Apr 09
  • Weight Watchers-type cuisine w/ specific cultural dishes (Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Brazilian, Mexican, etc) instead of just U.S. 3 May 09
  • A Hawaiian shave ice-type shop in inland southern CA (the desert). And maybe NV & AZ too. 4 May 09
  • The Cat Whisperer (hey, we have one for dogs, why not cats too?) 16 May 09
  • A marketing app that retrieves census data & allows marketers to easily parse, filter, dissect, & analyze this info. 21 May 09
  • Gas stations that sell drinks at the pumps (hot coffee, smoothies, sodas, etc). I’d buy one right now 18 Jun 09
  • To the 24/7 diners near Apple stores, hand out free coffee & placeholder placards to people in line, so they can get breakfast 19 Jun 09
  • Law & Order-type show w/ real stories based on 1st responders (firefighters) or 911 operators 28 Jun 09
  • There’s a restaurant dedicated to garlic (The Stinking Rose), how about one w/ chocolate? Appetizers, entrees, drinks & desserts! 11 Jul 09
  • Restaurant selling foods on a stick, like BBQ ribs, fried onion rings, corn, etc. Hmm I think this exists already, huh? 22 Jul 09
  • Public pools for dogs. Could be attached to doggie day care & allow owners in there too. Costs might be too high tho. 21 Jul 09
  • Dog tattoos using permanent marker on hairless or shaven dogs 5 Aug 09
  • A dog training class that teaches funny & cool tricks only, like combat crawl, peek-a-boo, get beer, etc. 5 Aug 09
  • Wifi at a dog park or dog beach, tho perhaps I’m the only person who would use it 9 Aug 09
  • Feature idea for online music sites: Display the lyrics to the song while playing it. Kind of surprised no one’s doing that. 31 Aug 09
  • iPhone app idea: a blog publishing app with Flickr Creative Commons + iPhone camera integration for adding images easily. 28 Sep 09

Biz ideas from Jan – Dec 2010

  • An online video editor that can make VH1 Pop-Up Videos & karaoke videos, a la Yahoo Jumpcut (RIP) 7 Jan 10
  • How about an app that does market research using social media? 21 Jan 10
  • A computer game that lets you create your own playable games. Could allow extensions/plugins/mods too. 24 Jan 10
  • Idea for Google Maps: You know what would be cool? Time estimates based on traffic density 26 Jan 10
  • Postal service in airports, especially tourist spots for over-packers. Think I’ve seen this before. Maybe it’s not viable. Hmm. 26 Jan 10
  • Location tracking service w/ sync to environmental data. Bill Davenhall would sure love it. 27 Jan 10
  • For ex-media professionals, how about offering media training to execs & entrepreneurs? 31 Jan 10
  • Communication reader & writer for private (email,IM) & public (social media) convos. Like Gmail + Meebo + Hootsuite 17 Feb 10
  • Real-time geotagged emotions. What I’m feeling right here, right now. 20 Feb 10
  • Online mix-tape maker (basically, song lists). Could be a feature of Pandora or too. 2 Mar 10
  • A site for iPhone text message typos. Not quite a money maker, but perhaps a fun ‘lil meme. 13 Mar 10
  • Idea for CoTweet & HootSuite: An undo feature, similar to Gmail’s. So I can fix misspellings before publishing a tweet. 17 Mar 10
  • Hawaiian shave ice franchise (finely shaved ice, flavored syrup, sweet red beans, sweetened condensed milk & ice cream) 26 Mar 10
  • Minute to Win It home game, for birthday parties, baby showers, etc. (and potentially, practice) 28 Mar 10
  • App that uses Twitter data as a prediction market for movies, games, politics, etc 2 Apr 10
  • Service that rewrites & publishes legal, medical & business docs in simple terms 4 Apr 10
  • An app/extension that allows you to do a text search thru your browser history & cache 8 Apr 10
  • Twitter $ Idea: Fee-based subscription to old data (tweets older than 2 weeks). Good or bad idea? 10 Apr 10
  • Game Idea: 3D maze, where you can move in X, Y & Z planes. 15 Apr 10
  • A cord that connects your mobile device to your belt, so you don’t accidentally lose your device. 19 Apr 10
  • A service that examines your tweets & analyzes how they’ve evolved over time (readability, style, content, etc) 29 Apr 10
  • A niche video site just for Legos videos. Just because. 5 May 10
  • Getting real-time traffic data via crowdsourcing through mobile apps that measure location, direction & speed 12 May 10
  • Social media data mining. Not just influencers, but purchase/harm/etc intent, prediction mkts, trends, matchmaking, etc 26 May 10
  • TV Show Idea: Drama/comedy in real-time 24 style, even with “real” tweets coming from characters as they happen 27 May 10
  • Twitter music reviews. Lots exist for movie reviews already, why not music too? 28 May 10
  • A beach pillow that allows you to lie face down without suffocating, like those on massage tables 31 May 10
  • A white-label, self-hosted user account management system for web apps, similar to Chargify 3 Jun 10
  • Twitter movie review site idea: Track the buzz of upcoming movies & compare it to the actual reviews 4 Jun 10
  • A distributed social network based on blogs, RSS, microformats & shared standards, and a MyBlogLog-like “platform” 7 Jun 10
  • Idea: A browser extension that allows you to change the font color on a page or site. 10 Jun 10
  • An app that aggregates IM chat archives (online & desktop) and makes them searchable in one place. 14 Jun 10
  • Idea: Give customers an easy 1-click way to praise your customer facing employees. 24 Jun 10
  • A mattress w/ varying firmness AND varying temps, for guys who are always hot & girls who are always cold 17 Jul 10
  • Combine Nike’s NIKEiD + Lego’s DesignByMe premise with IKEA to get design-your-own furniture (color, size, etc) 26 Jul 10
  • Idea: A band that sings rap songs & raps pop songs, a la Dynamite Hack’s “Boyz N The Hood” 2 Aug 10
  • An all-in-one message & comm center that lets you see, read & send emails, IMs, tweets, Facebook posts, etc 4 Aug 10
  • Idea for @thechive: Make an app where ppl can select a Jenny DryErase pic, type in some words to appear on the board, then export the img 11 Aug 10
  • App that combines friends’ upcoming birthdays + a shopping list 19 Aug 10
  • A gaming platform that builds social games on both Facebook & iPhone 7 Sep 10
  • Idea for Facebook: Allow people to check in to activities, like “Mike and Mia are playing Words with Friends” 21 Sep 10
  • Game Idea: A choose-your-own-adventure-type game over IM w/ intelligent IM bots 5 Oct 10
  • Purchase & allow readers to submit URLs of boring news stories & comment sarcastically on them 8 Oct 10

Biz ideas from Jan – July 2011

  • Minute-to-Win-It Bootcamp. Wait, wut? It exists already? Damn. 19 Jan 11
  • Fitness mobile app w/ timed checkins, so you have to jog/run from place to place for badges 14 Feb 11
  • A travel deal finder. Enter your home city, free dates & max price. Then it finds every worldwide deal that matches 2 Mar 11
  • A wrist strap on baby utensils, so they don’t fall to the ground when the young’uns drop them 26 Mar 11
  • A trip planner that lets you plan with both a map view & calendar view. 23 May 11
  • A Mint-like service that manages all the merchant discounts one can get from their credit cards, memberships, etc 6 Jun 11
  • Social Engineering Security Consultants 9 Jun 11
  • “Turn your iPhone into a taser” extension case. Um, or maybe not. 11 Jun 11
  • Location review & advice service that uses your 1st & 2nd degree social network, perhaps with a Q&A format 15 Jun 11
  • A restaurant review service that learns, then finds matches based on your individual preferences. 17 Jun 11
  • A tool to help recruiters source software developers from sites like GitHub, StackOverflow, etc 23 Jun 11
  • A Hawaiian Shave Ice shop in some hot town on the mainland. 29 Jun 11 (How funny; I apparently have this idea about once a year)
  • An easy way to create an ebook out of selected articles & blog entries. Copyright & monetization would be tough tho. 11 Jul 11
  • Limited range group messaging using transceivers, to replace people walkie talkies during camping trips. 27 Jul 11
  • A for toiletries, like contact lens solutions, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. 30 Jul 11

Want to see more business ideas? Want to discuss business ideas? Follow me on Twitter at @mikeleeorg! </plug shameless=”yes”>

Surrounded by The Unfamiliar

“How was your trip to Italy?”

I beamed. “It was amazing. We gave ourselves a schedule that had the right mix of relaxation, sight-seeing, and random wandering.”

“That sounds great. It’s good you guys had some time to relax too.”

“Hells yea,” I nodded. “I also stayed away from anything technology or business-related. It felt good to step away from all things Silicon Valley and take a break from for a while.”

“That must have been hard.”

“You know? It was at first. But after a few days, it was easy. We relied on paper guidebooks, advice from fellow travelers and people at the hotels, and some well-worn folding maps to get around. I’ll admit, I felt like pulling out my phone and looking at TripIt, TripAdvisor or Google Maps (GOOG) a few times, but I didn’t.”

“I would’ve been using those like crazy. I’ve grown so dependent on those apps.”

“Back in the States, me too. But I didn’t have an international SIM card and didn’t want to pay the roaming charges, so admittedly, the frugal side of me helped curb my app addiction too.”


“But you know what? I always enjoy being surrounded by the unfamiliar. Unfamiliar words, unfamiliar signs, unfamiliar cultures.” My hands waved around to punctuate each sentence. “I mean, Italy isn’t as foreign as, say, a village in rural China or the dunes of the Sahara desert. But it’s still exciting to be in a wholly different place than I normally am, then gradually learning enough of the language and customs to get around.”

“Hey, that could be a good analogy for a startup.”

“Oh yea? How so?”

“When you start a company, you’re doing something unfamiliar, right? Maybe it’s entering a new market or creating a new spin on something. Either way, it’s something new and unfamiliar. Then you gradually learn about the market, and as you do, you compete in it that much better. You navigate in it that much better.”

“Right, right. Traveling someplace unfamiliar involves some level of risk, just as entering a new market does. Some cities and countries have less risk than others, just as some markets have less potential than others. The companies that do well are the ones who have the ability to learn and understand their market. The people who enjoy their trips are the ones who have enough of an understanding to get around and not wander into a back alley somewhere and get robbed or something.”

“Yup, totally.”

“That IS a good analogy.”

“You should blog about this.”

“I think I will,” I smiled.

T-Shaped Skills, I-Shaped Skills and Dash-Shaped Skills

The term T-shaped skills – also known as T-shaped persons or simply, T-skills – is a metaphor for the depth and breadth of a person’s skills. What do they mean?

T-Shaped Skills
A person with a deep (vertical) expertise in one area, and a wide (horizontal) yet shallow knowledge in other areas. This person typically excels in one specific domain, and can also do a fair job in others.
I-Shaped Skills
A person with a deep (vertical) expertise in one area and practically no experience or knowledge in other areas. This person is typically known as a specialist. Their expertise is usually deeper than a T-shaped person in the same discipline.
Dash-Shaped Skills
A person with a wide (horizontal) yet shallow base of knowledge, and no discernible specialties. This person is typically known as a generalist. Or, more derisively, a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none.

It is generally believed that T-shaped people are the most desirable, though this differs with the situation, environment and role. I tend to favor T-shaped people for startups and leadership positions. Some of the best managers I’ve known may not have a deep technical skill, but a deep leadership aptitude.

I avoid I-shaped people in startups because you need an organizational infrastructure in place before you can support I-shaped people well. But once you do, they tend to excel faster than T-shaped people in their particular roles.

I don’t find many people who are true dash-shaped people. Most have some kind of specialization in something, no matter how deep.

This skill metaphor unfortunately doesn’t map explicitly to one’s actual skills. Some of the most successful people I know have multiple vertical lines extending from their base of skills. In other words, they dominant in multiple areas while having a broad understanding of other disciplines. Too bad there’s no letter for that.

Photo by: TooFarNorth