Published by Rich Kershaw on September 23rd, 2020

Things tech startups can avoid #3: Rockstar Attraction Platforms

This is an article in my series "Lessons for tech startups", about ways startups can prepare themselves for the many ways they’ll be scrutinised in their path to funding.

Think back to around 10 years ago - Ruby on Rails was the greatest platform for web apps, and Ruby was something different in a sea of quite vanilla Java/C#/PHP frameworks. It appealed to young developers, of the sort hired with "We Need Rockstars!" job postings, who were being asked to learn fairly well established technologies and wanted something entirely new. It was a go-to for new projects in the startup scene for 3 or 4 years. Unfortunately, enterprises, who generally represent the mainstream of software development, rarely adopted Ruby. Whilst there’s a lot of legacy code using Ruby now, it never gained the momentum of, say, JavaScript or Python, and its usage sits at around 6% of the market, by GitHub's rankings.

All of this is to say that companies who did make it to stability with a Ruby codebase now have a product which needs to be maintained by an increasingly dwindling workforce. More attractive projects using Python, JavaScript and even Java means developers’ Ruby skills become stale over time, and you’re stuck competing for hires in a shrinking pool of candidates. And that means stability, roadmap and product reliability problems as your tech choices fall out of fashion.

It's very tempting as a startup to pick a technology that’s up-and-coming, but it’s also essential to remember that your priorities are (in no particular order):

  • Getting to market with a product
  • Demonstrating you have a customer base willing to commit to you
  • Showing you're going to be around long enough to become self-sustaining (maybe with investment)
  • If you do need investment, being attractive to investors
  • Demonstrating you’ve planned sensibly for growth

And so, provided you don’t need to use a minority tech platform and your options all do the basics, your decisions should be guided by:

  • Ease of hiring - is there a readily available work force you can draw from?
  • Maturity - how reliable is the platform, and is there a good library framework to save development effort?
  • Stability - is your chosen platform proven? Can you demonstrate how it behaves with 200% of the traffic you’re predicting? How about 2000%?

These are the things clients, acquirers, investors and partners will be looking at when they conduct due diligence (for more on this, see my article "What is due diligence?"), and it’ll make your life as a CTO or technical architect much easier as your company, team and product grows!

I've grown and guided technology platforms to scale and investment for over 15 years. If your team needs guidance on preparing for investment due diligence, platform scaling or customer experience optimisation, get in touch for and find out how I can help!
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