I'd like to request comments on the following concrete proposal for how a Silicon Valley founder team might be productively scaled up to four, five, or even six founders.
Management. The founders periodically elect a manager from amongst themselves. The manager is expected to act in an authoritarian manner and pursue aggressive schedules. Where possible, the manager delegates responsibilities to other founders, who are also expected to act in an authoritarian fashion within their area of responsibility. This allows the startup to make decisions quickly despite its larger size, and also fights over-engineering: software can still ship even if there's no consensus that all issues have been solved to everyone's satisfaction.
Communication. Rather than write down brief status reports, random screenshots are automatically taken during the day. At periodic intervals, each founder then walks the rest of the founder team through his screenshots, using them as visual aids to explain what he's been working on. This allows the other team-members to understand his activities and make suggestions. This also provides more opportunities for team-members' work to be recognized. Watching and listening to occasional visual status reports is probably not a mentally taxing activity, and so should enhance communication and coordination without greatly increasing mental fatigue.
Equity. Founder equity vests gradually over the course of three years, vesting at a reduced rate throughout the first six months. Any founder can be dismissed at any time by a majority of the other founders, if they are not a good fit for the organization. Founders are required to verifiably work for at least seventy hours per week, not including breaks and meals. Founders are expected to get proper sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Founders are required to abstain from recreational drugs; if enforceable, I would even favor a clause that founders forfeit equity if they fail to abstain. The goal of this equity strategy is to encourage good work habits and to reduce tensions and conflicts over perceptions of unfair workload distribution.
Many aspects of the proposal are expected to be tweaked or replaced as one gathers evidence of what works and what doesn't. Any comments are welcome on specifics or the overall approach, either by posting comments below or by sending me email, but I'm especially interesting in hearing:
- Have similar approaches been tried before, and what lessons were learned?
- If you're a software developer, would you tilt towards being interested in participating as a co-founder in such a startup?
- If you're in a position to hire consultants, would you tilt towards hiring such an organization to provide consulting services to you if it provided appropriate consulting services?
- If you're a VC, would you tilt towards funding such a startup?