Small Teams

Note to future self…

I don’t if I am the only one that feels this way but I think that most tech companies should be way smaller than they actually are. Maybe I am na├»ve and there’s a reason for this but I personally want to build a company that’s a tight-knight team as opposed to a company that grows their headcount 4x every year.

In a way I would prefer being WhatsApp (35 engineers when acquired for $19B) or Instagram (13 people when they got acquired for $1B) than a company that just grows to 1000 people in 4 years. But why do I think this way? Part of me thinks that it’s a lack of confidence on my part to scale a company to thousands of employees. It’s just hard to wrap your head around that if you’ve never hired one person. However, part of me also romanticizes this idea of having a tight crew of elite players that just gets shit done. A group of the Avengers or Navy SEALs if you will. Probably both factors influence my thinking and why I default to wanting a small team


Having a desire to have small teams doesn’t mean that the company will always stay small. I feel that the best philosophy to scale a company with pockets of small teams comes from Jeff Bezos at Amazon and his famous “two pizza teams” (teams should be small enough so that the team can be fed with two pizzas). Scaling teams this way is definitely the way to go for multiple reasons including speed of decision making, autonomy, accountability, etc.


In terms of actionable takeaways I think that the main point I can make is that in order to build small teams that can scale a large product you need your mindset to default towards high-leverage actions. In other words, Insta and WhatsApp could scale with few people because of the inherent nature of their products (they didn’t need many more engineers for every additional 1M users). In the case of WhatsApp at least apparently they were also great at using vendors to outsource key functions and have WhatsApp engineers focus exclusively on what mattered the most.

Now back to work…