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Silver and Lead

Stashed in: @bhorowitz

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I like this, Silver bullets vs. lead bullets. I think it boils down to this: there's no substitute for hard work. Or even simpler: startups are hard (if they weren't, someone else would have done it before).

One big question that came to mind while I was reading this: why is it that the "silver bullets" don't appear to have begun to fly until AFTER the competition had already appeared to "win"? How did both of Ben's orgs get into a state where obvious performance or functionality issues were allowed to stack up like this?

Is it simply that no one takes medicine until their stomach already hurts? Or is it that success breeds disagreements about product direction, and these disagreements eventually suck up all the cycles of an org until it becomes OBVIOUS to everyone that it's an existential emergency?

It helps to remember that the two startups that Ben is referring to -- Netscape and Opsware -- never went through a garage stage or a seed stage.

Both those startups immediately jumped on the rocket ship of venture-fueled glory, so they never had time to build a stable foundation because both of them were still building the rocket ship AFTER takeoff.

But yes, your point that no one takes medicine until after the symptoms are apparent is also true.

It's hard not to read this...

“Ben, those silver bullets that you and Mike are looking for are fine and good, but our web server is five times slower. There is no silver bullet that’s going to fix that. No, we are going to have to use a lot of lead bullets.” Oh snap.

As a result of Bill’s words, we focused our engineering team on fixing the performance issues while working the other things in the background. We eventually beat Microsoft’s performance and grew the server line to become a $400M business and we would never have done it without those lead bullets.

...and think to myself, But today Apache is dominant.

Might they have sacrificed long-term viability to make a short-term goal for Wall Street?

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