Choosing maturity


I’ve spent the better part of the last decade choosing startups for everything. New better than old, fast better than slow, panic better than stagnation. And it’s bled into my personal life — I live in a booming part of a young city, I drive an electric car even though it only goes ~80 miles, and I have a massive collection of smart things that are of questionable intelligence.

That’s a good place to start — smart lightbulbs. A decade ago, I’d walk into a room and flick a switch. There was no app, no software updates, no smart hub, no integrations — just a switch and a bulb. Now, my lightbulb situation comes at a 10x premium, sometimes doesn’t work perfectly, and may or may not be compatible with whatever comes next. Plus, when guests come over, sometimes it’s not 100% clear how to turn things on. It’s really just complexity I’ve introduced into my life under the guise of simplicity and added features.

It’s undeniable that the things in my life do more now, but it’s not clear if my startup focus has made me any more efficient. (I’m now a crotchety old man.)

What I’m trying to do here is reframe my view of productivity/work tools — the stuff we all rely on to get actual work done. Is it better to always choose startups with new features and endless energy, or is it consistency and stability that move the needle? Like my lightbulb situation, new and scrappy often comes with its own share of issues:

  • Mass adoption of anything new is inconsistent across a team — some people are ok with tinkering and dealing with startup bugs, but some people’s productivity slows to a halt. Are you working in a team where people don’t quite know how to turn on the lights?
  • Mentioned above, startups almost always come with bugs and oversights. Even the best startups take months, if not years, to iron out the rough edges.
  • Acquisitions can be crippling. I can’t even guess what percentage of the good startups I’ve used get acquired by FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google) companies and lose their magic. This can happen to any company, but scrappy, over-performing startups are prime acquisition targets.

To be fair, there’s a reason people gravitate to startups. They often solve problems established players aren’t even thinking about, and their outside-the-box thinking can lead to all sorts of smart innovations. Done right, they can change the world.

But when it comes to the tools you use to get stuff done, what’s most important is you. Are the apps you’re using making you more productive or less productive? New can be awesome, but are you overlooking established tools that are more polished and can make you more efficient?