The AngelList team is roughly organized into 1-(wo)man startups. That means we expect you to treat your project like a startup.

You come up with the idea, do the design, write the code, release it, market it, support customers, collect external and internal feedback and then get to work on the next version. We also expect you to work directly with our business partners like SecondMarket, VC funds and incubators.

We don’t hire people who just want to code

We don’t hire anyone who just wants to be an engineer. Or a designer. Or a product manager. We hire people who want to start their own company—at AngelList and beyond. Many of our team members, including me, have started their own company and failed—others have done quite well.

I would put our engineers up against any startup in the world, but we’re not a good place for someone who wants just wants to code.

And we’re not a good place for people who want to be told what to do. If you sit and wait for instructions, you will fail.

Pull the help you need

Everyone on the team is exceptionally good at one or two things (code, design, product, marketing…). Some of them might be fine at another one. But it falls off quickly after that.

So we expect engineers to pull help from designers (and vice versa). We expect designers to push help on the engineers (and vice versa). We expect teammates to ask the founders for help getting press. To get advice on how to sequence the launch. To ask for a better idea. To ask what’s the most important thing you could be working on right now.

Pull help from whomever is best at X, but don’t let them be a bottleneck. And expect strong feedback from people who are better at X.

Coordination costs go way down

Each person on the team does a ridiculous amount of cross-functional work, so coordination costs go way down. It is pretty easy to coordinate with yourself.

There are less stakeholders on each project, so freedom and happiness go way up. So does responsibility.

Finally, we get the chance to improve the average quality of the team as we hire new people. Instead of hiring teams of decent people who are managed towards a good outcome, we can hire unicorns that actually increase the average quality of the team. And we can create our own unicorns through training.

The product gets messy

We don’t have a consistent design across the entire site. The design is embarrassing in many places. The product is embarrassing in places. The code is rough in places. The site isn’t fast.

We mitigate this by having very high standards–so our standard for embarrassing is another company’s standard for good. We mitigate this by solving very hard problems for our users, so they cut us lots of slack. We mitigate this by being fast instead of consistent or perfect. And we mitigate this with internal startups who serve our team members with design, engineering, refactoring, etc.

It’s a great way to recruit

Every candidate loves to hear that they will get the opportunity to be a 1-(wo)man startup. It lets us hire past and future entrepreneurs.

A new team member isn’t going to take over one of our top-line metrics on her first day. She will start small but nobody is going to stop excellence from shining through.

Related

This won’t work if you don’t give the team freedom and responsibility. So read this: Ask forgiveness, not permission.

It won’t work if you don’t have a strong sense of mission. So read this: Startups are here to save the world.

And it might not work for your size or domain. We are only 13 people: 5 engineers, 2 designers, 2 “dealflow managers” and 4 G&A (including 2 founders).

If you’re interested in working with us, we’re always hiring.

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Topics Culture

6 comments · Show

  • Obat Anti Rokok

    very inspiring.. thanks

  • http://bing.com

    Seems like you really know a great deal regarding this specific
    subject and that demonstrates thru this specific posting, titled “1-man startups
    - Venture Hacks”. Thanks ,Felipe

  • mikeful

    This post reminds me of T-shaped people mentioned in “Valve Handbook for New Employees”. Top bar is broad general skills and vertical bar is special skill on interest.

  • gary krane PhD

    I feel a bit afraid of commenting here, since i am not a coder (alas), or designer. I am former successful filmmaker and a PhD psychologist, among other things. I am looking for a more fundable CEO, because for a variety of good reasons, my startup has taken too long to get to where we are, which imho is on the verge of a big success., once we remove some of the friction on the site and add some clever gamification we have in mind (I authored an important book on games long ago). So I am asking if you offer any help matchmaking to find this ceo? I can give many reasons why this is a fabulous op for the right CEO.
    –gary

  • Jim Preston

    I love the advice but it has one major well-known error. The person suggesting the project should not have to do it. That inhibits ideas and has been a source of idea suppression in major and minor companies for a very long time. People are afraid to open their months due to fear of getting stuck with more work. In any organization be sure to make it clear that if someone speaks up that they aren’t creating an obligation to act.