How Many Startup Employees Does It Take To Change A Light Bulb?

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How Many Startup Employees Does It Take To Change A Light Bulb?


Apologies to all my regular readers that are used to more “serious” blog writing.  I’m on vacation this week and not feeling in a particularly serious mood.  We’ll return to our regularly scheduled program next week.

Meanwhile, hope you enjoy this.  

How Many Startup Employees Does It Take Change A Light Bulb?
It depends on the type of startup employee.  Here are some possible responses:

Business Type:  We looked at the service market for changing light bulbs as a possible go-to-market strategy.  But, we determined that the necessary gross margins to sustain our business and demonstrate an attractive return for our investors did not exist in this market.  We plan to revisit this opportunity at some later date.

Project Manager Type:  We’re still working on the alpha version of the software which doesn’t support changing light bulbs yet.  This is scheduled for beta build B4, codename “Phoenix”.

Developer Type:  Well, it should only take one, but our founder insisted on using Python instead of Ruby On Rails to build the product and so it’s going to take four people to add the “change a light bulb” feature.  Wait, wait, I found this new open source project called “Python on Prayers” which lets the two environments interoperate.  I think I can bang out the code this weekend.  You go now. (starts typing away at keyboard).

Marketing Type:  Like any significant technological change, of which changing a light bulb is one manifestation, it takes the wisdom of crowds to actually address the needs of the long tail.  The minimum crowd required is the set of early-adopters of technological change as represented by the current list of TechCrunch subscribers.

Sales Type (written on Blackberry):  Shit!  I told those moronic software engineers to focus on the “flush the toilet” feature.  I’ve got 5 customers that are ready to buy NOW if we can just get that freakin’ feature added.  Forget the stupid “change a light bulb” thing.  Nobody cares.  We need “flush the toilet” yesterday! 

Finance Type:  Well, looking at our fully burdened FTE (full time employee) costs, we can afford about 2.7 FTEs to get the light bulb changed.  We’d also need to make sure that the contract explicitly states that all consulting services in the scope of the CALB project are non-refundable so we can recognize the revenue in Q2 in term of GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles).

Software Architect Type:  Whoa, whoa, whoa!  Hold your horses.  Before you even start to think about changing a light bulb, we need to make sure we’ve got a scalable architecture.  First step is to pick a relational database that supports transactions and rollback/commits.  The last thing we need is for a light bulb to almost be changed.  It should either be changed or not be changed.  That’s just the beginning.  Then we’ve got to figure out

Strategy Type:  Forget the light bulb.  We need to stop skating to where the puck is, and skate to where the puck is going to be.  In five years, there will be no light bulbs to change.  I’m going on an executive retreat next week and plan to return with a vision statement that articulates how we will leverage our core competencies to erect a formidable barrier to entry in the $1 billion market for LaaS (Light As A Service).


Posted by on Wed, Jul 12, 2006


Ha ha... Right on :-)

posted on Wednesday, July 12, 2006 at 11:38 AM by Niels Sandholt Busch

Awesome! Have a great vacation!

posted on Wednesday, July 12, 2006 at 11:41 AM by

Perfect! Especially the Developer and Architect type. Hits close to home.

posted on Wednesday, July 12, 2006 at 12:01 PM by Mike Levin of HitTail

really awesome!
(apologies for this contentless comment)

posted on Wednesday, July 12, 2006 at 12:18 PM by Kirubakaran

Dharmesh is doing the "Strategy Type" thinking on Nantucket Island now :-)

posted on Wednesday, July 12, 2006 at 1:01 PM by

Hah! That is great!

posted on Wednesday, July 12, 2006 at 1:53 PM by

Venture Capital Type: We're going to bring in someone new to direct the changing of that light bulb. Oh, and we will also be absorbing 70% of the light from the new bulb.

posted on Wednesday, July 12, 2006 at 5:10 PM by Scott

in bad taste, not my idea of humour, no point made

...i think i'll have to push reading to evening session instead of my usual practice of making it the first thing to read in the morning.

also, you seem to have some persoanl problem with ROR! I liked the post where you discussed your thoughts on ROR but you seem to be making unrequired references to it in a lot of posts since then...that makes me reevaluate if the initial post was too biased or what.

posted on Thursday, July 13, 2006 at 1:09 AM by Dheeraj

Dheeraj: Though you may not have found this funny, I have a hard time seeing why this would be in bad taste. But, too each their own.

I don't expect anyone to make to be the first thing they read in the morning -- it's hardly worth that.

Sorry for disappointing you. As is the case with any initiative, it's impossible to please all of the people.


posted on Thursday, July 13, 2006 at 11:06 AM by

Well I thought it was hilarious. Let's have a few more like this, I bet it will bring in more people as well as brighen my day.

Except for the shocking, blasphemous allegations that Python (which I've been evangelising for 12 straight years as the One True Way) is 4 times less productive that RoR! What, delimiters coming back into fashion? Dheeraj, don't you realise what good subliminal PR this is for Ruby?

Best Regards,

Andy Robinson

posted on Thursday, July 13, 2006 at 4:53 PM by

Good Stuff! Gave me a good laugh.

Chris Jackson

posted on Friday, July 14, 2006 at 12:37 PM by Chris Jackson

Sysadmin type: I already changed it while the rest of you were busy arguing about it.

posted on Monday, July 24, 2006 at 12:51 PM by Scott Raymond

Heh! Thanks for this. As a pennyless startup orchestra-man myself, it was scary, but funny, to see myself in each of those roles. How bittersweet are our own reflections... :)

The Strategy one was probably the best. Didn't much get the last 4 sentences from the Software Architect type... guess that's not my strong area.

posted on Monday, October 16, 2006 at 10:24 AM by eliazar

If we build out that wiki feature we've always been talking about, it shouldn't take any employees at all -- the users will change the light bulbs for us!

posted on Wednesday, May 30, 2007 at 7:41 PM by Edward O'Connor

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