Social Tables Retrospective

My last post was over a year and a half ago - just after I joined an interesting Bessemer Ventures backed firm in the Hospitality sector called Social Tables.
My role here has been 95% people / 5% tech and always intense. I’m retroactively posting some of the internal content I circulated as the technology leader at Social Tables - mostly high-level explanations of what my team was up to at the time.

It’s been a fun ride with unique challenges and as I move on to my next post, I wanted to capture a few takeaways for posterity:

  • Avoid greenfield rewrites of established applications. Specifics may warrant a true rewrite - but recognize the extreme risk to all involved if that’s the selected path. While I certainly agree with what Joel says about this here, I’ll add one more point of support - that a rewrite is a fight on two fronts. It’s up against the formidable foes of customer adoption of a new thing and the golden project phenomenon - where a golden (too big to fail) project’s scope continually increases without bound.
  • Hire for squads and fire quickly on non-fit. My worst HR calls at Social Tables involved attempts to reassign an employee to a different team in an attempt to establish fit. This is especially difficult where the employee in question was inherited as opposed to hired under my watch. There’s a strong desire to give the inherited employee multiple chances to demonstrate fit. Don’t do it - if the employee is not a good enough for the first team she joins (or is assigned to) then do her and the rest of the team a favor - cut her loose with dignity. Such an evaluation might rightly not be considered fair - c’est la vie.
  • Adopt 2-3 cutting-edge technologies, but no more. This worked really well for us - especially on the recruiting tip. Our best hires came through our broadcast of niche (at the time) tech such as WebGL, React, and RethinkDB. But it’s a double-edged sword. Our worst tech adoption failures came from naive pushes into Falcor, Dynamo, and Horizon.

Onward & Upward!