We’re all pro-Agile and pro-Lean Startup here, right? In most all cases, there is a significant value difference when you build products in a traditional method versus an Agile method. Agile just #wins, right?
Well not so fast. Coach Wei, the founder and CEO of Yottaa (pronounced like Yoda-Jedi-Master), says no to Agile and lean startups. His 2 year old company from Cambridge, MA makes software tools to help business websites run faster, monitor their performance, and generate sales more efficiently, or Web Performance Optimization.
Wei recently talked with Greg Huang from xConomy in depth about what he’s doing with Yottaa. You might call it the “anti-lean startup.” In some ways, it is the opposite of the lean startup model, started by Eric Ries, which involves having a small team, creating software prototypes quickly, and using customer feedback to rapidly iterate code.
As Wei explains, that approach works well for some social media and Web startups, but not all. In particular, he says, if you’re trying to build a company that will be able to grow from, say, $1-5 million in revenue to $50 million, you could run into difficulties with the lean startup model. If you start small and local, ramping up to hire a team of 100 people in Boston or San Francisco will be almost impossible because of the current talent crunch and skyrocketing cost of good developers. “There’s a huge scalability gap,” Wei says.
So he’s trying something different at Yottaa—and he’d probably be the first to acknowledge that it might not necessarily work. The idea, he says, is to be “global from day one and have scalability built in.”
Yottaa is positioning itself to grow quickly by tapping into Beijing’s developer talent pool (which Wei says is very deep and fast-moving) and making that a fundamental part of the company’s culture.
But having the team split across such a huge distance is very challenging, especially for a startup. In fact, geography is a big reason why techniques like agile software development don’t work for Yottaa—fast iterations and code releases (on a daily basis, say) usually require developers to be in the same room.
Currently, he says code development has “converged to a semi-agile, semi-waterfall [traditional]” model and regular visits to Beijing and daily meetings and e-mails are the norm at Yottaa.
Yup, doesn’t sound too Agile to me. I’m very interested in how this will fair. I’ll keep my eyes on this as it progresses!