Calvin French-Owen was Co-Founder and CTO of Segment, where he worked primarily to help build Segment’s backend infrastructure and data processing pipeline. He previously attended MIT studying distributed systems, security, and data structures. When not thinking about Segment, he's running through the hills and trails outside San Francisco.
Founder lessons from building Segment
You recently posted a lessons learned/reflections post called Lessons for Early Stage Founders, synthesizing a lot of your lessons and observations from starting Segment and being a startup founder. You cover a lot of things in this blog around goal-setting, engaging with investors, launchg early, building transparently and in the open, hiring. What motivated you to write this? What inspires you to educate other founders about things you’ve learned? Dig into the blog post in general and what you’re working on. - 0:21
In the blog post, in the first point about goalsetting, you say that every billion-dollar startup is really just the sum of many small deltas. What are the biggest aggregate deltas that you discovered at Segment? - 2:43
So the second point you mention is engaging with investors, communicating, sending updates, taking pictures. What are some of the big lessons you learned around best practices in engaging with investors? And maybe bad practices? And why is taking pictures so important? - 4:59
On the third point, you emphasize the importance of launching. There’s a temporal dimension to that. What is so important about launching early and not being a perfectionist early? - 9:11
On the fourth point, the topic of transparency and working in the open, did Segment early on have a fundamental push to be transparent? - 11:42
On the fifth point, you talk about hiring and when to hire. What are the big inputs into knowing when you need to hire, as opposed to doing everything yourself and parallelizing across the founding team? - 13:47
You talk about “premortems.” What are premortems? - 16:00
Why should founders pick the partner not the firm? What does that mean? - 17:40
You wrap up this blog with more thoughts on focus. It sounds like you’re doing lots of angel investing now. What do you think is the most underappreciated aspect to helping founders now, being an angel investor, and things you’re still learning about? - 19:35
There’s a lot of startups pursuing “next-gen Segment opportunities” here at the conference. Do you have any thoughts on emerging ecosystem of “open-source Segments”? - 21:21
What’s on the horizon for Calvin? What are you working on these days, what’s the most interesting thing to you beyond angel investing and helping founders? - 23:39
Share your questions and comments below!