Startup "Intersectionalists"

Over a few failure and successes, I’ve learnt the *hard* way that every single aspect of a software product a Startup creates during its lifetime usually needs to be redone. Over and over.

The same goes for people. People elegantly call this “technology debt” or “Org debt” or some other colorful word.

The truth is its actually “Startup waste” driven by the urgency of growth.

The best startups usually mitigate and often can eliminate this waste by being intentional and deliberate. Often as a founder you may NOT have a choice but if you do, be intentional, be deliberate.

Hire better, Design better and you’ll execute better.

When building software products, I had to come up with a framework to identify and evaluate team members, potential hires on their potential for “intersectionality” - This is usually a team member who can bridge multiple skillsets and can “wear many hats”

To optimize your hiring structure from Customer facing UI / UX all the way down to Systems and Database Architecture, Here’s a way to think about the product stack:

Visual Design and Interaction Design are the UI / UX of the stack facing the customer - Aesthetics, Functionality, Operatability and the form / function of the product.

Systems Design and Code Design are the Architecture, Infrastructure and the Code Quality running the product - Code Quality, Database Objects, Tokens, and decisions to hard-code functions, along with UI component / library / module choices form the crux of these elements.

Most VCs emphasize on “VP, Design” / “VP, Product" / “VP, Engineering” post- Series A. The reason they push for these hires is because they see the gaps in the Design Stack that has caused or is causing Startup Debt. These VPs are here to reduce or eliminate this Startup Debt to help your Startup grow faster.

To build a strong, scalable product early - You are often the founder with the business experience so You normally have a strong sense of "Interaction Design” and some idea of “Visual Design” - You are often unable to direct Systems or Code Design.

A technical Co-founder would have Systems Design knowledge (sometimes rudimentary depending on their experience) and can often build code thats functional not beautiful / interoperable.

The key problem where Startups incur debt is when Systems Design and Interaction Design do not mesh. Thats often the root cause of Startup Debt / Waste.

Visual Design often sits on top of the Interaction Design and Code Design is often underlying the Systems Architecture thats tougher to change than Code.

To mitigate these issues you should look for intersectionalists..If you are able to hire intersectionalists as ICs early in the startup cycle, you’ll move faster and spend less later.

These Intersectionalists bridge sections of the design stack and can help the startup leapfrog systemic problems in their code / systems / interaction and visual design.


Highly valued leaders who bridge these gaps understand dependencies and can pre-empt Startup Debt problems while executing on visible gaps in the system . If you can pre-empt these, you can push out VP level hires longer and reduce your burn.


Bugger Oaf.