About Engineering20

I’m Chris Hawkins, and I’ve run product and Engineering at multiple organizations backed by Khosla Ventures, Sequoia, and Founders Fund. Highlights founding SignNow and running product and engineering from $0 to $10M+. I was a GM of emerging products @ Barracuda Networks through their IPO. I founded and ran product/engineering @ TIDY (tidy.com) from $0 to $10M+. I’ve lived in the stage from before SAAS was much of a thing.

Early-stage products are different. Below $20M in revenue, most products the differences between engineering, product, and product marketing are smaller than in larger organizations. Many of these lessons will be applicable across a range of sizes, but the focus of this blog is on the issues that affect engineering leaders of teams from $0 to $20M in revenue.

It is relatively common totarget 20-40% of revenue on R&D, even for SAAS companies, less for other companies. This means, at $20M you would expect probably about a $4M-$8M/yr tech budget. Assuming an average total comp of $150k each, this is 26-52 engineers. Its around 50+ engineers when things change a bit. Up to about 10 people, you typically see everyone a Lead (CTO, VP Engineering, etc), which means the org is basically 2 layers. After 10, you typically introduce managers, and the engineering lead now manages managers, bringing that up to 3 layers. At around 50 people, you typically start to add managers of the managers, often considered the "director" level, and now there are 4 layers. It's at this stage where the engineering lead is often quite removed from the detailed technical work, and this is mostly decided by directors and below. Many people at Layer 4 are still involved technically, but it tends to be more for special projects, high-risk projects, deep R&D efforts, or just occasionally to get a feel for what is going on. It's at this stage that this blog at least will no longer be as helpful I think.

This being an engineering-centered blog, here is a Plotly graph of where this blog is applicable.

At EngineeringTwenty, I'm trying to share what I've learned from building multiple products to scale. After that point, the product and engineering functions tend to take on new flavors.

One thing that really bothers me about other blogs is the posts tend to be randomly scattered and tagged. Here, I'm taking great pains to make all posts into a structured, browseable format where you COULD read it like a book. In fact, I may do that someday...but for now, I'm just giving back.

If you ever need help, I love helping startups, and I typically do so for free. Just reach out to me

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