Recently a friend asked to me which private Internet company has a great product? My answer was: Etsy and Instagram. To support this decision I used 3 points: 1) user interface simplicity and frontend design, 2) business model based on a scalable platform that connect people around an interest, where the content is user generated, 3) behind the frontend business model, there is a backend business model, related to the proprietary software architecture that both companies have been developing.
Let focus our attention on this last point. We observe that in both companies the CEOs can speak the technical and the managment language of Internet. In the case of Etsy, Chad Dickerson, was the CTO and then he moved to the helm of the business. In the case of Instagram, Kevin Systrom, was a marketer that learned to code and managed the product development in parallel with the business development activity.
The question that is coming to my mind is how this companies have been able to develop such complex architectures, and scale them to the present status. The answer is a combination of factors, but what we can see in both companies is the capability of the CEO to bridge between the engineering feud and the frontend activity of the company like sales and marketing. To create this bridge the CEOs have been capable to create a collaborative environment and instil a culture of transparency at all levels, but in particular in the engineering arena. This goal is not easy to achieve and from my perspective is an important component of the success of both companies.
If we want to know how the software architectures of these companies have evolved in time we can dig in these interesting posts from high scalability blog:
- The Etsy Saga: From Silos To Happy To Billions Of Pageviews A Month
- Instagram Architecture: 14 Million Users, Terabytes Of Photos, 100s Of Instances, Dozens Of Technologies
Another expression of the transparency of the 2 companies, is represented by the way they have been sharing their software architecture evolution via blog posts:
Without focusing is many arguments, I believe that if an Internet company is capable to manage backend complexity mantaining frontend simplicity, the chances to survive and be noticed are very high.
Which are your preferred private Internet companies? Why?