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Startup Mantras (Not the “HBS” Kind)



Salva Hacker Noon profile picture


👨‍💻 PM at Startups. Ex. BCG Consultant
📖 Salsa Dance, Software, Design, Spanish
📍 Guadalajara, Mexico. #Bitcoin

If you’ve ever released anything creative — an app, a book, a piece of music — you know how difficult it is to get people to use it. Like ice cream, people prefer the familiar. The chocolate, the vanilla.

When building a startup, this experience is visceral —like sharp needles during a botched acupuncture. You’ve built something great (at least you think so), and you just need someone, anyone, to try it.

With that in mind, the VC cliché makes some sense: Don’t build something 10% better; build something 10x better. Sure, most people will choose chocolate or vanilla, but nobody, I mean nobody, can resist the huge, misting canister of liquid nitrogen ice cream sitting in the corner — even if it’s raspberry.

If you build something truly unique, people will try it.

Inevitably, building something unique comes with its own challenges. Not only is it hard to figure out whether your idea is actually a 10xer, but it’s even harder to keep pushing when everyone is gently whispering in your ear, telling you you’re wrong.

I painfully learned all of this in my last startup. However, I also uncovered something interesting: that the solution to these problems — and one of the keys to building a 10x product, validating 10x ideas, and hiring a 10x team — is extraordinarily simple. It starts with one simple sentence.

A 10x idea changing journalism

Here’s a hypothetical. Imagine you approach a journalist from the New York Times to pitch your new newspaper startup. You explain why she should use your platform: Your site has better UX, the pages load faster, the illustrations are beautiful, you’ve hired a killer editor. The journalist will give you a strange look — as if you’re selling her raspberry ice cream.

Now imagine a different pitch. You tell the journalist one thing: she will get direct access to her readers.

In other words, she will own her email list, write whatever she wants, and get paid directly from the credit cards of her users. She won’t have to rely on traditional media. She will become a business owner.

Now we have our fresh, misty, irresistible pot of liquid nitrogen ice cream. That’s exactly what Substack did.

You may have noticed one thing: Substack’s little improvement to journalism is both opinionated and controversial. They stepped away from the traditional model of journalism — a model that has existed for hundreds of years — and built a product based on a new paradigm.
The unique and controversial nature of Substack is not accidental. In fact, every great company, by necessity, is born through a controversial view of the world.

Success starts with a mantra

Substack’s opinionated view on journalism can be encapsulated in a single mantra: Advertising is ruining journalism.

Whether explicit or not, this mantra drives most of Substack’s decisions: the decision to focus on subscriptions, the decision to give writers ownership over their email lists, the decision to create tools that help writers build communities, and the decision to offer cash advances to journalists.

Substack isn’t unique: all 10x products are embedded with an opinionated view of the world. The reasoning is simple: If you want to build something significantly better, you must build something significantly different. And to build something significantly different, you must have a viewpoint that’s significantly unique.

As with Substack, that viewpoint can often be captured in a short mantra. Think of this mantra as the blueprint for your company — like the pencil-sketched plans for a building. A mantra will help you decide who to hire, how to grow, and how to build your product.

What makes a good mantra?

Here are a few mantras I love. They squeeze the mission of the company into one perfectly crafted sentence.

  • Basecamp: Product Management is Communication
  • Founders Fund: We wanted flying cars; instead, we got 140 characters
  • Facebook: Make the world more open and connected
  • Bitcoin: The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on the brink of second bailout for banks

A mantra is different from an HBS “mission statement.” A mantra shouldn’t talk about environmental sustainability or provide commentary on LGBT issues or women’s rights. A mantra is only useful in so far as it’s clear, opinionated, and relates to the core purpose of your business. It needs to take a side. And by taking a side, it will be controversial – some people will agree with it, and others will disagree. In fact, this opinionatedness has its benefit. It will protect the dors of your company from the wrong types of employees, and, as we’ll see, it will also hold the key to building a special, 10x product.

Predicting failure

A good mantra is not a predictor of success, but a bad mantra is a foreshadowing of failure. If you can’t come up with a mantra to describe your business, you’re in trouble. There are two reasons for this.
First, your inability to craft a compelling mantra shows a lack of differentiation. You’ll struggle to get people to use your product.
Second, not having a mantra makes it difficult to make good product decisions, especially as your company expands (we’ll cover that in the next section).

If you look at the world’s most successful companies, it’s easy to come up with a mantra. Here are a few off the top of my head:

  • Airbnb: Travel is better when you live like a local
  • Shopify: Anybody, anywhere, should be able to start a business
  • Snapchat: Amazing interactions should be free and spontaneous

So having a mantra will do something important: it will help you avoid failure — at least temporarily. But as any experienced founder/employee knows, as you raise more money, grow your team, and expand into new markets, you’ll start to feel as if a fault line is shifting beneath your feet. The foundation of your company will begin to shake. And when this happens, your mantra will be there to guide you.

Mantras for product development

In their book Shape Up, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson explain the mantra behind Basecamp (they call it a vision). Their mantra for Basecamp is: “Product Management is Communication”. Despite its simplicity, the mantra carries with it a unique and controversial opinion.
Basecamp’s unique insight was the following: You don’t need fancy tools to be a product manager. Instead, all you need is great communication.
Armed with a unique perspective, Basecamp built a product that made it easier for teams to communicate. In their own words:

We thought less about permissions and more about encouraging all participants to take part. The vision is why we skipped charts, graphs, tables, reports, stats, and spreadsheets, and instead focused on communication priorities like messages, comments, to-do lists, and sharing files. Make the big decision about your vision upfront and all your future little decisions will become much easier.

I first realized the importance of a mantra a few months after quitting my last startup. But it was too late — the damage was done.

For two years, I worked as the Head of Product for a startup that was building e-commerce tools. We worked with media companies like Vogue and GQ to help their editors eschew affiliate links. Instead of peppering their articles with links, we let them go “direct to consumer” by embedding shoppable products in their pages. A reader would click on a product inside a Vogue article and checkout directly on the page.

After building the v1, we began to see a steady stream of adoption. Naturally, we expanded our team. We quickly grew from a small, tight-knit group of 30 employees to more than 70. But with no clear mantra, it became difficult to keep a leash on product development. The product started to roll away like a giant boulder down a steep hill.

Here are just a few of the issues I started to face:

  • Motivation: As things got harder, the team got demotivated. They began to ask themselves, “what are we doing all of this for?”
  • Decision Making: As my responsibilities grew, I had to hand off decisions to my team (whose decisions were often different from the ones I would have made).
  • Prioritization: We got input from all ends of the company (sales, business development customers, etc.), and it became difficult to prioritize all the requests.
  • Competitors: We felt pressure from the decisions of our competitors, and we felt an urge to copy what they were doing

A mantra would have solved each of these issues by giving us clarity.
As a thought experiment, let’s look at how Peter Thiel’s venture capital firm, Founders Fund, would have dealt with this situation. Their mantra is: We wanted flying cars, but we got 140 characters. Having a clear mantra-like that solves many of these problems preemptively.

  • Motivation: All employees at Founders Fund believe in the company’s mission. They have self-selected as people who want to invest in companies that solve the world’s most pressing hard-tech challenges. They have a clear picture of their mission, and that motivates them to work hard.
  • Decision Making: The mantra makes it clear what types of investments they should make and what types of investments they should avoid. Nobody stands up at partner meetings to propose a selfie app.
  • Prioritization: It becomes easier to ignore external noise. Even if you get some inbound from a trusted LP or a successful founder, you can run their ideas through the simple, one-sentence mantra.
  • Competitors: It becomes easy to ignore competitors. Your mantra becomes a shining beacon guiding you to the right decision.

This one sentence has likely saved them hundreds of hours of debates, decisions, and frustration.

On splitting your focus

The astute among you might ask, “Why do I need just one mantra? Can’t a startup do many things and have many opinions?”

The answer is: in theory, yes, but in practice, it’s difficult.

Let’s consider a real-life example. Imagine you want to move to a new country for six months. One approach would be to create a checklist of important criteria: good weather, attractive people, outdoor activities, etc. The problem is that this will lead to blurry decision-making. You’ll feel as if you’re driving with a foggy windshield.

Not only is it difficult to weigh the importance of each individual criterion, but you’re likely to end up in a situation where your top location has a balance of all these things, but together they don’t add up to something meaningful. You’ll come home after six months feeling like there was little progress.

Now imagine you have one central goal: you want to learn Spanish. Now it’s as if you’re driving with a freshly wiped windshield, sparkly clean. You can consider other factors (like the weather and the people), but you’re able to keep your central goal in mind — the Spanish. In all likelihood, you’ll be much happier when you return. A clear goal leads to clear decisions. If all the other factors don’t work out, you’ll at least have achieved your number one priority. Reid Hoffman, the founder of Linkedin, has a similar approach to making decisions. As Ben Casnocha, Hoffman’s former Chief of Staff, explains:

When there’s a complex list of pros and cons driving a potentially expensive action, seek a single decisive reason to go for it — not a blended reason. For example, we were once discussing whether it’d make sense for him to travel to China. There was the LinkedIn expansion activity in China; some fun intellectual events happening; the Chinese edition of The Start-Up of You was launching. Together, these constituted a variety of possible good reasons to go, but none justified a trip in and of itself. Reid said, “There needs to be one decisive reason. And then the worthiness of the trip needs to be measured against that one reason. If I go, then we can backfill into the schedule all the other secondary activities. But if I go for a blended reason, I’ll almost surely come back and feel like it was a waste of time.”

Mantras are the same. Startups have limited resources, and founders have limited energy. By narrowing in on one thesis, you’re able to clear your mind of distractions and keep your team focused on the larger goal.


Hopefully, I’ve made my case, but if you’re skeptical, I understand. Before my last startup, I would have thought that “mantras” were frou-frou and laughably gratuitous. What do a few words have to do with world-class execution, operations, and crushing your competition? Turns out, a whole lot.

As I learned (quite painfully), productivity is not the key to success. What’s more important is leverage and decision-making. You can have the strongest boat crew in the world, but you won’t get far if they’re rowing in the wrong direction. The easiest way to inject clarity into a company is through a short, opinionated mantra. An opinionated mantra will not only help you confirm that your idea is, in fact, a 10xer, but it will also give your team the gift of focus.

As you begin to scale, your goals will remain clear. Despite the horns and clashing symbals of the outside world (your customers, competition, and investors), your team will act as if they’re wearing noise-canceling headphones: focused 100% on your mission.

by Salva @silkysalva. 👨‍💻 PM at Startups. Ex. BCG Consultant
📖 Salsa Dance, Software, Design, Spanish
📍 Guadalajara, Mexico. #Bitcoin
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Samsung to supply open RAN and 5G solutions to Vodafone UK



Samsung said on Monday that is has been selected as a vendor of open RAN, 4G and 5G solutions to Vodafone for the telco’s virtualized RAN (vRAN) deployment in the UK.

The South Korean tech giant will supply its vRAN solutions and open RAN compliant radios such as its massive MIMO for both low-band and mid-band spectrum to the telco. 

This is the first time that Samsung is supplying its network kits to Vodafone, as well as its first to a large European mobile operator for 5G equipment. The company will also be the sole supplier of vRAN solutions. Other vendors for Vodafone’s rollout include Dell, NEC and Wind River.

Samsung said its vRAN solution is software based and runs on commercial off-the-shelf servers that offer features and performance that are level to that of traditional hardware equipment.

The company said the solution is cloud-native and has a container-based architecture that will offer flexible deployment and efficient network management for telcos.

According to Samsung, the vRAN’s architecture also has automation capabilities that simplify end-to-end network management. This will allow operators to quickly meet demands from new and existing services, with minimal impact on deployment, the company said.

“Vodafone is committed to leading the next wave of digital transformation across Europe, ensuring fast and reliable connectivity for all,” Vodafone CTO Johan Wibergh said.

“Open RAN, built on strong partnerships, is key to realizing this ambition. Samsung’s innovative solutions and expertise are part of the foundation that is creating this network of the future.”

Samsung Network president Kyungwhoon Cheun said: “This is a major step forward, as more operators are transitioning into new RAN technologies to prioritize user experience and efficiency.”

Samsung’s network business has been making inroads into major markets in recent years. In March, the company announced that it will be supplying its 5G kits to NTT Docomo, Japan’s largest mobile operator.

In September last year, Samsung said it will be supplying $6.6 billion worth of network equipment to US carrier Verizon.

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How to Find The Stinky Parts of Your Code [Part XI]



Maximiliano Contieri Hacker Noon profile picture

@mcseeMaximiliano Contieri

I’m senior software engineer specialized in declarative designs and S.O.L.I.D. and Agile lover.

Yet more code smells? Aren’t them enough?

We see several symptoms and situations that make us doubt the quality of our development.

Let’s look at some possible solutions.

Most of these smells are just hints of something that might be wrong. They are not rigid rules.

This is part V. Part I can be found here, Part II here, Part III is here, Part IV herepart VVI, VII, VIII, IX and  the last one (for now).

Let’s continue…

Not operator is our friend. Not not operator is not our friend.

  • Readability
  1. Name your variables, methods and classes with positive names.


if ( !work.isNotFinished() )


if ( work.isDone() )

This is a semantic smell. We need to detect it on code reviews.

We can tell linters to check for Regular Expressions like !not or !isNot etc as a warning.

  • Readability

Double negation is a very basic rule we learn as junior developers.

There are lots of production systems filled with this smell.

We need to trust our test coverage and make safe renames and other refactors.

Photo by Daniel Herron on Unsplash

It’s harder to read code than to write it.

Joel Spolsky

Tests are our safety nets. If we don’t trust on their integrity, we will be in great danger.

  • Determinism
  • Confidence loss
  • Wasted time
  1. Test should be in full control. There should be no space for erratic behavior and degrees of freedom.
  2. Remove all tests coupling.

Fragile, Intermittent, Sporadic or Erratic tests are common in many organizations.

Nevertheless, they mine the developers trust.

We must avoid them.


import static org.junit.Assert.assertEquals; import org.junit.Test; import components.set.Set;
import components.set.Set1L; public abstract class SetTest { protected abstract Set<String> constructor(); @Test public final void testAddEmpty() { Set<String> s = this.constructor(); s.add("green"); s.add("blue"); assertEquals("{green. blue}", s.toString()); //This is fragile since it dependes on set sort (which is not defined) } }


import static org.junit.Assert.assertEquals; import org.junit.Test; import components.set.Set;
import components.set.Set1L; public abstract class SetTest { protected abstract Set<String> constructor(); @Test public final void testAddEmpty() { Set<String> s = this.constructor(); s.add("green"); assertEquals("{green}", s.toString()); } @Test public final void testEntryAtSingleEntry() { Set<String> s = this.createFromArgs("red"); Boolean x = s.contains("red"); assertEquals(true, x); } }

Detection can be done with test run statistics.

It is very hard to put some test in maintenance since we are removing a safety net.

  • Coupling
  • Determinism

Fragile tests show system coupling and not deterministic or erratic behavior.

Developers spend lots of time and effort fighting against this false positives.

The amateur software engineer is always in search of magic.

Grady Booch

We learned loops back in school. But enumerators and iterators are the next generation.

Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

  • Encapsulation.
  • Declarativeness.
  1. Favor foreach() or high order iterators
  2. You will be able to use yield(), caches, proxies, lazy loading and much more when you hide your implementation details.


for (i = 0; i < colors.count(), i++) { print(colors[i]);


foreach (color of colors) { print(color);
} //Closures and arrow functions
colors.foreach(color => print(color));

Linters can find this smell using regex.

There might be false positives. See exceptions below.

If the problem domain needs the elements to be bijected to natural numbers like indices, the first solution is adequate.

Remember all time to find real world analogies.


  • Declarative

This kind of smell do not ring the bell to many developers because they think this is a subtlety.

Clean code is full of this few declarative things that can make a difference.

If you get tired of writing for loops, take a break and continue later.

David Walker

Code is there. Just in case. We might need it soon.

Photo by Kris Mikael Krister on Unsplash

  • Complexity
  • Coupling
  1. Remove dead code.
  2. Leave covered and real tested code.


<? final class DatabaseQueryOptimizer { public function selectWithCriteria($tableName, $criteria) { //Make some optimizations manipulating criterias } private function sqlParserOptimization(SQLSentence $sqlSentence): SQLSentence { //Parse the SQL converting it to an string and then working with their nodes as strings and lots of regex //This was a very costly operation overcoming real SQL benefits. //But since we made too much work we decide to keep the code.  } }


<? final class DatabaseQueryOptimizer { public function selectWithCriteria($tableName, $criteria) { //Make some optimizations manipulating criterias } }

Using some mutation testing variants we can remove the dead code and see it test fails.

We need to have good coverage to rely on this solution.

Dead code is always a problem.

We can use modern development techniques like TDD to ensure all code is alive.

It is very hard to predict, especially the future.

Niels Bohr

If you see your objects as data holders you will violate their encapsulation, but you shouldn’t, as in real life, you should always ask for consent.

Picture by Nicolas Poussin

  • Information Hiding Violation
  • Encapsulation Violation
  • Coupling
  1. Couple to interfaces and behavior, never data.


<? final class Point { public $x; public $y;
} final class DistanceCalculator { function distanceBetween(Point $origin, Point $destination) { return sqrt((($destination->x - $origin->x) ^ 2) + (($destination->y - $origin->y) ^ 2)); }


<? final class Point { private $rho; private $theta; public function x() { return $this->rho * cos($this->theta); } public function y() { return $this->rho * sin($this->theta); }
} final class DistanceCalculator { function distanceBetween(Point $origin, Point $destination) { return sqrt((($destination->x() - $origin->x() ^ 2) + (($destination->y() - $origin->y()) ^ 2))); } }

You can set your linters to warn you for public attributes, setters and getters usage and discourage them.

If your classes are polluted with setters, getters and public methods you will certainly have ways to couple to their accidental implementation.

  • Inappropriate intimacy

A data structure is just a stupid programming language.

Bill Gosper

We are done for now. But we are pretty sure we will come across even more smells very soon!

I keep getting more suggestions on twitter, so they won’t be the last!


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