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The Startup’s Tech Stack Dilemma: A Tale of Infrastructure and Expectations

People reach out to me for advise on the first steps for creating startups, and the series of early decisions that you have to make in order to bring them to success. Among the most interesting yet overlooked decisions is that of what to use beyond the MVP. And it is a decision that not all startups make consciously. When it is tried, it usually degenerates into a concentration in unseemly “tech stack wars” that are based on feature by feature comparisons. These, although interesting from an engineering standpoint (and fun to banter about on Social Media!), it is the business and cultural standpoint that I find most directly affects the outcome of the company itself.

It is with that in mind that I came up with this little story.

Once upon a time in the bustling world of tech startups, there was a company called RocketChip Innovations. They had developed an impressive minimum viable product (MVP) using a particular tech stack, and they were gearing up to scale their business. The founders, Sarah and John, realized they needed help to choose the best infrastructure for their growth.

Enter David, a seasoned technologist with a wealth of experience in scaling startups. Sarah and John approached David, seeking his guidance on the best infrastructure for their rapidly growing business. David listened carefully, considering not only their current tech stack, but also the expected number of simultaneous clients and performance expectations.

David understood that the decision at hand was not merely technical, but it would also have a significant impact on RocketChip Innovations’ future culture, team, and funding opportunities. He began by explaining the implications of their existing monolithic tech stack, which was built using a popular web framework running on an always-on container.

“If you decide to stick with your current tech stack, you’ll benefit from a smaller, more experienced team with longer tenures; a tighter-knit team that acts quickly on iterations, which is great.” David advised. “However, you may face challenges in hiring new talent and scaling up as your startup grows. Monolithic applications can make it difficult to add new features beyond a certain point or handle hugely increased workloads, bursts and so on; although it is always possible to resolve these problems, particularly with your experienced team that communicates well, their strength is more developer productivity.”

David then introduced the alternative: a microservices-based architecture. “By adopting a microservices approach, you can foster a larger team with diverse skill sets. This will make it easier to hire new talent and scale up as your business grows, particularly if the expected throughput is going to be very high. However, this approach also means more lines of communication and potentially higher overhead costs.”

Sarah and John listened intently, weighing the pros and cons of each approach. They understood that their choice would not only affect the infrastructure of their growing company, but also the type of investors who might be interested in supporting them. A monolithic application might signal stability and efficiency, attracting funding firms that valued a lean team and established technologies. On the other hand, a microservices approach could indicate adaptability and growth potential, appealing to investors who prioritized flexibility and scalability.

With David’s guidance, Sarah and John began to see the merits of both approaches. They recognized that each tech stack had its strengths and weaknesses, and that there was no one-size-fits-all solution. The decision they made would ultimately depend on their unique goals, resources, and vision for the future.

And so, with a clearer understanding of their options, Sarah and John embarked on the journey to adapt and grow their infrastructure, navigating the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead. Through careful planning and execution, they continued to scale RocketChip Innovations and attract the right investors, proving that the power of a well-chosen tech stack could indeed shape a startup’s future.