Your Spot in the Startup Caste System

in the technology industry you either write the code or sell the code.

if AOC achieves a world without farting cows those distinctions may be just that. but in reality there is no startup “ecosystem,” it’s a caste system.

Startup Caste System

i don’t think this is cool but it’s the truth so i’m reporting it.

marketers who don’t know how to build products — yet rely on built products to survive and advance their career  — have two choices:

  1. learn to code
  2. be proud they don’t know how

most marketers choose #3: shame and embarrassment. i know, because i used to be one of those marketers.

industry events

marketers at tech conferences are like slightly chubby people who “let go” last winter and now have to face a beach day.

they go to events and blurt out things like “oh, i’m not technical” when someone asks what they’re working on. no one taught them to say this, they do it instinctively, like cats hunting rodents.

being “non technical” in the tech industry is a Scarlett Letter.

for this reason i want to deter as many people as possible from choosing #2.

it’s the Fat Positive equivalent for your career and guess what: fat people don’t live as long (by 5-20 years) as fit people.

Justin Bieber

it’s actually an anomaly there is such a thing as a technology career without knowing how to build it.

just look at the music industry. can you be a producer without Pro Tools? without being able to riff a couple piano chords? understand the circle of fifths? time signatures, key signatures?

a musician for 16 years, i still refine my craft. most recently i spent 6 weeks in Los Angeles at a production “bootcamp” to get better at compression, EQ, and arrangement.

Ryan Kulp performing in Seattle

i’ve performed 100s of times around the country and recorded albums in 7 professional studios. and music is just a hobby!

doesn’t that which pays your rent, buys your food, and sends flowers to your mother deserve more attention?


marketers are excellent Excuse Makers.

i try to empathize because i used to be a champion excuse maker myself. “i just need to raise money, to hire the people, to build what i want” is the mantra. but then i wrote the best post on learning to code and haven’t looked back.

the “co-founder” philosophy hasn’t helped. it discourages Renaissance makers. the best companies of tomorrow will be founded by individuals with a vision, not friends with an idea.


in a perfect world there wouldn’t be developer elitism, only camaraderie between technical and non technical functions of an organization.

engineering peers wouldn’t feel (or even be paid) more than you, because your work (acquiring customers) is indeed more important and more difficult than theirs. i’ve maintained this unpopular opinion publicly for years.

but nobody said you have to be a CTO. you can learn to hook up JavaScript event listeners, write scripts, build “research” scrapers, and bang out a prototype over the weekend. you can do this, and you ought to.

in the words of my new mentee Will, our duty in tech is to “build what we know,” and build it with our own bare hands.