When I left my job to start Draft.dev last year, I knew there were pros and cons to starting a service business. Unlike the venture funded startups I had been with before, Draft.dev required no outside investment, and it was profitable from the first month. The tradeoff — as any service business owner can tell you — is that scaling a service business is notoriously hard.

The Middle Ground: “Productized” Services

An approach that appealed to me from the moment I first heard about it is the productized service:

“A productized service is one that runs systematically and continues to produce and grow with or…


E-commerce has been changing rapidly in the past decade. We’ve seen retailers move from clunky on-premise software suites to the first wave of cloud platforms. But as with most things in tech, nothing stays the same forever.

While many of the early cloud e-commerce platforms have bolted on APIs that allow customers some access to the underlying functionality they provide, they’ve built this on top of existing, monolithic architectures. This is true of Salesforce Commerce Cloud, and it’s one of the reasons that you might be looking at an alternative solution.

In this piece, I’ll introduce more of the reasons…


How do you manage your project workflows?

Effective project management is crucial to the success of every startup. With limited resources, it’s much cheaper to invest in great tools than more bodies. Because of this, founders and employees will have to wear many hats and have to juggle a lot of competing priorities.

I’ve always relied heavily on great project management tools like the ones in this guide. …


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Creating custom software should be the last resort for early stage startups.

Writing good software is a slow and expensive process. Writing bad software is even slower, especially when you want to change things. Startups need to move fast and spend as little money as possible, but many first-time founders, unaware of the true cost of developing software, spend too much time worrying about their product and too little time figuring out how they can generate value for their customers.

I’ve written about this before, but I was reminded of it when talking to my friend who has been…


Last year, I read two books that changed my perspective on work.


I once shared office space with a quickly-growing startup in downtown Chicago. This company seemed to be printing money, and they spent it accordingly. They had one of the most prestigious office buildings, free meals for employees, a company barista, and yoga classes on Tuesdays.

Everyone in the city was enamored with this company. They were on the front page of the Tribune, the mayor came by to speak to them, and their founders made a big deal about the strength of their culture.

A few years later, the founders were indicted for defrauding investors based on deceptive sales practices…


The world of tech and software development evolves fast, with new frameworks and libraries advancing all the time. It’s important to stay tuned in, or you could be left behind. To make that less of a challenge, I’ve handpicked thirty engineering blogs that you should follow or at least bookmark for future reference.

Engineering blog is, of course, an umbrella term that includes not just software engineering but also a wide range of engineering disciplines. So to properly evaluate each blog, I scored them against a consistent set of criteria: writing quality, consistency, longevity, technical depth, broad usefulness.

Based on…


Early in my career as an engineering manager, I wrote a long list of my favorite engineering management books. That list has reached thousands of new technical leaders, but I’m often asked for book recommendations by engineers who aren’t interested in making the leap into management.

I’ve had this informal list brewing for years, and I’ve often shared sections of it with new bootcamp graduates, but this is the first time I’m sharing this list publicly. …


Business-to-developer marketing (often shortened “B2D marketing”) describes marketing initiatives designed to reach software developers. As a former software developer, I can tell you that devs are a notoriously difficult group to market to. They’re tech-savvy, generally skeptical, and often use tools like adblockers to prevent popups and banner advertisements from reaching them.

At the same time, developers are an extremely valuable market to reach. They are well-paid and invest in educational materials and tools to help them do their jobs. Developers also carry a lot of influence on spending within their companies. …


I read a post online recently about how some software engineer was asked to complete a technically complex, jargon-filled coding challenge over the phone in order to get a job. He did well enough on the call to get an offer, but after he started the new job, he realized it wasn’t going to be the academically challenging role he was hoping for. No, he’d just be building basic CRUD applications for the web with a legacy system haphazardly running on whatever virtual machine could be found.

This happens all the time during job-screening. We put engineers through rigorous screening…

Karl L Hughes

Former startup CTO turned writer. Founder of Draft.dev

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