Surviving SVB's Collapse and Outsmarting Uber with Kyte's Head of Product and Engineering, Nick Cobb
Nick joins us live under the Dev Interrupted Dome to talk about how engineering culture affects the output of your work and much more.
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It hasn't been smooth sailing for startups this year. As this week's guest Nick Cobb puts it, "You can add bank runs to the list of things founders have to deal with." Of course, it hasn't been easy going for engineering leaders either.
That's why Nick, the VP of Engineering and Head of Product at Kyte, sat down with us to discuss how to build an engineering culture with a bias toward action, why he deleted his team's staging environment, and what it takes to outmaneuver his former employer, Uber.
An angel investor, Nick also touches on the aftershocks of the SVB crash and its lasting effects on the startup community.
Recorded live at LeadDev New York, this episode is a must-listen for engineering leaders who want to place product innovation in the driver's seat of their engineering org.
- (2:21) Impact of SVB on the Startup ecosystem
- (7:59) Is now the perfect time to invest in an early-stage startup?
- (13:02) Metrics to pay attention to
- (19:33) Uber's lack of innovation
- (24:44) Dogfooding culture
- (27:30) What's happening in self-driving?
- (30:23) Leading engineering teams at Kyte
- (41:09) Postmortem culture
Nick: I have a lot of friends who worked there, probably some of the best engineering culture in the world, and those folks are gone. I think that the way the company has been managed lately, like the level of innovation, has significantly backtracked, you know, a lot of folks talking about App redesign and stuff like that. I mean, that's been four years in the works to create this kind of Super App. And I'm not sure that when I opened the Uber app, or customers open the Uber app, they think about getting every single thing through Uber. And I think it's a bet. It's, you know, I think it's courageous to take that kind of bet and really look for that. But I'm not sure that that strategy wouldn't have been more effective, implemented faster, to kind of, like, get more people thinking that way. You go into the pandemic, and you really have to kind of burn a lot of the businesses and the core bets that really made Uber successful in a lot of different ways. Like, if you don't take moonshots, you don't get the microwave, you don't get, you know, tinfoil, you don't get, you know, the tang and all these other things that came out of that, these great innovations that we have as humans, because we're taking moonshots. And if you're not taking those, it does impact the culture overall. And you know, how people feel about what they're building. And I think, you know, the business has, has just kind of like reacted to more of the market need and less of maybe the customer need. And I think, you know, that's an advantage startup has, you know, build for speed and focus, listen to your customers and build what they want. You're not doing that, and I don't know what you're doing right.
Conor: If I put you in charge of movers product and engineering teams, and it's like, suddenly, Nick, hey, and you're the new head of all engineering products at Uber, you've got this like carte blanche to reimagine how Uber's taking their approach. What would you do to try to inject more of that innovation DNA or improve what you're seeing as far as outcomes?
Nick: Yeah, I mean, I think that the dogfooding culture seems to have disappeared. And I think that's the big thing. We're creating that at Kyte, and we want everybody internally to use the product as often as possible. The first thing that I would want to fix, just like personally, is dispatch latency in San Francisco.
Conor: You're a San Francisco native, right?
Nick: I'm from Memphis, but I live in San Francisco, and I use the product and, you know, I just dropped a general kind of observation on Twitter and said, it feels like dispatch latency is like, three, four minutes when I request the car, I can kind of leave my phone and just go get a coffee, go do something else. And, you know, there was a realization that we had at Uber back in the day, which was people start to demand a, like, a better experience year over year because they get used to the wait times being lower. And they so they anticipate that you know —
Conor: It's gone the other direction, it feels like.
Nick: Yes. And I think it's gone in the other direction. And my hypothesis is they've, they've integrated taxi into the supply, and they're doing that for, you know, core business supply constrained reasons, I think, and partnership as well. And yeah, I mean, every time I get a taxi, it's a 10-minute dispatch, it takes forever, and I'm upset with the product experience right now. So that's something I would focus on.
Published at DZone with permission of Conor Bronsdon. See the original article here.
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