Technical Creativity Technical Creativity

This is how the 'Landia rolls.

Hello Founder,

Welcome from the Startuplandia, we are a team of senior designers and engineers who exclusively work on contracts for early stage founders.

Your future involves traveling a road full of pitfalls and rewards. We have traveled that same road, we have mastered the nooks and crannies.

We possess specific knowledge and skills that will help you identify the pitfalls and make simple, time tested choices to smartly build 0-1 while avoiding failing into the muck.

Keep reading for;

Core Operating Principles

The Visually Cringy MVP

An MVP happens on the way to product market fit, think of solving someone’s problem around the 30-50% efficient zone, this first solution is rough, if you shared it with non-tech entrepreneurs, they might jump “oh thats ugly” “lol, lame” - but share your MVP with someone for whom it solves a problem, if you have solved a problem that matters, the user won’t notice the rough edges, they’ll be happy that someone took the time to sort them out. Twitch, Twitter, Slack, Airbnb, Facebook all started as single use, rough, ugly tools. Don’t confuse “visually polished design” with “solve a user problem design” they aren’t the same thing and they have very, very different cost curves.

Cash today, Equity Tomorrow

Much of the ‘work’ that produces a good product happens today, the people at Startuplandia doing work need to be compensated today for what they have done, frequently that work gets performed by a senior IC (individual contributor). The decision making process that lead to the work being done, the value of good decision takes years to fulfill, that part requires equity and is paid at the CTO/VP ENG level, be very careful of CTOs who want too much cash today, they might fear their decision making skills won’t age well. Conversely, if you are ever to run a profitable business, you need to learn that profitability gene today, pay labor in the now, make sure you know what labor is worth, make your books balance.

CTO sometimes means kiss of death

There is no single faster way to kill a startup than to find a junior to mid level engineer (who might rightfully know the entire book of Computer Science) but who has never made long term cost/benefit choices and make them a CTO because some investor said you have to have a CTO. If you make this bad choice, you can end up with costs that balloon over the course of the coming years and no one even really knows it, it is like a chain around your startup’s neck that no one can really see.

In the early stage of many product focused startups, at best you need a CTO to help you develop a long term roadmap and make sure you have a good developer building your gear, there frequently isn’t actually enough work for a CTO to do full time, not at least until some product market fit is found and the business needs to scale. (this isn’t entirely true for companies building developer tools)

The solution here is really to hire a fractional CTO, in this case, Startuplandia founder John Davison has developed a project structure where you can get the best of his CTO knowledge without having to hire him completely, it matters, this is basically a Pareto pattern embedded in technical leadership.

Engineering is Mostly a Pitfall

Like the kiss of death above, if you are mostly a product company, engineering is at best a bottleneck and at worst an unknowable hydra, engineering is not the place you will win but if you mess things up, you hire the wrong people, the wrong cto, you will certainly fail by spending all your money, way too fast and without the right product outputs.

Design, UX and Process as a Moat

The real Moat that professionals know about is that Design Process leads to the bulk of major product breakthrough and it is this process that creates a moat for a business. Design process is the relationship between customers, their observed problems and the process of choosing features to build. All the major skills that go into the process, on the internet, are free to learn, the artistry, the irreplaceable part of the process is how the steps are put together. The most powerful moat building skill any company can wield is enabling the entire organization to develop a designer’s curiosity towards problems.

Recruiting > “The 10x Engineer”

You hear it all the time, “find a good 10x engineer” - but here at Startuplandia we tend not to believe that a 10x engineer really exists, but what does exist is the ability to hire good, high producing, low cost engineers of any flavor. Ask people in tech, “where’s a 10x engineer” and they can usually point out someone in their org, that someone also might have become a single cultural dependency for an organization’s output, that dependency is a sketchy place for any founder to be. Ask people “how do you create inbound engineer recruiting pipeline” and the answer is usually “shrug” or “oh some non technical recruiter does that (blargh)”. Also consider how hard it is for most people to improve their productivity by 50%. Problem solving is all about recruiting and hiring more people, not about the misguided pursuit maximizing the productivity of 1 singular, usually overpaid person.

At Startuplandia, we’ve learned how to recruit, how to make a happy home for designers and developers in ways that make sense for the economics of early stage product development.

Go Fast to Go Slow to Go Boom

Ever heard of an “impedance mismatch” it is a term that we learned from Jesse Farmer, and it means you have two cycles working at the same time, but working at different rate of performance. Important to startups, a product build cycle should really be 3-6 months but especially in Enterprise Sales, that cycle is usually 18 month, ie 6 months of budget planning and then a year of operations. If your goal as a founder is to sell stuff to businesses (and we too like this goal), you want to understand that you are probably not going to be actively building product for 18+ months, you are going to build an initial product and then tweak/optimize it for particular use cases.

Startuplandia’s unique ability to scale up/down the hours on a support project will help normalize this impedance mismatch, first you will go fast, then you will go slow, when the fast and the slow finally like 1-2 years down the road converge, if you haven’t spent all your money and are still alive, you will then truly be ready to be in the game AND go very, very fast #BOOM

The Financials of Startup Longevity

As a founder, if you take the traditional recruiting approach, you might believe you need to hire a;

  • CTO, Lead Engineer, Designer (and other skills)

That might cost you yearly something like 350k + 250K + 150k which equals 700k+ not including equity and cost of employment but generally it is a ton of money, it also leaves you with the problem, what do these people do full time once your MVP is built and your job is to Sell not to keep building… (or over building)

The Startuplandia TRIAD revolves around 1 senior dev, 1 amazing designer name Kamila Figura and the Startuplandia Founder/CTO John Davison.

  • 80-120 hour monthly senior developer hours
  • 20-50 monthly, fluctuating senior designer hours
  • Monthly Fractional CTO/TPM

The above stack of resources costs right around $20k monthly during go fast MVP build time and $12k monthly during adjust & optimize and sell this product time. If you do the math (and no this isn’t a quiz) that means a 4 month build cycle is about $80k and another 4 months of ongoing support is $48k for an 8 month approximate total of $120k. Now ask yourself, if not for what VCs tell you do, which cost stack would you rather have? The traditional which is frequently an obligated year at $700k+ or the Startuplandia way which is an on demand year for less then $200k? (this part is a quiz…)

Who We’ve Served

Since 2019 our crew has delivered about 22k working hours to around 25 various projects. Of those 25 projects, 6 could be described as “major” more than 1k working hours contributed, of the major projects support ranged from greenfielding mvps, building engineering teams and doing brand/product design. The below list represents most of our large projects, we work in all modern tools including rails, python, nodejs, react-native, flutter, ios/android native tool kits, heroku, aws, r (modern?) etc, you get the picture, we have technical, strategic and creative skills.

Able -

A platform that helps creators manage how they allocate random earnings toward tax payments.

Happilabs -

A platform that supports the buying process for early stage bio tech startups

Teamedup -

An ios/android app that helps US based medical doctors collaborate on non medically sensitive questions.

Walden -

An operational tool that helps wellness businesses conduct the business of wellness (scheduling, payments, ops, ohm, etc…)

Crucible -

Startuplandia greenfielded the productization of a psychometric test that supports the Private Equity recruiting space.

Falcon Partners -

Startuplandia rebuilt some broken tried to be in wordpress stuff as a talent management and recruiting portal.


Shhh, kind of still a secret, a platform that helps companies offer psychedelic healing experiences to employees #psychtech

Totsquad -

On going platform development support, every parent needs a squad to support them…

Sidetime -

A marketplace to get 1:1 help for top creative industry experts

RootSystem -

A new kind of VC…

Previous to 2019

Startuplandia CTO/Founder John Davison supporting founding events at Lyte, Hipcamp, AirPair, Crowdsound, BrightWheel, Threaflip, CloudCity Development, Twitch and others.

OMG, if you made it this far, we hope you actually skimmed the page, as all good internet writing needs to be written as if people gonna skim, until they find something worth focusing on. If you want us to serve your future, we be would happy to engage and provide written, verifiable reference to any or all of the above post. We are no joke and neither is our track record.

We look forward to getting to know you, we’ll be like your unmarried but kind of married startup partner.

Cheers & Thanks for the Fish,

John D Founder, CTO


A Dream Team

We have traveled many miles.

We will help you build, scale, grow.