Swizec Teller - a geek with a hatswizec.com

    Swizec Teller wanted to work on silicon valley blockbusters

    On the DevJourney podcast Swiz' told us how he discovered computers at a very early age and how the planets aligned. By the time he enrolled in a CS degree in Slovenia, he had already had multiple internships and experiences working as a software developer. He spoke about freelancing and how this led him not to finish his CS degree. He talked about how his first entrepreneurial experience took him to Silicon Valley, what he learned there (by crashing and burning his startup) and how it eventually took him where he worked for the past seven years.

    DevJourney Podcast Episode #202

    Talking points

    • Swizec's journey into programming
    • Running out of variables in Pascal
    • Swizec got in trouble with Paul Graham and Ycombinator and nearly got his startup kicked out.
    • the biggest mindset shifts that helped me go from code monkey to tech lead* Moving to Silicon Valey
    • Contributing code to a nuclear power plant
    • Working for free on open-source vs working for money
    • The sad story of CURL, the command line utility
    • Innovation and entrepreneurship
    • The biggest mistake we made in startup fundraising
    • How Swizec did an internship in Palo Alto and ended up living next door to Paul Graham.
    • You should be in the Silicon Valley ecosystem if you want to make it really big

    Quotable Quotes

    "you know how some people, some kids get really obsessed with, uh, action figures and action heroes and stuff. For me, that was programming" - ST

    "I was in my twenties and I didn't really realize that programming concepts actually had meanings in reality. WriteLn means 'write line' because you're writing out a line. I remember waking up and like, oh my God, these things have actual meanings. That's amazing. It's makes it so much easier." - ST

    "I want to spend all my time programming and writing cool stuff" - ST

    "I didn't know, you have to name variable. So when I ran out of 25 variables, A through Z, I started doing AA, BB. I think I basically forced myself to do assembly style programming just in terrible Pascal." - ST

    "Mostly never build your own framework" - ST

    "Everyone else who comes after him suffers because there's no public documentation, there's nobody you can ask for help. It's just that guy and his pet project and anyone else at the company who knows." - ST

    "Nobody cares what technology you're using. What you do with that technology is what matters." - ST

    "Silicon valley minded people, are looking for someone who can come in and push the business to the next level, rather than being a code monkey who can take orders and execute with technology" - ST

    "As soon as you feel like you're doing the same shit over and over, just switch jobs, go to different companies" - ST

    "Start something of your own – starting your own is a great way to learn the very early stages and to see into how the people who are hiring you think about these things and then sell yourself based on that." - ST

    "Now is the time to push. I'll have time to chill later ... but don't push too much, so you don't enjoy life" - ST

    "If you want to move towards Silicon valley. I think the best thing is to start working with tier two and tier three companies that you can find locally, get that experience in a high pace, high growth environment" - ST

    "I've heard stories of people being hired straight out of college as senior software engineer, because there's been a bit of title inflation." - ST

    "I learned people actually can pay you millions of dollars. Or you can do it for free and suffer" - ST

    "CURL is maintained by a single guy who repeatedly runs out of money and goes online, asking for donations, because he's like, yo, I'm about to get evicted. I can't afford rent." - ST

    "I went to this museum and there was a really good exhibit on all of the scientists that changed the world. And I realized, oh my God, they weren't just scientists. These people were actually entrepreneurs. The science was just a small part." - ST

    "James Watt didn't invent the steam engine. He took a steam engine that existed, invented a small part that made it actually useful and then capitalized on that event." - ST

    "Thomas Edison kind of invented the light bulb, but his actual innovation was the research lab, the commercial research lab" - ST

    "Thomas Edison had teams of scientists who would just churn out inventions that he would then capitalize on." - ST

    "Edison's biggest contribution actually wasn't the light bulb. It was the power distribution system and the power plant. His invention was bringing the light bulb to the home." - ST

    "Tesla and all the others that now think, "oh, Edison stole their invention." What good is a light bulb that works in a lab for five minutes. What Edison did was commercialize it and make it so that it runs in your house because you have power in your house and you have a light switch in your house." - ST

    "Steve Jobs didn't even invent much himself. He was more like the head of an organization, both the innovation isn't the smartphone or the apps or all of that. It's putting it all together and making it work reliably so that you can actually use it without thinking about it." - ST

    "We had a scarcity mindset, not a abundance mindset" -ST

    "We had this VC saying, oh yeah, you, we will give you money. If you get more people involved. And our reaction to that was, well, we can't afford to stay. So we're going to go home because we, we have no money and we are poor." - ST

    "I took full responsibility for what I did, because you know, that's what you do, ownership, mentality and all that" - ST

    "In 2021, there was around a hundred billion dollars of startup investment in the bay area ecosystem." - ST

    "If you think of VCs as the big studios, CEOs and founders, as the directors, us engineers, et cetera, as the talent. Absolutely anywhere in the world, you can make a really great movie. You might even win an Oscar, like really good movies come from everywhere. But if you want to make a blockbuster, you have to go to Hollywood, maybe not physically to Hollywood, but you have to be in the ecosystem." - ST

    "The way you can recognize the tier three company is that they compete for global talent." - ST

    "Once they get big enough, they only want to top tier talent and they treat people as an investment, not as a cost" - ST

    "If you want to work with companies where people who know how to take a business from 10 employees to 50 employees from 50 to 300, from 300 to a thousand, from a thousand to 10,000, those people are a dime a dozen in the bay area." - ST

    "The way you approach engineering when your company is growing on that rocketship trajectory is very different" - ST

    "Even if business opportunities like this existed in Europe, you don't have the talent who knows how to pull this off. If you're a founder and you're like, I'm on a trajectory to go from $10 million to a hundred million dollars in a year and a half. Good luck finding people who know how that works at all levels of the organization." - ST

    "It's like you have less volatility. You're not going to become a trillionaire. Probably not even a billionaire. Honestly, even if I'm a dozen millionaire, I would be totally fine anywhere in the world." - ST

    "That's kind of what has pulled me out of entrepreneurship, honestly, and more towards being an employee at these high-paced companies is. You get a lot of money, you have lower risk and they pamper you." - ST

    "If you're not playing the entrepreneur game anymore, it's worth it to being in the Silicon valley" - ST

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