David Byttow

David Byttow

Engineer & aspiring artist. Former founder of Secret and Engineering Lead at Square, Medium & Google

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON October 29, 2015

Discussion

David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
Hello. I’m David Byttow. I’ve been writing code since the age of 11 (since John Carmack unleashed DOOM upon the world 22 years ago), that makes me 33 years old. I dropped out of college to pursue a career in programming video games at 19 and later worked at Google, Medium, and Square and co-founded Secret (RIP). Today, I’m focused on a new project aimed at companies and teams and I can’t wait to show my work. 💯
Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
David! Earlier this month, you revealed you're working on a new project in the enterprise space (@joshconstine and @sarahbuhr covered this on TC) and in your words, "It won’t be like Secret, but it will be bold." What is it and why the move from B2C to B2B?
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@rrhoover Glad you asked! TechCrunch reported that Ben Lee and I are working on a product aimed at Enterprise, and that’s technically true. But, I think what we’re doing is broader and more universal than that. The product is called Bold. And for now, I invite you to go to http://bold.io to add your email if you’re interested in learning more in the weeks to come. Also follow us at @bold on Twitter (http://twitter.com/bold). I seriously CAN NOT WAIT to get this into the hands of early adopter teams. That’s all I have to say about it for now!
Josh Constine
Josh Constine@joshconstine · Writer, TechCrunch
@davidbyttow @rrhoover I thought today was supposed to be when you revealed details. Will you please provide some more details about the focus of the company or the problem you'll address?
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@joshconstine @rrhoover Timing is everything.
Jourdan Bul-lalayao
Jourdan Bul-lalayao@jourdanb21 · Co-Founder & CTO, Jobox
Hey David! Thanks for the AMA! If you had only one tip to share with junior software engineers on how to stand out and land their dream job, what is your absolute #1 tip?
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@jourdanb21 Good morning ☕️! Yes, ABC: Always Be Coding. (https://medium.com/@davidbyttow/...)
Josh Constine
Josh Constine@joshconstine · Writer, TechCrunch
What's the new project you're working on? Who with? When will it launch? Have you raised money?
Phil Weiner
Phil Weiner@rigadoohaus · CEO, UrbnEarth
@joshconstine Word is these guys walked away with a lot of money at Secret and employees got nothing, so I don't think they needed to raise any money. Can @davidbyttow speak to this other than employees?
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@joshconstine Hi Josh, always a pleasure. ;) Bold. Ben Lee. When it's ready! Not yet.
Russ Frushtick
Russ Frushtick@russfrushtick
What do you think is the most exciting thing that'll be happening in the tech industry in the next 10 years?
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@russfrushtick So many things, we're in a Renaissance period! I think everything will revolve around communication between people. Communication is universal, and with the rise of apps like WhatsApp, Snapchat, WeChat, etc, our apps will be built upon these platforms. Aside from that, I think we will look back and say "wait, we had to drive our own cars?" in the next 10+ years, that is clear to me.
Lejla Bajgoric
Lejla Bajgoric@lejlahunts · Intern, Product Hunt
Hi David :) Can you elaborate on 'aspiring artist?' What kind of art? What do you hope to accomplish with it, if anything?
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@lejlahunts Thanks for the question! I believe if you have love for your craft and follow your passion, then you're an artist. For me, I've spent the past few months learning how to express myself through painting (acrylic on canvas) and did my first art show just a week ago -- it was an entirely new and humbling feeling that I've never experienced, and I want to explore it more. Aside, I've always appreciated this article from Lefsetz: http://lefsetz.com/wordpress/ind...
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
@davidbyttow Hey what would the you of 2 years ago think of the you today?
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hey David, thanks for joining us today! 🙌You've worked at some pretty awesome companies. Where was your favorite place to work? ;) Or - what were the differences you noticed about working across them?
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@ems_hodge I am grateful for all of the experiences at each company. I don't have a favorite! - Google was where I really learned the most as an engineer and technologist. - Square was where I was able to bring my experience at Google to bear. The most important thing I learned at Square was how simplicity always wins. - I only worked at Medium briefly, but I learned a lot about how healthy teams communicate and build on each other. - Secret was, well, chock full of experiences and lessons. ;) I think that Square and Secret were the most transformative for my personal development.
Nick Creegan
Nick Creegan@njcreegan
@davidbyttow You've worked at some highly creative companies, and obviously faced the challenge of fostering creativity at a company of your own. What are some of your favorite practices, office features, products, or cultural aspects for boosting creativity amongst your teams?
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@njcreegan @ems_hodge Great question! One thing I liked to do with the team was go on a "walkabout" every Friday afternoon. The basic idea was simple: I would pose a question (usually about a problem we were facing) to the entire company. Then, we would all walk silently to a unique location (usually about 20-30 minutes,) while meditating on the question. When we arrived, we'd stand in a circle and individually give our answers. From there, we'd usually go out as a team to dinner or a bar and that would start Friday night. Some of my most fond memories... 💛
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@ems_hodge Also, I'll be diving deeper into this on Nov 18 at the TNW conference. http://thenextweb.com/conference...
Daniel.
Daniel.@danielrakh · Product Designer | iOS Developer
@davidbyttow Hey David, if there was one thing you could change to make Secret successful what would it be? Also, what have you found to be the biggest hurdle in the whole anonymous social space?
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@danielrakh Anonymity is hard. Context is everything. When it comes to anonymous content, especially among friends, you lack a lot of context as an outside (moderator). This makes the concept of Secret a bit of a paradox. That said, I think Secret did serve a need to speak freely among your peers. Once something is in the public, you can’t take it back. People often forget that invisibility is a superpower. (Banksy)
Jeff Needles
Jeff Needles@jsneedles · Data @ Houseparty & Maker of Things
@davidbyttow If you could only code in one language for the rest of your life, what would it be? Also, how did you get @bold on twitter? That's impressive.
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@jsneedles If you asked me five years ago, I'd have said C++. But, probably Java. As for Bold, we have @SirBenLee to thank for that trick.
Laura Gluhanich
Laura Gluhanich@lauraglu · founder, signal camp
Hi David! Can't wait to see how Bold emerges. What do you do to relieve stress and get outside of work mode?
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@lauraglu Traveling is always the best way to get out of your element and work mode. But, when I'm not traveling, boxing! I've been doing it for over a year now and I recommend it to anyone! Also, I've taken up painting as a means of creative expression.
Will Roper
Will Roper@wwr228
Hey David, if you had to recommend one book to someone, what would it be and why?
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@wwr228 This is such a hard question. But I've probably recommended The Four Agreements more than any other book. Credit goes to Jack Dorsey, who recommended it to me over two years ago.
ʙᴇɴ sᴏᴜᴛʜ ʟᴇᴇ
ʙᴇɴ sᴏᴜᴛʜ ʟᴇᴇ@sirbenlee · Head of Product Design at Postmates
David, what are your thoughts on Soylent and are Turkey Sticks a good alternative?
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@sirbenlee Thanks for the question, Ben. I haven't tried Soylent, but I have a friend that ordered a shipment of 120 and struggles to stick to his daily allotment. As for turkey sticks, my favorite snack is Wellshire's Hot & Spicy Tom-Toms Turkey Snack Stick, which you can find at your local Whole Foods.
neeharika sinha
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
Hello David!! I am always excited to learn new skills.. What are 3 skills you are interested to learn right now?
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@neeeharika Painting, boxing and listening.
neeharika sinha
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
@davidbyttow Any great boxing class suggestion in SF? been looking out for one thanks!
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@neeeharika Check out Park Gym in the Mission. Tell David Park (owner) that David Byttow sent you!
Bart Sullivan
Bart Sullivan@bartshansu · Professional Patent Agent
Hi David, I was just wondering how to go about introducing myself to startups? I am an engineer, inventor, and patent agent and would like to join up with a startup to help them with their innovation and protecting their innovation. I really love working with people on cool tech, but don't want to sound like a salesperson. Any suggestions?
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@bartshansu Build something and show them! Ideally related to what they're working on.
FixNix Inc.,
FixNix Inc.,@fixrnix · Chief Nixer
@davidbyttow do u believe secret could have morphed into a whistleblower solution for enterprise ? i always see the poor ux of ethicspoint kind of whistleblower solutions and though i should build a user friendly anon reporting app for board of directors in cloud where the board should be able to establish channel. Wanted to do all of this under one of the whistleblower module i envisioned under our GRC platform. R u game ? if u have still interest left with in the world of secret..
James Adamy
James Adamy@deleted-293503 · Founder @ CEO of JUMP
@davidbyttow What's the biggest regret you've had thus far as an entrepreneur?
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@jamesadamy Not starting earlier. Everyone has talent, but it takes courage to follow it to the dark places where it leads.
Phil Weiner
Phil Weiner@rigadoohaus · CEO, UrbnEarth
@davidbyttow Hi David - what did you learn from Secret and why did you raise so much capital for a model like that?
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@rigadoohaus So much! Giving a complete answer here would easily fill up the rest of the time we have. But, to name a few: - Startups are hard. But you don’t realize just how hard until you try it, so you might as well go for it. - Focus on retention, even over growth. The former cannot be manufactured. - Don’t raise money until you absolutely have to, especially when you’re just getting started. - Moderation (especially for anonymous content) is very, very complex — maybe impossible. - Always keep the long view. We raised money because we had to. For example, in one month, our server costs were well over $4M on Google App Engine after spiking 5M users in the course of two weeks. We scrambled and optimized, but the cost was real.
JJ
JJ@outdreamer · Web Developer/Writer/Idea-generator
Hi, I'm a professional app-idea pitcher & recidivist procrastitweeter - I've seen some app trends snowballing recently like convenience (single-tap purchases) person-to-person favor markets like Uber, app-ification of hobbies & addictions like Fantasy Football betting, apps that vary privacy & identity attributes (like Snapchat deleting content after a period of time, or Yik Yak allowing anonymous comments by location), ads based on user interaction, & subscription services to content like YouTube's latest product launch - what are other important abstract trends you've been seeing (or creating) in apps? What's the coolest side project or hobby that you or a coworker has worked on? What are your thoughts on the requirements for innovation? I'd define it as possibly dependent on unique analysis/information, identifying untapped demand or opportunities to create demand, & a non-standard perspective contrasting with an established norm. What's the best way you've ever seen someone accomplish their goals within the tech industry?
David Turner
David Turner@dturneresq · RSA Fellow
What's the future hold for the Internet and the Web. What role will VR play, what about Augmented Reality or the so called Internet of Things? Should we be worried about AI, or look forward to the dawn of the Singularity?
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@dturneresq Oculus. It's clearly pointing to the future of video gaming (play any horror game with it and you'll be convinced). I haven't tried any of the AR technologies yet, so can't speak to them, but I hear great things. I'm not concerned about AI in the near term. We are still so primitive in this area and so far from Singularity, I don't buy the singularity is near. However, primitive forms of AI can be very dangerous. Stick some weapons on an OTC drone and you've got something quite deadly.
Niv Dror
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · VC at Shrug Capital
@davidbyttow the Singularity may come sooner than you think ;) https://twitter.com/nivo0o0/stat...
jack rometty
jack rometty@rometty_ · student
hey david! which technology (gadget, programming language, etc) did you incorrectly expect to fail?
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@rometty_ Great question! I'm struggling to answer this. I want to say the Apple Watch, but the jury is still out. :) (don't get me wrong, it's impressive, but I'm still not clear on its need in its current form).
jack rometty
jack rometty@rometty_ · student
@davidbyttow @rometty_ awesome answer, thanks! 😄
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
Hi David, what new social graphs do you think will emerge over the next 5-10 years?
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@alexcartaz I think the best social graph is your address book. More and more applications we be built on this.
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
What's the best advice you have to give to a middle or high schooler wanting to learn how to be a great developer? How important is mentorship in the learning process?
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@alexcartaz Thank you for the question! So, so important! When I was in high school, I didn't have a mentor, but I was coding all the time and I worked in a comic shop. I figured out how to fuse my love of coding and work by building their e-commerce site in PHP/MySQL. Later, when I joined The Collective (video game company), I found a mentor in my manager (Nathan Hunt) who taught me so much over the course of five years. But, never stop practicing, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
Do you think there's a gap early on in the founder/developer talent pipeline that could be addressed by a hack school? an alternative to high school or college that focuses on teaching/refining the skills to build apps and become world class devs/designers/etc., ie full stack entrepreneurs?
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@alexcartaz I'm not sure if there's a gap. I think the best developers are those that don't make excuses or look for shortcuts. Like Ernest Hemingway said, "there's nothing to writing, all you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." There's so much truth to that. All you have to do is to work on projects centered on your passion (e.g., creating game mods, building iOS apps, joining hackathons, solving programming puzzles) and do it for years and years. To answer your question more directly, I believe intrinsic motivation is the best motivation.
Pierre-Marie Galite
Pierre-Marie Galite@tsunaze · mobile developer & advice giver
From when the idea pops into your head to when the product is released, what kind of method (of work) do you use ? (I've got ideas, i start them but always stop early in development)
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@tsunaze Build it and feel it. You don't know if an idea or concept is good until you feel it. Figure out the fastest way to get to that point, then show it to people. Start small, and show, don't tell.
Matt Hamlin
Matt Hamlin@immatthamlin · Web Developer at Wayfair
Hey David, I really fell in love with Ping when it came out. Do you have any products that you use that offered a similar experience to Ping?
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@immatthamlin Ping was fun! I think Snapchat Discover is an exponential evolution of Ping.
salles
salles@sallespro
hello David, wouls you please make a point in the role of product management in the company strategy. i am specially interested in your experience in new platforms.
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@sallespro The best product managers are editors. They make sure that everything that goes into the product is absolutely necessary and they don't let things fall through the cracks.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hey David what are your favorite apps? What's on your home screen?
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@ems_hodge iMessage is #1. Otherwise, I love Snapchat, Uber, and FB Messenger. Other mentions: Twitter, Google Maps, Instagram, Slack, Sonos, Spotify, Gmail, Medium, and Flipboard. I'm also addicted to downloading games, playing them once or twice, and uninstalling them. Thursday afternoons are my favorite (when the iOS App Store refreshes).
Chris Cates ⭐
Chris Cates ⭐@itschriscates · Software Developer
In terms of building credentials. What do you find are the best ways to network?
Yuanhao
Yuanhao@yuanhao · theboldapp.com
I am the maker of Bold (https://www.producthunt.com/tech...). I feel 😱😭😵 now...
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@yuanhao It's a great name!
What would you different with Secret if you had a second chance?
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@arnoldyv So many things! Make only new mistakes. The other question I get a lot is "Why did Secret shut down?" So I'll answer that here... Unfortunately, I struggle to find a simple and elegant answer. Startups are extremely complex, and Secret was certainly no exception. There were a lot of great things about the company and team, but it was an uphill battle that the team valiantly fought for over a year. The entire experience felt like a ~5 year startup compacted into one wild year. From hyper-growth of millions of users in weeks to being banned in an entire country (Brazil), from building a world-class team of amazing people to a co-founder stepping down and from raising a Series-B within 5 months of launch to failed M&A talks with various amazing companies; we had gone through a lot! Now that I think about it, a particular quote that comes to mind is”the flame that burns twice as bright, burns half as long.” In the end, I truly felt that Secret had gotten away from us. And I felt that the we needed to bring the chapter to a close. I would have never imagined it in the months before, but I guess letting go isn’t so hard when you realize that what you’re holding onto isn’t real.
neeharika sinha
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
Medium is a holoacratic organization. What was your opinion of the holoacratic way of setting up an organization?
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@neeeharika It seems to work well for Medium. However, it's not something I would apply to my own company.
Arpit C
Arpit C@irhymeth · Community and Growth at Integromat
@davidbyttow Hey David, thanks for the AMA. Why did you decide to shut down Secret? You'd mentioned that it had become something you didn't expect or want it to, what was that?
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@irhymeth See above, I replied to this @arnoldyv with my answer!
Elaine Lu
Elaine Lu@elaineluyi · Co-Founder & CEO, Visbit Inc.
@davidbyttow, what do you think are the key differences between an outstanding engineer leader who can lead the whole company vs a pretty good engineer leader who can mainly lead the technical team? What are the key skill set he/she needs to adopt to achieve this change? Thanks!
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@elaineluyi There's a stark difference between showing people how to do something (technical leadership) and bringing people along as a leader (running a company). It's a skill that is developed through practice and self-awareness. I certainly learned a lot at Secret and can't wait to apply those learnings to my next venture.
besso
besso@gregorbeslic · Software engineer and product manager
Hi David! How much of an impact do you think modern communication and networking habits will have on live TV? For example, live video streaming of popular sport events, e.g. SuperBowl or Premier football league could become the "Napster" of live TV broadcasting, especially with the millennials. 30 or 40 "official" cameras can't really compete with 10000+ live video streams from mobile devices that millions of users can watch "illegally". TV networks pay huge amounts of money for broadcasting rights and in turn, they've been selling these advertising slots for millions of dollars. The cost is ultimately covered by us, the consumers, because goods are more expensive to compensate for high advertising costs. And since TV advertising is the most "effective" (desirable) way to promote consumer products, the shift from monolith broadcasters to (underground, indie) peer video streaming could have a huge impact on the whole advertising value chain. What are your thoughts on this? How will today's teenagers consume "live entertainment" in 10-15 years, when they matter most to advertisers? SuperBowl ad slot can't cost several millions of USD if there's only a fraction of people still watching TV. Thanks!
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
@gregorbeslic There is a time and place for all kinds of content. Instagram/Snapchat are great when you have a few seconds to a few minutes. Quality television (e.g., Game of Thrones) is great when you have an hour to relax. I think Snapchat Discover is a glimpse into the future of consumption.
David Byttow
David Byttow@davidbyttow
Thank you everyone for giving me the pleasure of answering your questions for an hour. If you work at a company or on a team, go to http://bold.io, add your email address, and we'll have something for you to try in the coming weeks. The number one thing I've learned in the past year is that life is long, but time is short. Be sure to make the most of it.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
@davidbyttow Thanks so much for being here! You're been awesome :) 🙌✨
Ali R. Tariq
Ali R. Tariq@alirtariq · Product Designer, Axonify
Hey David! How important do you think it is to be working on a big problem (small/big problem that affects a lot of/few people) vs working on a problem that appears to be a personal itch?
Chris Hollindale
Chris Hollindale@chris_hollindale
Hey David, wondering whether there were any big technical lessons you learned from scaling Secret? Were the languages/frameworks/platforms you chose at the beginning the same that you would have chosen at the end?