This guy gets it.

One morning in Albuquerque, a couple of co-founders got into a heated discussion over tool selection:

Walter: "But the piece de resistance, a round bottom boiling flask. 5000 milliliters!"

Jesse: "Well I cook in one of those (points). A big one."

Walter: "One of these? No, this is a volumetric flask ... you wouldn't cook in one of these."

Jesse: "Uh, yeah. I do."

Walter: "Uh, no you don't. A volumetric flask is for general mixing and titration. You wouldn't apply heat to a volumetric flask. That's what a boiling flask is for. Did you learn nothing from my chemistry class?!"

Jesse: "No, I didn't. You flunked me ... and lemme tell you something else. This, ain't chemistry. This is art."

Walter: "I saw your setup, ridiculous. You and I will not make garbage. We will produce a chemically pure and stable product that performs as advertised ... no adulterants, no chili powder."

Jesse: "Chili P is my signature!"

Walter: "Not anymore."

As much as I love Jesse, Walter understood the assignment: success lies not in how much art you make along the way; success stems from giving the customer what they want.

Tools and tools

You might be feeling pretty good about the point that you think I'm about to make: 'heck yeah tools matter! Go on! Walter does get it!'

This part of you isn't yet thinking like a founder.

A founder's tools aren't text editors, version control, design apps, browsers, or second-brain paraphernalia.

A founder's tools are the artifacts that develop their business by growing long-term revenue (post-fit) or teaching your team what the market wants (pre-fit).

Teasing this apart, then:

  1. Tools of the developer's trade: things like text editors, design software, keyboards
  2. Tools of the founder's trade: things like products, interfaces, landing pages

Yes, 1 must precede 2, but this is why there's so much emphasis on shipping: it's only once a thing is shipped that it begins its life as a founder-level tool.


The value Walter brought to the discussion wasn't his love for those flasks. It was his willingness to make the process of creation subservient to his founder-level goal: having a product in-market, "that performs as advertised."

Money is in. Jesse's signature chili powder is out.

Yes, I know we harbor intense creativity. It's part of the reason we didn't fit into the systems we left behind.

But when we are addicted to the creative loop for its own sake:

  • We work on a landing page when a tweak to our home page would do.
  • We work on a feature of undetermined value instead of the thing the prospect already said they wanted.
  • We work the faster version of a feature we have no proof is being used.
  • We ship what our earliest customers ask for before validating their fit with our vision.
  • We work on the thing that got us here instead of the thing that will teach us what to do next.

And then vicious loop tightens around us as we are rewarded for this wasted effort:

  • "Dang, that's a nice landing page. Did you use X?"
  • "This is gonna be so hot once it's live, I can feel it!"
  • "Wow, this is 10x faster! Speed kills, yanno?"
  • "Customer McCranky is going to be so happy once he sees this. Finally!"
  • "We already know this is valuable! Of course we're doing it."

Individually, these sins are minor. In aggregate, they are mortal.

To avoid death, we need to be ruthless with ourselves.

New Rose, Same Sweetness

At first this feels harsh. And as a founder, it has to start with you (by example), not your team.

But if you want to find fit, you've got to get addicted to shipping the purposefully-chosen artifacts that create the progress the business needs right now, and break free of your love for the process of creating those tools by making it secondary.

The most effective tool for moving the business forward may be the least efficient tool at the lower level. What do you really want?

Don't worry. An obsession with the lower level will return to your business post-fit — as a way to attract talented people with passions for the tools of their particular trade.

But that's not you, not now.

You wanted to be different.

Are you in love with the right tools?