Starting a technology business: Part 1 - Full-stack business

Take two pieces of paper. Stack them on top of each other. To make them stick, throw some glue between them. You get a big messy middle of glue.
What has a mess of glue got to do with anything with business?  Let me explain.

Anytime two different concepts or ideas come together, they create a mess, like glue. “Glue code” is a term used by software engineers trying to stick two layers or systems together. A stack is a formal way to represent things layered on top of each other. A stack is also a data structure in computer science.  A web application is an example of a stack of a frontend and a backend.  The hidden magic of software lies in the ability to stack and glue things together. Graphical user interfaces glued with mathematical modeling and you get Excel. Excel glued with the cloud, you get Google sheets. You get the point. One might argue software engineering is less about algorithms and more about gluing.

Let’s look at how this "glue" enables web applications to create value for their users. The frontend is the part of your application that customers interact with. It helps your customers create value for their customers or themselves. It defines the entry point for value creation for your application. . The backend enables the operations that help meet the needs of the frontend. In software, glue work includes work like API design, performance and reliability. Without the glue work, it feels like consuming technology like bad pasta. The pasta and the sauce are not proportional. They are not mixed well either. It sure leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the customer.

What about technology businesses? Do they have similar gluing challenges? Sure, they do. The glue layer for a company helps customers convert their desires to reality. Product management and customer support are of the early stage "glue layer" functions. HR, finance and legal become started functioning as internal glue. These functions drive increased internal and external cohesion through their work.

 The role of the frontend of business is to understand the desires of all customers. The frontend includes the sales and marketing functions. They exist to grow users, grow revenue, and ensure that customers’ interests are always met.

 The business backend's role is to exists to convert customer expectations to reality. Operations, engineering and domain expertise fall into this category. These teams use their skills to create value for customers in an effective manner. These teams need to account for cost-value tradeoffs. They answer questions like, do you need to grow your own tomatoes for the best pasta? What is the cheapest way to get these tomatoes to our restaurant's kitchen?

"(Value creation is) the capacity to find meaning, to enhance one's own existence and contribute to the well-being of others, under any circumstance.” - Daisaku Ikeda

The stack and the messy glue are metaphors that might resonate with technologists. Let's recap on the value creation system. Web applications enable the creation and exchange of digital value for users. Businesses exist to create and exchange financial value for other people or businesses. Value creation in the middle of different technologies or markets is going to be messy. The metaphorical glue helps with cohesion in the messy middle of value creation. One of my favorite ways to summarize value creation is, "(Value creation is) the capacity to find meaning, to enhance one's own existence and contribute to the well-being of others, under any circumstance.” - Daisaku Ikeda.  Always ask yourself, what's the missing glue here?

This is the first of a three-part series on starting a business as a technical co-founder

1. Full-stack business
2. Full-stack entrepreneur.
3. Do you need a co-founder? If yes, what to look for?