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Here Is Postlight

Great web platforms, great experiences

Postlight was founded by Richard Ziade and me, Paul Ford. We’re a big company — nearly 40 people — for our age (zero years old). We are a team of engineers, designers, and product managers. We are the teams that built Beatport, Readability, and many other platforms.

That’s what we do: We build large web platforms that can support millions of users, then build products — web apps, iOS and Android apps, and editorial and administrative tools — on top of those platforms. Our offices are right above Union Square in New York City (but some of us work remotely).

If you like electronic dance music you can visit using the web, Android, or iOS, and listen to millions of streaming EDM tracks — for free. The Postlight team built and maintains the API, the apps, the analytics tools and license management — everything that makes Beatport run for millions of users.

Over the last few months I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be a partner in a business. In practice, partnership means that we talk. Rich and I talk to the Postlight team, in small meetings and all-hands meetings, and over drinks or coffee. We talk to lawyers. We talk, over breakfast, about signage, recruiting, bookkeeping, taxation, legal fees, cashflow, and lead generation.

Darren Hoyt took this photo by standing on our conference table and looking down at us with an iPhone 6. I’m in blue shirt with hands splayed like some kind of hand-splaying animal; Rich in glasses with hands carefully folded like a human being.

As we talk, other people take on tasks. Things go from speculative to real, from chaotic to calmer. Quickbooks files are generated, P&L statements emerge, liability insurance and employee health insurance benefits are secured. We come to agreements. We set up @PostlightStudio. We make hires. We gain clients, thank God. We file away product ideas for later. Our company is moving quickly.

We talk about design, strategy, JavaScript, Python, PHP, Go, product management, iOS, Android, and modern web development stacks. We talk about where other companies begin — and where we start. We talk about how fast to grow. We talk about

career paths,
brand identity,
promotional events,
diversity and gender balance,
conference stipends,
work/life balance,
business cards,
& morale.

We ask ourselves, “What are the most important things we can do as an agency, as a company that ships big things?” We think the most important thing we can do is: Build a self-sufficient team and do absolutely everything we can to keep it together. Which sounds incredibly obvious in theory but is not obvious in practice. So we talk even more: About loyalty, and how to build loyalty, how to create trust, and how trust can help you ship good software fast. There’s a lot that is new. It takes time. We’ll get there.

Readability is an API-powered web tool that helps millions of people save web pages to read later, and provides a reading view for many of the world’s most popular apps. It serves hundreds of millions of pages per month.

So, I’ve learned, if you have a business partner, you should enjoy listening to them for from four to twelve hours a day. You and your partner should both be able to speak at the same rate. You will spend an ungodly amount of time together. You should amuse each other with strange videos and dumb jokes. You will interrupt each other constantly, so you should welcome the interruption.

More broadly, you should enjoy listening to your business. I really like listening to this business. From our employees I’ve learned in the last several weeks about bouldering, what it takes to ship an Ember.js app, React Native, nutrition strategies for weightlifting, design culture, and many aspects of web technology that are new to me. I’ve learned about special cases in disambiguating ElasticSearch and edge cases in image-loading. I’ve been learning from GitHub commits and Flowdock channels, from people who are younger than me and older than me, with all different kinds of expertise.

These are the things that you need to concern yourself with if you’re going to ship products that have life to them, that people find wonderful and satisfying. I’ve still been talking too much — I’m one of the bosses, plus I have a tendency to hold forth, so that’s a risk. I’ll have to work at listening.

We have two major clients and a team of nearly 40 great engineers, product managers, and designers. Our company builds huge, scalable platforms that serve millions of people. We welcome inquiries from all interested parties. Please send me an email if I can be of service, or if you want to come work here — — and I’ll listen as well as I can.