How Engineers Impact a Startup's Culture

And a financial model template for founders

Hey y’all — here’s today at a glance:

Opportunity → AI Translation

Framework → Fundraising Template for Founders

Tool → Attention

Trend → Nearshoring

Quote → A Company Culture Lever

PS — Become a member to get access to my founder membership including an engaged community, fundraising support, fireside chats and more.

🔗 Houck’s Picks

My favorite finds of the week.

  • is the world’s largest AI-native library of high quality book summaries.*

  • What founders need to know about VCs (Link)

  • The math behind a $250M raise (Link)

  • 3 pieces of advice before you pitch to investors (Link)

  • An easy way to filter out bad VCs (Link)

  • Advice for when building out your pitch deck (Link)

  • Winning pitch deck slide order (Link)

  • How Uber solved the chicken and egg problem to become a $140B company (Link)

  • An inside look at how a $20M ARR AI company builds products (Link)

  • A list of 60+ modern luxuries for entrepreneurs looking to live well (Link)

  • A trick to increase product quality (Link)

💡 Opportunity: AI Translation

First I’ll say that Nat Friedman’s tweet got a ton of good responses beyond just the one I’m sharing below.

The one below may or may not be your favorite, but it highlights something interesting.

Even when the technology to perform a task has existed for a while, there are still established use cases where it fails:

Human translation = slow, not scalable

Batch translation = prone to error

In Jeff’s wife’s case, legal work requires precision that current methods don’t provide.

Just because Google Translate has been free for well over a decade (two decades?) doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities to make money in what seems to be a mature, immobile market.

🧠 Framework: Financial Model Template

I know, I know. I argued a few weeks ago that most early stage founders shouldn’t spend much time on a financial model for fundraising.

But if you are going to use one, or even if you want to just run through the exercise regardless of fundraising, the ones Turner Novak mentioned here on X are good!

Don’t overcomplicate this — you just need to project revenue and expenses, that’s it.

Keep it that way as long as possible.

🛠 Tool: Taplio

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  • Suggests posts based on proven viral content

  • Creates carousels using any URL or topic

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📈 Trend: Nearshoring

Since the 1980’s, the US has “offshored” manufacturing to other countries where labor is cheaper at increasing rates in step with lower tariffs.

However as global tensions have risen between the US and China, alongside the conflicts in Ukraine and the middle east, many companies have shifted production to countries closer to the US (prominently but not limited to Mexico):

Fortunes will be made by those who spend the time doing the unsexy work setting up supply chains in these countries.

This is a trend where your differentiator to capture it is often not technology, but rather your willingness to grind it out longer and more efficiently than other people.

I love those markets, even if they can be tough over time, because they level the playing field and reward "hard work.”

💬 Quote: A Company Culture Lever

If you’re building software, engineers are the highest leverage role to hire. They write the code. They make the product exist.

If you’re not building software, identify what role type the actual producers are and try to make them the majority of your hires for as long as possible.

A startup run by middle-managers quickly slows down to accommodate their ambitions and whims. It’s surprising how much and how deeply this flows over into overall company culture (which will not only impact product and growth but, critically, also future hiring).

💡 How I Can Help

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