Hacking Startups, Scaling Sites and Sipping Knowledge: An Espresso Chat with @zvonimirfras: TDI 22

Threads Dev Interviews

I am finding developers on Threads and interviewing them, right on Threads.

See All the Interviews

Note: The views in these interviews are personal views and do not represent the interviewee’s employer.

“If you’re not learning A LOT, something’s not right. Change it up.”

Zvonimir Fras (@zvonimirfras) on Threads

Today we have @zvonimirfras. You were the first software engineer at a startup. What was that like?

Chaotic 😛

They initially hired me to kick-start their web platform, but I also got to help with computer vision algorithms and wrote firmware for sensors in a device we were building.

Overall team had a great vibe but had some inevitable churn and as people changed, so did I.

Hacking around trying to make something for hundreds that bigger companies charge hundreds of thousands is a good challenge 🙂

This is probably the main reason to join an existing startup as opposed to a bigger, established company. Learning and adventure.

Equity is the third, but the payout is not guaranteed, so this better not be your main reason.

Funny story was that in the technical interview they asked me to implement a specific sort algorithm on a whiteboard. I know, right? 😄

I don’t remember which one it was, but I also didn’t know how it works so we negotiated a different algorithm lol

The guy interviewing me was an intern and this was the first time he was doing it so that was also pretty chaotic. I found out all about it later. We’re still good friends 🙂

One good question that the management had was

“If we gave you $100k to create a startup around any idea of yours, what would you do?”

Great way to test the mindset for first hires at a startup.

What advice do you have for a software engineer considering joining an early stage startup?

Make sure you do it for the right reasons and expectations.

Pick a startup where you like people and believe in the mission.

If you believe in the mission and leadership, maximize equity over cash compensation (as much as you can afford).

If you want cash over everything, you’re better off with an established company. You can still learn a lot, especially if you find good mentors – and those companies often have mentorship programs that you can participate in for free.

Working with people you like, believing in the mission, and owning a portion of the business will make it easier to do the work you need – often putting in long hours.

Don’t hold on to a title or job description, do what needs to be done.

If you’re not learning A LOT, something’s not right. Change it up.

You have scaled some websites to impressive numbers. If you were to launch a website today, what would be your strategy to drive traffic to the website?

This would depend a lot on the type of content and purpose of the website, so designing and creating great content that people you target want to see would be the top of the list. Aka a great offer. This would also drive strategy and tactics after that.

For my most visited website we produced motivational content, got a great understanding of a social media platform, and created content that was regularly on the Discover/Explore page.

I don’t think that would work for most purposes, although (almost) every niche has room for creating desirable content.

(Notable exception perhaps: any news site in Canada…)

These days I think it’s harder to convert that to website traffic because social media is more optimized for retention and (seem to) penalize posts with external links.

Paid traffic is another obvious way that seems to work well these days. When you find posts that work, promote them. Make more like those, produce ads around those concepts.

Unless you’re in media, you probably care less about traffic per se, and more about signups, sales, or whatever you set as the metric that brings you closer to your goal. So that’s what you optimize for. And often you don’t need website traffic for that.

When you’re trying to get the people you can help interested in what you have to offer, go for quality then quantity. Especially early on.

But I think I started to digress and answering the underlying question instead: How to acquire users/clients/customers?

That’s even harder to give a generic answer on, but if you’re reading this, feel free to ping me about it with your specific situation. 🙂

How do you think AI will change the landscape of software development?

More people will be able to develop software they need. More will be expected of professional developers as soon as they are allowed to use AI assistants. There are still legal concerns why some are holding back but I expect that to change soon, especially with new specialized models.

AI integration will be expected in the increasing number of applications. Similar to how most websites aren’t static websites.

From a developer perspective, what are some legal concerns regarding using AI to develop software?

Here are some I came across:

  • ⭐ if it’s trained on data that’s not licensed permissively enough, what does it say about the code it generated?
  • ⭐ What if it generates the code that matches code that’s publicly available under restrictive license? It might mean your code needs to be released under that license as well, uh oh…
  • ⭐ What if it generates code that allows a back door to the product you’re building? It could be because the model was hacked in some way or trained on malicious code.

It has similar issues as AI generated art but the results might be a lot more dire.

I think the devs are still responsible for the code they ship and I don’t expect that to change any time soon.

There are way around all of this, it just takes some time, and the legal processes naturally lag behind tech advancements.

What is your 3-in-3 newsletter all about?

Here’s one description:

It’s like a turbo-charged, knowledge-packed espresso shot for the busy, tech-savvy, future-gazing brainiacs who crave to outsmart tomorrow, today, and all in the time it takes to microwave popcorn! 😛


I read and think about many things over the week, and make notes.

Every Sunday I go over all the notes, surface 3 most notable things, boil them down to essence and send an email that you can read in 3 minutes or less.

One of the things that became a regular lately, because of the sheer volume of updates, is “AI of the week” – a list of all the notable things that happened, with links.

Here’s a piece of feedback I got last week: “I mainly use your emails now to stay up to date on stuff”

How can people find you elsewhere online?

Thank you for taking the time today, Ryan! I enjoyed our chat 🙂

Same username everywhere, link in bio, and 3-in-3. I’m not hard to find 😛

Most my content is text (and images), so if you want something different, I made a few videos on youtube.com/Zvoni… (and would love feedback)

How’s that for a twist?

See the full interview on Threads: @ryan.swanstrom • Threads Dev Interview #22 I am finding developers on Threads and interviewing them, right here on… • Threads





Leave a Reply