Adam Wolff: Joining Electric Capital as an Engineer

I am psyched to join Electric Capital as an engineer.

I spent a quarter of a century(!) as an engineer and manager.

The last decade, I led large engineering teams in hypergrowth phases: I was VP of Engineering at Robinhood and Director of Engineering at Facebook responsible for GraphQL and React.

At Electric Capital, I code and help crypto founders think through engineering challenges such as organizing their engineering teams, recruiting senior talent, understanding architecture trade offs, and much more.

I know it's stormy skies over cryptoland these days, but I want to tell a story about the early days of React that's not all rainbows and butterflies.

Maybe you think React’s success was a foregone conclusion.

But that sure isn’t how it felt to me.

Zoomed out, React’s success is meteoric. But React’s star history in the beginning was flat, with little adoption.
Zoomed out, React’s success is meteoric. But React’s star history in the beginning was flat, with little adoption.

When we first presented at JS ConfUS in 2013, we were confident that we would impress people with the superiority of functional style, the silliness of coding in templates, and the elegance of React’s component model.

But the audience hated it.

They had been brainwashed by arguments like “don’t mix your presentation and your business logic.” React was too different from how people were used to doing things. No one wanted to adopt it. Debriefing on the presentation, the team felt like React was a failure.

In the end, we found we had to bring people on board one-by-one. Our big ideas were just ideas, and people didn’t need big ideas. They needed good error messages, decent documentation, and — most importantly – an incremental path that allowed teams to try React in their app without having to change their whole codebase.

This was a far-cry from our revolutionary aims, but we found the force-multiplier of one happy customer had more power than the purest monad. We spent years filing off the rough edges from React and making sure it worked for our first users: Facebook engineers. Then we turned around and noticed that adoption was growing outside of Facebook—at first, just a building away in Instagram, but soon at other Silicon Valley companies and then around the world.

Today, React is defined more by its version upgrade process than by anything else. It doesn’t really matter how React started. It is now a community that moves forward together.

Obviously, crypto is different from Web 2.0. But they share this arc of building in the open, often with a lot of haters.

To get people to adopt React, we had a goal of turning haters into advocates. That can only happen if you are willing to hear what the haters say; maybe even go further and accept that they have a point.

We proved the value of React to people one-by-one and brought them on-board individually. We helped them slog through bug reports and metrics parity battles. We found that our big ideas were just ideas. What people needed in order to adopt React were not ideas, but useful tools they could use every day.

Turning haters into advocates was not easy. To change someone’s mind, you must risk changing your mind. You must welcome feedback even when it sounds harsh or ambiguous.

I’m here for the big ideas in crypto.

I want to see the better web that crypto enables.

Software that can't be censored or blocked.

True privacy.

A web that connects every human.

For crypto to reach that potential, we need to build this next iteration together, in public. We have to package this exciting new technology in a form that end-users will understand and embrace.

I'm so excited to be part of it.

Let's get to work.

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