Building a product vs. building a company.


Feb 22, 2022, 3 min read

Feb 22, 2022


3 min read

Astrong product and company culture are important for any startup, but succeeding in each of these areas requires a different set of strategies, resources, and skills.

To understand how founders can balance the two as they scale, we hosted a virtual event with Brex CEO Henrique Dubugras and Harry Stebbings, podcast host of ‘The Twenty Minute VC’ and founder of 20VC, to talk about what it takes to build a successful product and team, as well as the programs Harry prioritized as he scaled his own company.

Here are some of the highlights from their conversation, which can be watched in full above.

Different approaches

For Henrique, keeping a narrow focus is critical for building a successful product.

After an early attempt to diversify Brex's product offerings, he realized that pursuing growth for the sake of growth didn't give him the return on investment he expected. In hindsight, Henrique said he would have focused more on improving the company's core product.

"Don't be afraid of focus," said Henrique. "Build less stuff, build them well, and if you hire more people, put them to work on the same thing and make that product even better."

Insights from Harry Stebbings and Brex founder Henrique Dubugras

Insights from Harry Stebbings and Brex founder Henrique Dubugras

When you build a company, on the other hand, you have room to make changes. It's okay if not everything's set in stone. You'll always want to work toward your mission or north star, but you'll experience different sets of constraints as you scale, so it's important to remain flexible with how you achieve your vision for the business.

Henrique explains, "Vision is something fluid. You are going to evolve and adapt and grow, and the more time that passes in the company, the more you'll have clarity of vision."

"Don't be afraid of focus. Build less stuff, build them well, and if you hire more people, put them to work on the same thing and make that product even better."

—Henrique Dubugras, Cofounder, Brex

Important skills

Although building a product and building a business often require different mindsets, Henrique pointed out that founders need one skill to succeed in both: a talent for hiring.

"If you're not good at recruiting now, you should get good at recruiting. I think being able to sell people above your weight class is incredibly, incredibly important."

In fact, Henrique attributed part of his company's success to their relentless pursuit of the best people. Throughout the discussion, he recounted the lengths that he and cofounder Pedro Franceschi went to secure key hires and attract talent—which resulted in Brex's current compensation structure and remote-first work environment.

"We had this big mental model in the beginning—'Hey, whatever we do, it's only going to be great if we have amazing people,'" said Henrique. "So shape your culture around 'How do I hire the most amazing people?'"

Challenging conventions

Working relentlessly toward your north star—then recruiting the best people to execute your vision—is the foundation for building both a successful product and company.

During their conversation, Henrique and Harry also discussed ways that Brex challenges conventional Silicon Valley ideas, like the idea that only founders are equipped to scale companies. Watch the full event above to learn more.


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