How a designer builds a startup

An interview with Range co-founder Braden Kowitz

Jake Knapp
8 min readMay 29, 2019

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When I joined Google in 2007, everybody said, “If you want to learn how to get things done, watch Braden Kowitz.” Braden was a designer who’d worked on the first versions of Google Sheets, Google Trends, and Google for Business (which is now G Suite).

Over the years, I learned a ton from watching Braden. I got to work with him for a few years, first on Gmail, then later at Google Ventures, where we also collaborated on a book. He was and is an excellent leader, but maybe what is most impressive is what an excellent learner he is—curious about every facet of product development, from research to engineering to marketing, and, of course, design.

Now Braden is a startup founder. His company, Range, is building software for teamwork. It’s a system of tools for connecting smaller dots (daily check-ins and meetings) with the big picture (larger team goals and OKRs).

Because he’s such a great learner, I thought it would be super interesting to look inside his process. I asked Braden if I could interview him about what it’s like for a designer to build a startup—and how it feels right now, when his company is at a crucial moment on their quest for product/market fit.

Here’s our conversation:

JAKE: You left Google Ventures, where you spent years coaching startups, and founded a startup of your own. What that was like?

BRADEN: It’s challenging in a good way. Startups push you hard to grow, which is a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, it’s amazing to grow so fast. I’ve had to learn about marketing, sales, team culture, legal contracts, and much more. I’m grateful I’ve taken this path of founding a startup.

Braden and the Range team (he’s the one in the blue patterned shirt)

But growth is often uncomfortable. It’s impossible to be good at everything. And at a small company, a few people really do need to do everything. Startups constantly highlight your own ignorance and incompetence. No matter how fast you learn, there’s always going to be more that you could be doing. That’s hard. And it’s easy…

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Jake Knapp

Writer, designer, person. Author of SPRINT and MAKE TIME. Co-founder of character.vc. More at jakeknapp.com.