all-hands-dec-2019

1904labs at 5 Years

Time sure flies when you are having fun.

It’s now 5 years since we opened the doors at 1904labs. I wanted to reflect back on what we have learned in our first 5 years building our company.

In a future blog, I’ll comment on what we see ahead for 1904labs in the next 5 years.

We started 1904labs with the two objectives:

  1. Be a company where startup-minded people could do cool work, grow professionally, and have an opportunity to work on their own ideas on the side openly and collaborate with other members of 1904labs as it made sense.
  1. Be a company large enterprises could work with to put their innovative ideas into production by utilizing our team of startup-minded people and building new capabilities on modern, open cloud-native technologies. 

These are still our objective today, five years later, but we have learned a lot along the way.

all-hands-2016
Our first All Hands meeting, 2016

So what have we learned?

On the people front, we have developed a talent acquisition strategy that is the foundation for everything else. 

When looking to add new people to 1904labs, we look for three things (and in this order of priority):

  1. Will this person be a good teammate? Do they understand that innovation is a team sport?
  2. Is this person innately smart and curious? Will they want to and be able to learn new things as they journey through the labs? 
  3. Does this person have enough knowledge and experience in the area we are looking to add people – e.g. Modern Software Engineering, Human-Centered Design, Data Engineering etc – to be able to contribute effectively on day one.

I think many organizations have this order reversed. They seem to look for people with certain skills and experience first. And then they hope that the person will also be innately smart and curious and committed to being a good teammate. That is a big mistake and makes forming effective innovation teams next to impossible.

all-hands-dec-2019
Our last in-person All Hands meeting, December 2019

The other thing we’ve learned in the years since we started 1904labs is that not every enterprise company is the right fit to work with us. 

After 5 years, it’s clear that 1904labs is the best partner to clients that are:

  1. Currently using, or wanting to transition to, a modern, open and cloud-native computing stack
  2. Currently using, or wanting to transition to, modern DevOps processes 
  3. Committed to using Agile rather than Waterfall processes to design and deliver technology-enabled solutions to their customers, partners, and employees

For these clients, our ability to bring the startup-minded people and our Human-Centered Design Agile methodology – HCDAgile for short – is a winning combination for both of us.


Bringing new, innovative ideas to life in a large corporation is not easy. But it’s critically important to our clients and challenging and fun for our people. And it’s why 1904labs was started in the first place. It’s surely been a fun first 5 years. 

Next up: looking forward to the next 5 years!

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