Hi, I'm Allen Pike. I founded Steamclock, host Fun Fact and It Shipped That Way, and am working on something new.

At least monthly, I write an article and publish it here.


Feeding the Baby

June 29, 2024

On accidentally becoming a CEO.

A lot of startups with first-time founders have unclear roles. When I started my first business, Steamclock’s co-founder Nigel was far more experienced, being ten years my senior. I’d assumed he would take a more CEO-like role, but other than that I’d put little thought into our positions. We were...

4 min read →


LLMs Aren’t Just “Trained On the Internet” Anymore

May 31, 2024

A path to continued model improvement.

I often see a misconception when people try to reason about the capability of LLMs, and in particular how much future improvement to expect. It’s frequently said that that LLMs are “trained on the internet,” and so they’ll always be bad at producing content that is rare on the web....

5 min read →


Link: Building Slack

May 6, 2024

Two of Slack’s original employees, Johnny Rodgers and Ali Rayl, have started writing a delightful newsletter/blog called Building Slack. There are some great passages already.

The clarity of the initial pitch from Stewart:

“You’ll know it’s working when you don’t have to use email at work any more.”

The very high bar for great customer support:

We turned around fixes and adjustments as quickly as we learned about them. We responded to each message personally — often directly from Stewart. This pattern and the fundamental respect that it demonstrated for our customers would become essential to Slack’s early success and eventual longevity.

The impact of Stewart’s famous “We Don’t Sell Saddles Here” memo:

He encouraged us to take personal responsibility not just for the tasks we were assigned, but for our shared mission in the biggest sense. This was operationalized in the early days. We would say “Somebody doesn’t work here.” As in, “Somebody should fix the typing lag in the search input” or “Somebody should follow up with the teams that churned last week.” Nope. It’s our shared responsibility, and you need to do it yourself or chase things down to ensure it’s going to get done.

It’s great. Start at the beginning.


Sell First, or Build First?

April 30, 2024

An age-old startup question.

Recently I’ve been talking to potential customers about a product space I’ve been exploring. One thing I’ve wondered as I do this is, “At what point should we ask our first customers to pay?” Writing on how to develop a SaaS product tends to advocate one of two approaches: “Sell,...

7 min read →


Link: Steamclock’s Next Chapter

April 29, 2024

I wrote today about Nick Wilkinson taking the helm at Steamclock over on the company blog:

This year, it’s time for Nick to take the largest leadership role of all, as our Managing Director. With the support of our CTO Nigel, as well as the excellent Jenn Cooper and myself continuing on the Board, Nick’s going to keep doing what he’s been doing for some time: driving Steamclock forward, growing the culture we’ve built, and also putting his own spin on it.

This summer, I’ll share more about what I’m building next. For today, I’m feeling grateful for the team we’ve built at Steamclock, and the fact they’re still growing and iterating. ⭐


The Dangers of Curiosity

March 31, 2024

On the risk, and power, of wondering.

Legends have long warned about the dangers of curiosity. Curiosity led to a bargain with the devil for Faust. Pandora cursed all humanity when she opened a jar full of evils. And we all know what curiosity did to the cat. In unsafe environments, curiosity really can be dangerous. An...

3 min read →


Once a Month

February 29, 2024

An easy way to do more things you love.

Ten years ago, I set a goal: publish one blog post a month. It worked! A decade later, I still keep the habit of writing an article every month. Over 120 sessions I’ve slowly gotten better at writing, learned tons, and built up an archive of some of those lessons....

2 min read →


From Chatbot to Everything Engine

January 10, 2024

A curious design constraint signals an ambitious future.

This morning, OpenAI launched the GPT Store: a simple way to browse and distribute customized versions of ChatGPT. GPTs – awkwardly named to solidify OpenAI’s claim to the trademark “GPT” – consist of a custom ChatGPT prompt, an icon, and optionally some reference data or hookups to external APIs. In...

5 min read →


Splitting Services and Product

December 30, 2023

The story of a plan: take a break, and get focused.

Last year, I realized it was time to switch things up. In 2010, my co-founder Nigel and I started Steamclock. The vision was to build products for clients, and use those profits to fund our own product development. Which worked! Mostly. We’ve built a client business that’s been growing and...

6 min read →


You Should Have a Research Question

November 29, 2023

How to turn curiosity into a superpower.

Humans are naturally curious. We wonder about things. Seek answers. Read an unreasonable number of Wikipedia articles about the Roman Empire for no reason. Well, not for no reason. Our minds are wired to learn. However, without a bit of steering, this curiosity can get a little… time-wastey. Learning something...

5 min read →


Build a Deck of Heroes

October 31, 2023

A way to relate to inspiring people.

It helps to have heroes. Heroes are people whose stories inspire us. Steve Wozniak, in my mind, used curiosity and audacity to rewrite the rules of what technology can do. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pursues truth and change with clarity and tenacity. Marie Kondo systematically seeks joy and simplicity in the spaces...

4 min read →


The Curse of Dialup World

September 30, 2023

An acquisition gets weird.

A long time ago – at the turn of the century, as kids would call it now – my first job was at a dialup internet service provider. Officially, I was hired to be a sort of errand-boy. Instead, the role was more interesting: a front seat for one of...

7 min read →


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© Allen Pike. 👋🏼 You can contact me, or check out Steamclock.