On Starting

I was more than a bit surprised when I introduced myself at an event a few weeks ago and reported that I had spent seventeen years in the web industry. Aside from the fact that that number is a large portion of my personal and professional life, it occurred to me that it’s arguably coincident with the age of the “web industry” itself.

I was just out of college when I encountered my first web browser (Mosaic) and had my first vertigo-inducing response to the web’s potential. I was temping at WGBH in Boston, and David Olsen showed me how to find the website for the Louvre in Paris. What blew my mind was the idea that a request from my computer in Allston traveled along thousands of miles of cable under the ocean, triggered a response from a computer in Paris, and returned to my machine in milliseconds, allowing me to see what the folks in Paris wanted me to see. As someone who grew up with satellite television and long-distance telephone calls this should have been no big deal. But two things struck me as revolutionary. First, this was a visual medium with a virtually unlimited palette of storytelling options (even though all websites had grey backgrounds and blue/red/purple hotlinks at the time!). And second, the ability to “publish” on the web was limited only by one’s imagination and technical skill. In other words, if you had an idea and knew what you were doing, you could accomplish anything.

Seventeen years later, nothing fundamental has changed. A blank page of HTML has all the creative potential as a piece of canvas or a sheet of musical composition paper. And the barrier to success on the web really only comes down to a good idea and know-how.

Of course, I’ve changed. Seventeen years, an MBA, a family, and six startups later, I’ve seen the promise of the internet revolutionize pretty much every industry and discipline on the planet. I’ve seen booms and busts, successes and failures, and ventures go from garages to household names. I’ve built products that rocked and products that sucked, received accolades and stayed up countless nights correcting my mistakes, and created tools in the morning that millions of people used by nightfall.

Having managed large and small teams for large and small organizations, I can honestly say that there’s nothing better than the breakneck pace and rollercoaster emotions of a seed-stage company.

In the late nineties, you could start a company and take the time to figure out what you needed to know as you went along. But as the pace of innovation heats up, it’s becoming increasingly clear that there just isn’t time for that anymore. When an idea can go from concept to market in a matter of weeks, management teams need to move quickly and be able to pivot in real time. That’s why we started Opus Two: to add experience quickly and surgically to new ventures, so they can deploy, learn, and adapt at the pace of the market.


Michael Sattler

With a career spent in founding and technical leadership roles with new and enterprise-level organizations, Michael Sattler is a veteran in technology strategy, operations, and product management. He’s spent decades in B2B and B2C SaaS product development, software and application design, engineering operations, new venture creation, and innovation practices.

He has scaled and managed technical teams from 2-50+ across three continents, led large-scale cross-functional program management, and founded or co-founded six companies.