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Competing with Unicorns: How the World’s Best Companies Ship Software and Work Differently


Cover image for Competing with Unicorns

Competing with Unicorns

How the World’s Best Companies Ship Software and Work Differently


Today’s tech unicorns develop software differently. They’ve developed a way of working that lets them scale like an enterprise while working like a startup. These techniques can be learned. This book takes you behind the scenes and shows you how companies like Google, Facebook, and Spotify do it. Leverage their insights, so your teams can work better together, ship higher-quality product faster, innovate more quickly, and compete with the unicorns.

Customer Reviews

If you’re a leader who’d like more insight into the real world of tech unicorns like
Spotify, if you’d like to understand how they go about impacting the world, this
is the book for you. Packed with insights from various unicorns, Jonathan Rasmusson
gives us the truth behind the mythology.

- Diana Larsen

Co-Founder & Chief Connector, Agile Fluency Project LLC

In Competing with Unicorns you are invited behind the curtain of Spotify (and to
peek in on other tech unicorns too) to see what happens there, guided by a longtime
agile coach and developer in the company, written with Jonathan’s patented
humorous and easy-going style. I recommend this book to anyone that wants to
be inspired, see beyond the practices, and understand what it takes to make a
unicorn dance and succeed.

- Marcus Hammarberg

Head of Curriculum, Salt

A great book for companies that are going through a digital transformation, especially in software, and for smaller startups that are going through scaling challenges on how to
organize and structure themselves in a way that gets them to “think strategic, but act local.”

- Luu Duong

VP Software Development, eCompliance

Jonathan shares his experiences with Spotify to help you understand how their
culture and the way they work can help traditional organizations adapt and take
advantage of what they have learned through trial and error.

- Janet Gregory

Agile Testing Coach, Dragon Fire, Inc.

See All Reviews

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Contents & Extracts

  • It’s Good to See You
    • How to Read This Book
    • Definitions and Language
    • Ready Player One?
  • What’s Different About Startups
    • Startups Are from Mars
    • The Learning Machine
    • Enterprises Are from Venus
    • The Expectation-Setting Machine
    • What This Means for You
    • Think Different
  • Give Purpose With Missions excerpt
    • The Problem with Projects
    • Enter the Mission
    • Missions Engage the Team
    • Missions Give People a Sense of Purpose
    • Missions Better Align Incentives
    • Example Mission
    • Give Purpose
  • Empower Through Squads
    • What Is a Squad?
    • What Makes Squads Different?
    • Product Managers
    • Data Scientists
    • Decoupled Architectures
    • Autonomy, Empowerment, and Trust
    • Tips for Leaders
    • Q&A
    • Empower
  • Scale with Tribes
    • The Challenge of Scaling
    • Principles of Scaling
    • Tribes, Chapters, and Guilds
    • Tribes
    • Chapters
    • Guilds
    • Where Would You Like to Work?
    • Q&A
    • Scale Big but Stay Small
  • Align with Bets excerpt
    • A Thousand Flowers Wilting
    • Enter the Company Bet
    • How Do They Work
    • The Beauty of Working This Way
    • Tips for Executing
    • Make a Bet
  • Working At a Tech Lead Company
    • The World Is Flat
    • I’m Not Going to Tell You What to Do
    • A Different Attitude Toward Money
    • Don’t You Trust Me?
    • All Information Is Defaulted to Open
    • Can I Help You?
    • Let Tech Lead
  • Invest In Productivity
    • Create Productivity Squads
    • Adopt Self-Service Models
    • Host Hack Weeks
    • Leverage Highly Technical Product Owners
    • Have Higher Expectations Around Quality
    • Utilize Internal Open Source
    • Continuously Improve at All Levels
    • Utilize Feature Flags
    • Ship with Release Trains
    • Make Tech First Class
  • Learn with Data
    • Data Everywhere
    • Instrument Your Product
    • Experiment with A/B Tests
    • Enter the Data Scientist
    • Leverage Data
  • Reinforce Through Culture
    • Different Companies Have Different Cultures
    • Spotify Culture
    • How Does Good Culture Feel?
    • Core Beliefs
    • Action Speaks Louder Than Words
    • Swedishness
    • Culture Matters
  • Leveling Up—From There to Here
    • Drive with Purpose
    • Think Strategic—Act Local
    • Fund Teams, Not Projects
    • Make Tech First Class
    • Act More Like a Startup
    • Embrace Small Autonomous Teams
    • Copy with Context
    • Lead by Example
    • Empower and Trust
    • Take Away the Excuses
    • Final Words


Jonathan Rasmusson has helped some of the world’s largest, most innovative tech companies ship and deliver software around the world. As an engineer, Jonathan helped integrate Spotify into the Sony Playstation, Facebook Messenger, Google Chromecast, iMessage, as well as BMW, Tesla, and Ford car integrations.