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Leveraging your values as first-principles to shape strategy & decision making in your eng org

with Ludo Antonov

July 19, 2023


Ludo (@ludo_antonov) is the Vice President of Engineering at Whatnot. He has an extensive background in building engineering teams at fast-growing startups including Hulu, Pinterest, and Lyft. He led the Pinterest Growth team as the company was going through hyper-growth up to IPO. Prior to joining Whatnot, he served as an engineering executive at Lyft, overseeing the company’s core rideshare products including the rider, driver, marketplace, and growth organizations.

"That's one of the important parts is it allows for common language to fall back to whenever these problems actually happen because they tend to be more and more complex and take more and more nuance in order to get right and sometimes, especially like it's very powerful to take it back to first principles and say, 'How would we do this if we have to be ruthlessly prioritizing? Are we moving comfortably fast in thinking of our approach?' And then everyone understands because it's part of our vocabulary and it takes repetition to build that.”

- Ludo Antonov   

Join us at ELC Annual 2023!

ELC Annual is our flagship conference for engineering leaders. You’ll learn from experts in engineering and leadership, gain mentorship and support from like-minded professionals, expand your perspectives, build relationships across the tech industry, and leave with practical prove strategies.

Join us this August 30-31 at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco

For tickets, head to https://sfelc.com/annual2023


  • Ludo provides a status update on recent milestones @ WhatNot (2:40)
  • What operating from first principles looks like within an eng org (4:08)
  • Strategies for going back to your founding leadership principles (6:35)
  • Overcoming product challenges by leading through listening to your customers (8:34)
  • How the eng team pivoted their approach based on that first principle (9:40)
  • Deconstructing “moving uncomfortably fast” & its impact on operating systems (12:13)
  • Incorporating first principles with WhatNot’s international strategy (13:35)
  • When optimizing for one value is in conflict with another (15:32)
  • Frameworks that aid in ruthless prioritization (16:41)
  • Assess impact, likelihood of success & effort during prioritization conversations (19:05)
  • Lessons learned from building Pinterest that Ludo applied to WhatNot (19:57)
  • Ludo’s transition from discovery / matching to a two-sided marketplace (23:40)
  • How Ludo applied two-sided marketplace elements to WhatNot (24:53)
  • Working business model aspects into an engineering context (26:23)
  • Ludo’s favorite seller experiences (28:30)
  • Engineering approaches to & impact on two-sided marketplaces (30:18)
  • Recommendations for eng leaders operating in a new business model (31:57)
  • Rapid fire questions (33:39)


  • The Upside of Stress - Drawing from groundbreaking research, psychologist and award-winning teacher Kelly McGonigal, PhD, offers a surprising new view of stress—one that reveals the upside of stress, and shows us exactly how to capitalize on its benefits.
  • Crossing the Chasm - Geoffrey A. Moore’s bible for bringing cutting-edge products to larger markets—now revised and updated with new insights into the realities of high-tech marketing.

This episode wouldn’t have been possible without the help of our incredible production team:

Patrick Gallagher - Producer & Co-Host

Jerry Li - Co-Host

Noah Olberding - Associate Producer, Audio & Video Editor https://www.linkedin.com/in/noah-olberding/

Dan Overheim - Audio Engineer, Dan’s also an avid 3D printer - https://www.bnd3d.com/

Ellie Coggins Angus - Copywriter, Check out her other work at https://elliecoggins.com/about/

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