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Lenny's Podcast: Product | Growth | Career
Inside Linear: Building with taste, craft, and focus | Karri Saarinen (co-founder, designer, CEO)
Inside Linear: Building with taste, craft, and focus | Karri Saarinen (co-founder, designer, CEO)

Brought to you by Mercury—the powerful and intuitive way for ambitious companies to bank | Composer—the AI-powered trading platform | Pendo—The all-in-one platform for product-led companies building breakthrough digital experiences

Karri Saarinen is the co-founder and CEO of Linear, an issue-tracking tool that has quickly become the fastest-growing and most beloved in the world. Before Linear, Karri was the principal designer and co-creator of design systems at Airbnb and the founding designer at Coinbase. In today’s episode, he shares:
• How to prioritize craft in product development
• The Linear method for modern software development
• How Linear operates with only one PM
• Why every product needs good design in 2023
• Strategies for staying focused amid distractions
• Linear’s unique hiring strategies
• Sneak peek of a soon-to-be-released Linear feature

Listen now on Apple, Spotify, Overcast, and YouTube.

Find the full transcript at: https://www.lennyspodcast.com/inside-linear-building-with-taste-craft-and-focus-karri-saarinen-co-founder-designer-ceo/#transcript

Where to find Karri Saarinen:

• X: https://twitter.com/karrisaarinen

• LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/karrisaarinen/

• Website: https://karrisaarinen.com/

Where to find Lenny:

• Newsletter: https://www.lennysnewsletter.com

• X: https://twitter.com/lennysan

• LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lennyrachitsky/

In this episode, we cover:

(00:00) Karri’s background

(04:25) Overview of Linear

(06:43) Linear’s design process and its focus on quality

(12:25) Building a craft-oriented company

(16:41) Product management at Linear

(18:37) Strategies for launching a startup without a dedicated PM

(21:16) How Linear assists PMs in their roles

(23:46) Linear’s potential expansion in PM roles

(24:58) The importance of design

(29:08) Utilizing design and brand as distinct competitive advantages

(30:48) The importance of authenticity in branding and messaging

(33:08) How design reviews are conducted at Linear

(38:34) The Linear method for modern software development 

(40:07) Why productivity software should be opinionated

(41:23) Why Linear created “cycles” and how it works

(43:27) Why Linear doesn’t have metric-based goals

(45:07) How a business can thrive without metrics, PMs, and A/B testing

(48:04) A customer-focused approach to building product

(50:02) Adapting strategies for diverse products and domains

(53:05) Three techniques Karri uses to maintain focus

(56:47) Linear’s hiring practices 

(1:02:10) Paid work trials

(1:04:31) How to determine a candidate’s “product sense” 

(1:08:21) Linear’s growth journey and milestones

(1:14:18) How pricing strategies were initially introduced at Linear

(1:16:18) Linear’s journey to finding product-market fit

(1:21:44) The importance of online presence and authenticity in business

(1:24:59) Insight into the corporate culture at Linear

(1:28:29) Lessons learned during Karri’s transition from IC to CEO

(1:30:21) Sneak peek into the upcoming “asks” feature at Linear

(1:32:04) Lightning round


• Linear: https://linear.app/

• Vercel: https://vercel.com/

• Nan Yu on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/thenanyu/

• The Linear method: https://linear.app/method

• How Ramp builds product: https://www.lennysnewsletter.com/p/how-ramp-builds-product

• Lessons from scaling Ramp | Sri Batchu (Ramp, Instacart, Opendoor): https://www.lennyspodcast.com/lessons-from-scaling-ramp-sri-batchu-ramp-instacart-opendoor/

• Eric Yuan on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ericsyuan/

The Timeless Way of Building: https://www.amazon.com/Timeless-Way-Building-Christopher-Alexander/dp/0195024028

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenancehttps://www.amazon.com/Zen-Art-Motorcycle-Maintenance-Inquiry/dp/0060839872/

John Wick: Chapter 4: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10366206/

Silo on AppleTV+: https://tv.apple.com/us/show/silo/umc.cmc.3yksgc857px0k0rqe5zd4jice

• Philips Hue lights: https://www.philips-hue.com/en-us

• Finnish salmon soup recipe: https://jernejkitchen.com/recipes/finnish-salmon-soup-lohikeitto

Production and marketing by https://penname.co/. For inquiries about sponsoring the podcast, email podcast@lennyrachitsky.com.

Lenny may be an investor in the companies discussed.

Lenny's Newsletter

Lenny's Podcast: Product | Growth | Career

Interviews with world-class product leaders and growth experts to uncover concrete, actionable, and tactical advice to help you build, launch, and grow your own product.