Street Culture: Glympse Builds an Open Community to Empower Staff

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Like many startups, Seattle-based location sharing tech company Glympse relies heavily on employees to be efficient outside of their comfort zones. Co-founder and CEO Bryan Trussel says that he hopes Glympse is a fun and challenging place to work, and he believes empowering employees is one way to make sure that happens.

“They have to be empowered,” Trussel said. “We have to do so much with so few people. We want them to exercise different muscles and do things not only in their areas of expertise, but also extend into areas that maybe they haven’t been exposed to in the past.”

Glympse’s launch in May 2009 may have been from a basement office, but today the company employs more than 30 people in a new office space on Capitol Hill in Seattle. As a reminder of the hard work put in during the past seven years, Trussel still uses a desk he made out of a giant cardboard box one day, when the company ran out of desks for new employees.

“When we moved to our first real office space, I took that desk with me because to me it symbolized where we came from, that we’re prudent with how we spend money, that we are being innovative with what we need to do,” he said. “Even now that we’re in this much nicer office space, I still brought it with me. We have Fortune 500 companies that come visit, and they sit on the other side of my cardboard box.”

Trussel and the other two Glympse co-founders, Jeremy Mercer and Steve Miller, previously worked for Microsoft. They found that one of the biggest hurdles in getting Glympse off the ground was adapting to the faster speed at which the business moved, and the lack of support infrastructure to handle internal logistics.

“The fundamental pace of business is different,” Trussel said. “At Microsoft we would have a ball moving at a much more inherently bureaucratic pace, where you make decisions years in advance because they have to go through so many executive signatures to get a roadmap going. Here, the risk is higher. When you start, you don’t have the support teams you have with bigger companies; there’s no legal, no marketing, no channels to go through.”

Of course, that also translates into an intrinsic nimbleness — the benefit is that the Glympse team can make a decision in the morning and have it implemented by the end of the day. The communication for making decisions like that happen continue to adapt as the staff adapts to each new office space and team member.

“We have a pretty good mix of experienced and younger folks working here; a combination of people who have done startups and those who haven’t,” Trussel said. “Every Monday we have a team lunch where we all get together and get an update about what’s going on, different milestones we’ve reached; we have an open Q&A where people can ask anything they want, talking about topics from our business strategy to benefits to financials, anything – nothing is off limits. Recently, one of the questions that I thought was interesting; someone wanted to know about how options and shares work, and details about financing and raising money. I love the team lunches. They show any cracks in communication or concerns before they become a problem.”

The team lunches support the culture, Trussel said, but mostly because they help keep everyone educated on the company’s status and growth, and align everyone’s focus on business strategy.

“Culture gets defined whether you try to or not,” he said. “We really want folks who have a lot of different personalities to work here. Introverts, extroverts, all different skill sets.”

When hiring, Trussel said he looks for people who are truly passionate about the growth of the technology space.

“I’ll ask people, ‘When you’re not at work, what do you do?’” he said. “If the person is a programmer, I’ll ask if they have off-site projects they like to mess around with. It’s not about the hours they work; it’s a matter of people genuinely wanting to learn. If they have that feel, if I think they’re really going to like working here because they’ll be exposed to so many cool things, that’s a pretty good indicator if they’ll be happy here.”

April Nowicki is a contributor at Street Fight.