Fewer foosball tables, more stability. Is that the key to attracting top talent as a startup in the tech community?
Justin Angsuwat, Thumbtack’s vice president of people, says the Thumbtack team describes its company culture as the “Midwest of cultures.”
“It’s really important that [staff] understand how their work contributes to the company objective, rather than just being busy and doing things and not knowing whether it has an impact on the company goals and outcomes,” says the company’s CEO, Ian O’Rourke .
Wholesale ecommerce retailer Boxed is taking its position as team leader seriously. The company pays for its employees’ kids to go to college. It looked at the industry-wide “pink tax” and started a campaign against the higher prices. It even started contributing $20,000 to pay for employees’ weddings.
Street Culture: Female Leaders at Main Street Hub Highlight Group Dynamics and Diversity in Communication
At marketing automation and CRM company Main Street Hub, the product engineering team has grown from six people to 30 in three years. The entire company employs more than 500 people, so in the product, engineering, and design department, the leadership is proud of the diversity and success they have achieved.
Hooch isn’t hiring right now, but they expect to ramp up technology and data positions in fall 2017. Dai says his secret to hiring is to be brutally honest about the challenges and struggles of working at startup.
“The argument is, build a large company to be insanely great and change the world, right?” says CEO Jon Fisher. “As we operationalize the financial part, the path to making a real contribution in the world can be formulaic.”
Neil Sweeney has lots of opinions about how to run a company, especially a newer, smaller one. The founder and CEO of beacon network company Freckle IoT, says that it’s about putting the right people in the right places.
A spinoff company from a larger mothership might already have culture built in. At Conichiwa, a Berlin-based proximity agency and beacon company, that’s not quite what is happening.
While some company founders sit down and write out their core values and identify what their company’s culture should be before they even find the people who will help them, others just go with their gut. For Pete Gombert, founder of local marketing company Balihoo, his gut feeling about culture has turned into a whole new company.
The company’s mission is to build a new operating system for the physical world, and to get there the team needs zero bullshit. Culture is far too important to leave to chance, says John Cieslik-Bridgen, Estimote’s VP of culture. But it’s also important to allow natural evolution.
Starting your own tech company often comes with a painful side effect, says Joshua Enders, managing partner of client success at digital commerce company Six Vertical: “It’s an absolute grind. It’s like getting punched in the stomach multiple times a day,” Enders says. “I’m speaking from experience.”
Environment, talent, and process all encourage the growth of innovation, according to IT research firm CEB, which was recently acquired by Gartner. But there’s a balancing act that must take place between structure and exploration — especially for smaller companies on a fast upward growth curve.
Dublin-based digital search platform startup Pointy is still at that point where the culture is just what it is, without special definitions or structure. “The number of people on our team now is small, almost painfully small,” says co-founder Mark Cummins. “There’s not a lot of structure. Well, there is structure, but there’s not a lot of process around it.”
“I think it’s important to have marketing leadership from a cultural standpoint,” the company’s VP of marketing, Corey O’Donnell says. “Marketing isn’t just what you tell the world about your business, it’s also what you tell your employees.”
“We are a company that values transparency,” says the company’s CEO, Antonio Tomarchio. “Every month we present to all the people across the company everything that’s going on. I believe that not only it’s the right thing to do, but also that it’s always the best long-term strategy for success.”
For many locally focused tech companies — including NextDoor, SweetIQ, ibotta and G/O Digital — transparent sharing and openness at all levels is inviting a new workplace generation led by women.
“Startup culture is very unique,” says Stylu’s CEO Justin Colombo. “There’s no such thing as rules. It’s good to have structure, but we’re very open-minded. We’re just moving forward naturally according to our culture and our style.”