Culture

I recently read Alex MacCaw's article, What it’s like to work for Stripe, while on a much needed vacation. Alex, whom I first discovered via his post on asynchronous UIs and then traveling the world, does a great job discussing how Stripe operates. I have gotten to know the Stripes over the last year and am impressed at how well they execute. As he states, culture can be hard to define so I'd like to share a bit about what it means to me.

This summer Picplum had two excellent interns from Carnegie Mellon. It was my first time working with anyone other than a cofounder and it was rather enlightening. As someone who is admittedly a bit of a perfectionist at times, I initially had a hard time even wanting to split work up.

That quickly changed. Everyone had their own feature to build, worked on everything from design to back-end to get it working and then ship it. We got so much done.

Our interns have since gone back to college, and I have been left pondering about growing the Picplum team. I have been fortunate to find a cofounder (and roommate) that I learn from, enjoy being around and have much respect for.

How do you attract those Jobsian A-players?

It's with a culture where people can thrive and tackle problems they find interesting. It's not with offering standing desks and beefy computers; every Silicon Valley startup offers that. It's not with showing off office pictures of employees playing around with nerf guns. Those are gimmicks. Culture is not defined by a fancy workplace. It's all about the people.

Company culture is often something a potential hire can't easily find out until they're at the company (or until it's too late). Except for larger startups that have found interesting ways of evangelizing their culture. Stripe and Quora have hackathons and GitHub has drinkups. GitHub even custom labeled their own batch of "Slow Merge" bourbon and used to have contests where the prize was expensive bourbon. That kind of goes with their culture, they tend to hire friends and folks they get to know at their drinkups. They rent out local clubs (Mighty) and have their employees play great techno when all of their remote employees are in town.

What about small startups?

But when you're a much smaller team you can't exactly do those things. So you focus on the people. Early on with tiny startups culture is more about the people and their personalities rather than work processes.

For whatever reason, their sense of humor is the first thing that comes to mind; perhaps because that's also what I look for in friends. ENTP, INTJ...? How do they handle criticism of their work? Do they communicate well? These aren't things you can readily discover during a technical interview. So you focus on hiring those that align most with your startup's work ethic and how you build things.. and let the culture naturally build itself.

I recall flipping through Reed Hastings' slides on Netflix culture some years ago, where he detailed their culture like I've never seen any company do before. This one line stuck with me:

Actual company values are the behaviors and skills that are valued in fellow employees.

All I can think about is growing our team. Learn more about Picplum on AngelList.

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"Culture" by @Stammy