13 Characteristics Of A Great Start-Up Culture

Greg Gottesman visited UP Global HQ last week and delivered us an inspiring message.

“More than any other organization in the entire world, we [UP Global] are perpetuating this idea that it’s okay to try things – and maybe even fail at them.” 

Greg-Gottesman-Headshot

Gottesman joined Madrona Venture Group in 1997 and currently serves on the boards of UP Global, AdReady, Bocada, BuddyTV, Cheezburger, Decide, Intrepid Learning Solutions, Nimbic, ThinkFire, and WildTangent. He is the founder, current board member and former CEO of Rover.com.

“I love early-stage. I like really early-stage, like two guys and a great business idea. That’s the most fun time working with a business, when every decision counts and every hire is critical.” 

Not only is Gottesman passionate about entrepreneurship, he is actively helping business’ develop a conversation around innovate culture.

He blogged about 13 characteristics of a great start-up culture on TechFlash recently and expanded those concepts in a lecture with anecdotes and examples.

Here are his 13 cultural characteristics of great culture:

  1. No politics – Give credit where credit is due. Be genuine about it.
  2. It’s not a job, it’s a mission – People can work for competitors or jump ship anytime, but companies that foster a culture of a strong mission do best to attract and retain great employees.
  3. Intolerance for mediocrity – Everyone pulls their weight well at all levels; there is excellence in each role and companies repel or naturally weed out those who aren’t comfortable succeeding or excelling.
  4. Watching pennies – Leaders and senior managers treat company assets as carefully and thoughtfully as they would their own personal assets; waste is not tolerated.
  5. Equity driven – Stock options or other non-cash value helps grow businesses for the long term.
  6. Alignment – Everyone is on the same page. Strategy is clear. Like a well-tuned sports team, people all work toward the same goal vs. individual heroism.
  7. Good communication – Even in bad times, communication remains strong; over-communication is even more critical in times of difficulty (i.e., an executive leaves, a key client departs, company is hacked)
  8. Strong leadership – Lead by example and maintain a positive attitude. Leaders boost their own morale and those around them as they set the tone for the whole company.
  9. Mutual respect – Hierarchy may exist, but everyone is respected for their contributions. “Wins” are celebrated together, regardless of title or department.
  10. Customer obsessed – The customer is always the most important asset. Gottesman emphasized this may be the most important characteristic of an organization.
  11. Energy – Good energy permeates across the company and is almost tangible.
  12. Fun – Never underestimate the power of a good start-up that knows how to have fun. Particularly when first in start-up mode, he’s often seen companies that thrive on early-stage activity where employees work hard and play hard.
  13. Integrity – Great companies have an internal sense of doing things the right way. They spend the extra effort to create value that will outlast their own job or time at the company (i.e., documenting code).