Fundraising, interacting with investors, pitching your product are all parts of a startup that no one who's starting a startup wants to do. We're designers, developers, product people; we want to focus on making things. Regardless, it's important to talk to investors (whether you're raising or not) because they have a lot of insight to share on the business end of things.
This week, we had a chat with an investor. Though they weren't particularly interested in investing (a lot of the time they aren't), we got a lot of great feedback, had a great conversation, and were able to put new perspectives and knowledge on how we market ourselves.
However, one comment that stood out to us had us feeling a bit conflicted.
"To be honest, you guys seem like really reasonable guys. Maybe too reasonable. You seem like guys that would be fun to go on a camping trip with. But the truth is usually the guys we invest in are total [a-holes]. They have that kind of X-factor that you guys are missing."
I think we were both a little discouraged by this - like in a when your big crush tells you, "I like you as a friend, but I could never date you" kind of way. We discussed this internally and we agreed with it, to some extent. We aren't jerks, and we are very reasonable people. We would be fun to go camping with, yeah. Perhaps we are not built to be on Shark Tank or be billionaire buddies with Mark Cuban. I also think we're very much ok with that.
Here is where our company values came in helpful.
Sten (my co-founder) and I both come from the school of Atlassian. Their values are something really important to the company, and even with 1000+ (at the time we were there) it was an integral part of everyday life there. It helps decision making, hiring, and keeps everyone aligned. As a team of two, we can have moments where we stray from our values or doubt ourselves too. By developing these values early, we set a foundation for the type of company we want to be. Here are the values we wrote several months ago.
It’s easy to fall for the urge to copy, follow and prescribe to a standard to reach a larger audience or fit in. We celebrate our differences, to show that there are other ways and new ways to do things.
We thrive on feedback. We build everything knowing it’s not perfect or done, so receive feedback with warm arms, whether we agree or not. Know that it’s okay to fail because out of failure there will be something new and better.
It’s easy in business to focus on numbers and dollar signs. Always remember that there are people at the other end of everything we do. Make business decisions for the good of people, not just to benefit our stock. Oh, and also have fun.
These three things are extremely important to us, as people, not as a business. We want to make sure that as we grow and continue down this path, we continue to foster these three values throughout the work we do, the people we work with, and how we are perceived in our brand. In being colorful, we are proud of our diversity, our differences, and not fitting into the boxes people perceive. In being collaborative, we are always eager to take feedback and try to better understand people's needs as well as who we are in their eyes (despite the whole a-hole thing, we really did get a lot of great feedback from the chat too), because we know we are not always right and the job is never done. Lastly, the one that most applies to this topic, being human means that we will choose good practice, good experience, and the happiness of our customers, over easy money every time - or how they say at Atlassian: Don't f*** the customer!
So yes, we aren't a-holes, but we're still going to build a business without that "X-factor." We're going to rely on our ability to build good products and listen to customers, more than our ability to sell anything for a buck.
As we grow the team, we want to create a place that fosters diversity, a healthy work environment, and a company people want to work for. When we hire our first hire, 0r our first 1000 hires, we want them to value the same things. Care about the product, care about the customers, care about each other. Most of all we want everyone to be reasonable people that we would love to go on a camping trip with.
Cheers to all the people out there, doing business with politeness, empathy, and not working solely for greed 🙃 Let's change the way business is done.
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