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How culture makes your startup fail or successful – At XLRI #20

Published on 14 February 2017

7 important facts to build strong culture and insure that your startup is a success. Video from HeadStart Startup Saturday, at XLRI, Jamshedpur.

I’m happy to have recorded my talk at the Head Start initiative, the 12th Feb. at XLRI, Jamshedpur.

As startup, entrepreneur, we know very these pains:

  • Difficulties finding the right co-founders, employees
  • Meeting VC
  • Make group decisions
  • Hiring your first employees
  • Go fast and to maintain the flow of information

I’m going to help you with these issues.

Let me introduce myself

Entrepreneur, mentor, & Webmarketing consultant

My motto: to help your business & startup to grow faster with proven & practical advice to make you a successful entrepreneur.

I love to guide entrepreneurs to overcome their vision and dreams with very creative methods.
I help you to build the right culture, to get growth hacking tactics and to setup user experience.

I publish a daily broadcast on youtube, I invite you to check my blog biz200.com.

3 fundamental keys for startups

I do believe that these 3 keys speed up a startup: Culture, Growth hacking, User experience.

  • Culture = team, transcendence, overcoming comfort zone, attract the right network
  • Growth Hacking, or webmarketing = acquisition & activation of customers the fastest as possible with the minimum of finance
  • User Experience = to attract the right target customer; satisfaction is extremely important (AARRR framework)

Culture begins with the founders of the startup with elements such as:

  • WHY
  • Long-term goal
  • Central value (excellence, violence of action, …)

Culture is what remains when we fired everybody.
Culture is what makes the difference between

  • To get a contract signed, recruitment, product launch,
  • It is what will make that someone will go in your favour or not,
  • To be agree when to sell the startup – or not,

To illustrate:
When you’re abroad, you prefer to choose a Indian restaurant to get naan and butter chicken

Culture allows you to scale.

To go from few employees to hundred.
From managing a single city to conquer all the cities of your country.

When you recruit, you must explain why people have to come to work for your startup. What they will get.
If a strong culture exists, people will choose to work with you because of your culture.

Want to go ahead? I will love to debate with you on my private Facebook group, some come to talk!

1.   Get homogeneity between founders

For example, an engineer cannot associate with a non-engineer.

Everything goes smoothly for first year then it all goes bad crucial decisions have to be taken because of the cultural gap.

You must seek the homogeneity of culture and not the diversity of skills.

If founders need to discuss a lot about the decisions & roadmap, that means a culture gap is too wide so not good.
What happened in case of a need to take an emergency decision?

There must be a native trust for decisions.

2.  Look for consistency in your team

Many startups recruit on skills.
Recruit too competent people often leads to disaster.

If you recruit a competent great guy, there is suddenly a such a gap, your team mates do not understand.

Example: you are a startup, you develop a product and need to recruit a sales guy. You got 2 candidates:

  • a mega super star salesforce guy, from a top company.
  • And you also have junior sales guy.

I advise you to recruit the guy that is at the same level of your actual team.

What for? Someone a lot more competent can’t come in your environment without playing the dad. It’s too tempting for him.

A wide age gap between founder/team doesn’t work at all.
A very interesting study Startup Genom Project shows it. This study shows 2 mains discoveries why startup fails:

  • Create a startup alone gets you a 99% chance of failure
  • More than 4 years of age difference between the founders

3.  Unifying keys

Culture is irrational.

It’s like racism. For example, a father will say “I’m not racist”, but later he’ll say “my daughter will not marry with such community”.

Do not confuse culture and benefits (laundry, car, internet, laptop…).

I got here some famous company to illustrate strong culture:

  • At Amazon, the offices are made with doors. It’s mean “every cent count“.
  • At AirBNB, each employee must see the movie Jiro dream of Sushi (the best chef need to work 7 years to cook right the rice) – meaning: obsession to get perfection
  • Square, each office is a unique luxury room.
    Meaning: Each product made by Square must be exceptional.
  • Andreessen Horowitz, venture capital firm founded by billionaires, / the VC are often late, it’s a dating job.
    the rule = anyone who has a delay of more than 1 minute must pay $10/min in a pot given to charities
    they want to be the VC that respects customer the most
  • Netflix, “spend our money like if yours.”
  • Facebook « Move fast and break things »
    Employees who fail are promoted. Because they try to innovate.

Some companies say they are “innovative”.

Everyone wants to be “innovative”.

But if when someone is wrong, he get punished, you’re not an innovative company.

It is not possible to be innovative and to punish people when they’re wrong – when they seek to innovate.

Here are the bases of a startup’s culture:

  • Values cannibalize each other
  • More than one value means no value
    • Highlight the more unifying value from on the founders’ values
  • Strong intern tagline “don’t be evil” (google).
  • Why you do this startup

Strong cultures are like sects. There is a religious aspect.
Are you agree with what I say? I will love to debate with you on my private Facebook group, some come to talk!

4.  Create an authentic culture – no copycat

The worst way to build a culture is to copy the culture of another startup.
What counts is that the culture should be credible. You need to undertake it.
Undertake what you are not. Refuse a dinner, a partnership that doesn’t match your culture.

Be extreme in what you are.

Necessarily at a point in the development of your startup, you’re going against what the world expects of you, necessarily at a given moment, your culture will annoy someone.
At this time, if you really undertake your culture, whatever people say, you will follow your heart.

5.  Discuss upsetting topics

Often founders avoid subjects that upset people. So it breaks. These topics emerge necessarily. You need to put answer on these topics before it becomes a problem.

  • When do you want to sell your startup?
  • Why you’re here and what you want to do
  • You want a million, hundred million or a billion dollars’ startup?

If one of the founders is interested to be featured in press and the other by building a billion-dollar startup, it doesn’t work. They’re not seeking the same goal. This is about culture.

One is oriented ego, the other wealth.

6.  Take to heart team’s tasks

Very often, the team don’t look at the work of other. “it’s not my work”, “I know nothing about this”.

Consequence: “look I leaving at late night, I do this, I do that… and him he doesn’t do this and he don’t go fast enough”

Egocentrism. If your team doesn’t get that they have to understand the role of each other, you’re dead.
It’s mean that team mates doesn’t share the same goal. You’re dead.

7.  A tip to be sure about choosing the right cofounders/employees

Rent a car and take your team and cross India for 1 week.
Soon tensions will appear to choose destination, restaurant, pizza, movie… If your team can work together, these tensions will be solved.

Partying is also a great way to know who are really your team mate.

I will love to debate with you on my private Facebook group, some come to talk!

Useful links:

Head Start got some press J

The Telegraph, 13th feb 2017

The Telegraph, 13th feb 2017

2017-02-13 - Prabhat

Need some help for your startup?

I will love to help you for a quick talk as for a long term mentoring. Contact me now!