Tips on building a successful culture & team building from Silicon Valley comes to Cambridge

Some thoughts on the building a killer team session from the Silicon Valley comes the the UK held at the Judge Institute.

On Culture and Team

  • “There is no one answer to the question. Every road leads to ruin.”
  • Team has to be diverse – gender, interests, competencies, nationalities.
  • “If you ask average people the companies that they really admire, most come up with companies like  Dell, Apple, Virgin, Microsoft, Facebook, all have charismatic founders still in charge.
  • “Google made culture a part of their brand and used that to hire the people they wanted.”
  • “No one wants a football team made up of Rooneys.” Johan von Holstein (Icon Medialab, LetsBuyIt)
  • “Chemistry is important. If it doesn’t feel right I never hire them, regardless of the spec.”
  • “Got to get the right people on the bus, and the wrong people off the bus before you get going.”
  • “Culture eats strategy for lunch.”
  • “I have a, ‘No Asshole’ Rule. A golden rule for me.”
  • “I wouldn’t describe Zuckerberg or Evan Williams as impressive charismatic leaders in the conventional sense.” The European East Coast concept of a charismatic leaders is a great speaker who looks like he can do big ticket enterprise sales. The new generation of Silicon Valley leaders are a different type of leader. Zuckerberg for example is not comfortable speaking but is surrounded by people who follow his lead.
  • I don’t let startup CEOs use accounting software until they can do the accounting on paper. You cannot ignore the finance piece because you are weak at it. A leader needs to understand their weaknesses and work on ways to cover them off before they, hand them off.
  • (Joi Ito, Creative Commons, MIT MediaLab)
  • Hiring is stage and context specific. An early stage marketing person does a very different thing to one in a mature business. Often in a startup, the founder/CEO should take on the marketing strategy and evangelism piece.
  • Have found myself drawn towards friends. There is a better cultural fit and you enjoy spending time with them. They may not be the best person for a particular role but energy will be better.
  • “Company culture transcends national boundaries. It is about a philosophy and a way of working.”
  • “Culture comes from the founders in a startup. It is really important that people who come into the company buy into it and reinforce it.”
  • (Nick Heller, Google)

On failure, risk, honesty and standing out.

“Would you employ someone with a criminal record for drug trafficking?” Ben Rooney (Walls Street Journal).

“I used to be a DJ. I am also Timothy Leary’s Godson, so yeah.” Joi Ito

“Clearly the person is entrepreneurial and a risk-taker so they have that going for them. I have friends who made mistakes when they were young and I know how much they regret their mistakes and have turned their life around.”Nick Heller

“The risk of taking a job in an early stage business in Europe is huge. Europeans are much more unforgiving of perceived risk – failure, criminal records anything. This is a bad thing.”

How do you get good people to join your company?

“Go to conferences, network like crazy.” Joi Ito

“A people know A people so find as many A people as you can and start networking from them.” Johan von Holstein (Icon Medialab, LetsBuyIt)