Chapter 24. Define Your Culture

Greg Gottesman

Define Your Culture

Greg is a managing director of Madrona Venture Group. He's one of the founders of TechStars in Seattle and serves as a mentor in the program.

During the last decade, I have been convinced that the three most important factors in determining the success of a startup are the team, the product or service, and the market (timing, size, and so on). Take an A-plus entrepreneur, with a great idea for a new product or service, at the right time, and about as fast as you can tweet Susan Boyle, you'd have a success brewing.

I recently added one factor to the must-have list: the right startup culture. In other words, add a dose of bad culture to a team of superstars, a killer product, and a good market opportunity, and the result is almost always death by a thousand backstabs.

What defines a great startup culture?

Justice Potter Stewart's "I know it when I see it" standard seems particularly apt here, but not actionable.

I've attempted to define the characteristics of a great startup culture. I was aiming for a top 10 but ended up with a baker's dozen (because in life it's hard to beat a free bagel.)

  1. No politics. In great startup cultures, everybody is giving everybody else credit. Ideas are judged on the merits, not on who came up with them. People feel comfortable that they will get their due. In not-so-great startup cultures, everyone wants to make ...

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