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How we’re building a culture in our small bootstrapped startup

With a focus on fostering an employee-friendly workplace, learn how startup VoyageUp is working towards building a great company culture.


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Published by Tech in Asia
on 07 Mar 2017

How we're building a culture in our small bootstrapped startup

By Ashutosh Dabral

With VoyageUp growing to a small eight-member team, I don’t know whether it is too early or already too late for us to think about the culture we are building in the company. But in the middle of one hectic day, I spent some time thinking about it.

Firstly, what is company culture? Can it be easily broken down into factors like vision, values, norms, systems, symbols, language, assumptions, beliefs, and habits? To the product manager in me, any problem or question that can be broken down into measurable factors seems easier to solve.

Perhaps the right approach would be to “improve” one/ some of these “sprints”. But I realize this is not something which can be tracked on Trello. We are barely even able to track our regular stuff ever since we decided to launch in 9 locales.

Does the company culture already exist, or do new employees bring parts of the culture in with them? For a small startup, perhaps it is what the founders bring in when they start out with a vision and the right values.

Let me rephrase that – I meant for small bootstrapped startups. Because for many heavily funded startups, culture can often just mean crazy perks, swanky offices, and great power without accountability. (The last one is usually reserved for a lucky few, for example, those who were the founder’s batch mates/juniors/seniors from college.)

Right at the start, we took the call to focus on building a very employee-friendly workplace, optimize and provide perks which made sense and be as flexible as possible. We took the best of what we saw in successful companies around the world, and tried to implement some of them in our office. So here they are in no particular order:

1. Free food

This may be looked upon as an indulgence in a bootstrapped company, but this frees the team up from the hassle of ordering/ making their lunch. More importantly, this ensures that we all get to spend 45 minutes just brainstorming on random ideas together during lunch every day.

2. 20 percent time”

Yes we stole this from Google. And of course it is not a strict 20 percent, but team members are spending part of their bandwidth working on areas that interest them. The first result of this initiative was a new Android app Last2People, which we launched three weeks ago. That was just for starters, and we expect much more from this initiative going forward.

3. A good office

We explored multiple options for the office when we were starting out. While there were some cheaper options available, we decided to go with a co-working space called BHIVE Workspace.

On hindsight, this has turned out to be one of our best decisions. They allowed us to seamlessly move from one location to another when we grew from four members to eight. They also regularly organise startup events, which has exposed our team to many new things. Of course, our team’s favorite is the free beer event on Thursdays.

4. Empowerment

Anyone in the team can check in code to the production system or submit a new version of the app to the app store. While this may become risky as we grow, this has given the team a tremendous sense of ownership and pride in what they do. The iOS and Android engineers are regularly trying to beat each other by writing better code.

5. Learn new skills

While we realize that there is a need for subject matter experts, for a small company like ours, the lines often blur. Some of our Facebook posts and ads are done by our engineers, and not a marketing team (of course, if we had a marketing team, they wouldn’t have been so supportive of this).

6. Optimize spending

There are so many tools available which let you do things without spending too much.

Canva for marketing posts, and Fiverr for videos at cheaper rates. Our first promo video cost us $40 and two days to produce, while the second video cost us just $20. We got our laptops from Blubirch – we were lucky when a well-funded food delivery startup scaled down their Bangalore operations and sold their laptops to Blubirch. We picked up Macbooks from them at rock bottom prices.

7. Vision

This is perhaps one of the most important factors, which I’ve left to the last. Voyageup’s vision is to help people form real connections, and bring the world closer together. All the products we launch will be tied in with this vision.

Extending the vision further, we ensure that we personally connect with the people around us. We’ve recently helped another startup test their app and recommended some new features to them. You can’t have one vision for your company and not live that vision in real life.

Here’s a funny anecdote to round up this post. One Monday morning, the security guard of the co-working space we’re at told us that he and some of the housekeeping staff had a conversation on Saturday. In his words, “We felt that among all the startups in the building, you guys seem to be the only ones who are working hard, but also find time to connect with everyone around you. And have fun too. If VoyageUp ever has a opening for us, then all of us would love to join the company.” Maybe he says it to all clients who work out of this building, or perhaps it’s validation that we are doing something right.

It is going to be a long path, but we feel that building a good company culture may be the single most important factor for long term success. And our definition of success is building a product which a lot of people love.

 

Original Article From: https://www.techinasia.com/talk/building-culture-small-bootstrapped-startup

Last Modified Date: 19 Apr 2018