The 10th lecture of How to Start a Startup was given by Alfred Lin, the former COO of Zappos and venture partner at Sequoia Capital and Brian Chesky, the founder of Airbnb. The topic was about Company Culture and Building a Team. I have written about building teams and creating a great company culture. I think this is by far the hardest aspect of building a great company. A company does not have a culture, the company is the culture. It is difficult because everyone who is part of your team comes from different background, ethnicity and learnings. We are programmed to repeat what has worked for us before, so when a new team comes together there are 3 phases that every team goes through it is the Storming, Norming and Performing. The values that make the team stick together and build a great product and build a great company is as different as the companies that are built. I have worked with founders who are really good at this and those that just don’t have the discipline to make the jump. It is hard work.
I believe that Missionaries win in the end and Mercenaries can win but it will not create an enduring company. I like the example Brian took about someone who was copying Airbnb and they were in a dilemma whether to acquire them or not, Brian decided not to acquire them because the company’s value system just did not align with Airbnb. I think there is a lesson to be learnt here, if you are interviewing someone to join your team make sure they align culturally with you and your team. This is the #2 reason why startups fail, hiring the wrong person who creates a poisonous culture. I have seen it first hand.