I just completed 2 months at an exciting new traffic visibility startup - Gigamon LLC. Having worked at different sized companies like Motorola, Yahoo! and Blue Coat, I wanted to share the aspects you would see in a startup and should I say they should be the ground rules for judging a technology(software) startup:
- No Rules: There are no strict rules in a startup and this green-field approach fosters creativity at the highest level. It is an essential premise for a startup to maintain its blazing speed of innovation.
- Winning Culture: Everyone is focussed on their job but also to do things right by suppressing one's own ego. To influence change the right way , the employees must respect and trust each other. When things are not right, don't hesitate to question authorithy. Accountability at all levels promotes a winning culture
- Minimal Processes and/or Documents: Enforcing too much process leads to what i call "Organizational Drag". Too little process which is typically the case for most startups can lead to "Company Chaos". "Do you need something on security certificates....ask someone in Team K" is usually the answer rather than "Look at this HOWTO doc". While this is good in a super small startups, it does not scale well as the startup grows more than 50 employees. A "Healthy Evolving Process with Quality Documentation" is necessary for any startup to succeed and grow organically. The key term is "Process Evolution". Why does a process need to evolve? Since companies adopt different strategies; workflows once made need tuning, it is necessary for a process and documentation to evolve.
- Visibility and Freedom: Everything you do is visible. People are more responsive for positive change and appreciate your input. If you mess up though, you cant hide. You have a new idea ? - "Prototype it and show it to your VP or CTO" and he may accept it willingly and incorporate into the company strategy. In a medium to large sized company...the question always is "Who are you?" and followed by ..." please setup a meeting after talking to the admin assistant."In startups , there are no barriers to developing new stuff. This freedom is needed for building a creative culture.
- Excellent communication: The speed of development in a startup also hides an important underrated aspect of software development which is "hash it out" communication. In most cases, you respect your peers since they are incredibly smart and driven like you are and you want to hash out great ideas, communicate your thoughts and collaborate and implement it. You go to your peer's cube....whiteboard your discussions and boom ...go and implement the idea or tweak it as your team sees fit. This is done in minutes and hours rather than email chains, comments perusal in a wiki etc which may take days. Lack of communication can bring down even an innovative startup in terms of technology.
Lot more factors can have an effect on "What makes/ breaks a great startup? Stay tuned for more insights.Let me know what you think your experiences are?