LaunchGram is a startup that helps you get information about products that haven’t launched yet, from The Hobbit movie to Playstation 4 to Google Glass.
The company is now going through 500 Startups, ranked the tenth best accelerator in the country. They seem to have created an enviable company culture; part of their manifesto states, “Embrace your inner troublemaker. Push humanity forward. The future will be awesome.” Below, cofounder and CEO Andy Sparks offers advice for startups on building a team and creating a culture.
Tech Cocktail: How do you choose cofounders? What’s most important in a cofounder?
Andy Sparks: On a high level, I knew that I needed a designer and a developer to complement my skills. I actually wrote a whole blog post on this here.
Tech Cocktail: What is the culture like at LaunchGram? How did it become that way?
Sparks: The culture at LaunchGram is first and foremost absolutely undeniably certifiably fun. We believe that people deserve to enjoy the work they do. I think my abs get stronger each day because we laugh so much. Second, and I recognize the potential for cliche here, our culture is challenging. The entire team is constantly learning new things and pushing each other beyond our respective comfort zones. It isn’t a drill sergeant kind of challenging, though. I really believe people feel fulfilled when they are challenged every day. Third, our culture (again risking cliche) is creative and I think this is a huge contributor to how fun it is to work at LaunchGram. We’re not just creative in a “sticky notes and colors” kind of way; we make sure every member of the team has direct input to product decisions on a daily basis.
Tech Cocktail: How big is your team? How do you all stay connected and up to speed during the week?
Sparks: Our team is currently three founders. Yeah, we’re small, but that makes communication easy. Each Monday we have a metrics meeting for 30 minutes where we discuss whether or not we met our goals. Then we follow that up with a 45-minute product meeting to determine our course of action for the next week. Everyone works pretty independently from there. Aside from those two meetings, we have a 15-30-minute meeting every Wednesday to discuss competition and I do a one-on-one with my two other cofounders every Friday.
Tech Cocktail: As a facilitator at Startup Weekend, what mistakes have you seen people make in choosing a team?
Sparks: I think people make the same mistakes in choosing a team as they do in dating. One day they wake up and realize they need a cofounder that night, and that’s no way to build a relationship. Choosing a cofounder should have the same weight as choosing a life partner. You should be optimizing for success, and success means you’ll be spending between eight and twenty-four hours with that person for several years and perhaps even decades.
Tech Cocktail: What are some tips for founders building a team and creating a culture?
Sparks: Build relationships before you need them. Surround yourself with friends who have complementary skills. Even if you don’t start a company with them, they will have valuable advice, input, and connections to the right people down the road.
As for creating a culture, the culture is highly dependent on the people that join the team. You can’t be an architect of culture; it’s a manifestation of how your team works together. If you and your co-founders are serious, high-pressure, and competitive, your culture will be exactly that, so choose wisely!