[Startup Culture] Tips from LaunchGram, the Pre-Launch Product News Site

October 15, 2012

9:00 am

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.

Andy Sparks of LaunchGram

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!

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact [email protected]

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