How to Maintain Your Startup Culture as You Scale

August 18, 2016

11:45 am

In this Q&A with Leanplum CEO and cofounder, Momchil Kyurkchiev, and head of global talent, Dinna Davis, the discussion centers around hiring for culture fit, how to recruit A-players and how that criteria has evolved from early startup days to the present. This is a preview of the interview with Kyurkchiev and Davis; to check out the full post, head over to Techstars.

Hiring for culture fit is invaluable at a young startup. Creating an inspired startup culture that is alive with authenticity and hard work begins with hiring people who share the same values and vision. Creating an engaged culture is all about recruiting engaged people, and potential employees should align with your culture’s priorities and values.

Leanplum (Techstars Seattle ’12) had three times employee growth for three years in a row, but has maintained its commitment to culture even as they continue to scale.

When you first started out hiring people at Leanplum, what did you look for in a potential employee?

Kyurkchiev: “When we founded Leanplum in 2012, we had a high bar for hiring smart engineers, but we were also looking for people who could get things done and who had a go-getter mentality. Being able to move fast with limited resources is even more important than strong technical skills for an early startup.”

Davis: “We have a lot of incredibly smart people at Leanplum. Everyone is very open to sharing their experience and knowledge. It was important for candidates to have a strong technical foundation and to think outside the box to continue to contribute to that culture.”

How did you identify A-players?

Davis: “We look for three things. The first is attitude. Employees should check their ego at the door and have a collaborative mentality. Second, they should be great communicators. They have to work in a team environment and must be able to articulate their decision process. The third thing we look for is a genuine interest in learning; do they actively research developing technology, are they interested in applying different perspectives, etc.

Ultimately, it’s a matter of an individual owning what they are really great at and contributing toward the growth of the company. But they should also be aware of what they don’t know and have the initiative to learn or seek out the answer.”

What were you looking for as far as culture fit?

Kyurkchiev: “We were (and still are) looking for people who are collaborative; who want to work on a team and work together with other people. We follow the “No Asshole Rule.” We look for people who are great to get along with and nice people to work with because we spend a lot of time together. We’ve always valued transparency, integrity and the ability to both work hard and play hard.”

How has that criteria evolved to what you look for now?

Kyurkchiev: “Culture is set in the beginning by founders and early employees, and I think you maintain the culture of the early days as you grow. The guidelines we set for culture haven’t changed since day one. You continue to find like-minded people as the company gets bigger.”

Davis: “With all the growth that Leanplum has experienced in the last year, we have consistently maintained our amazing culture. It’s not so much changing our criteria, but being more mindful and continuing to focus on how our culture is aligned with an individual’s practice and perspective on teamwork, learning, communication and feedback.”

Read the entire post and the full responses from this interview at Techstars.

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Sabrina McGrail is the vice president of people ops at Techstars, where she is responsible for all things talent, culture and human resources. She's a lover of entrepreneurship, yoga and fried rice.

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