25 Oct

3 Startup Culture Hacks

Cale and Shaw, FairDealFX

Last week Cale and myself both took a week of leave from our full-time jobs in a large company and we worked on our startup (FairDealFX) at Fishburners, a co-working space in the Brisbane CBD.

Neither of us are strangers to the startup community, both having been involved in other startups and startup weekends in the past. However, this was the first time I’d spent time in a co-working space as a “resident”.

Within the first few hours I was starting to understand why so many small, constrained, startups are able to take on the big guys at their own game. I hope this article will help you learn about some of the great things about co-working spaces and some thoughts on how you might integrate them into your traditional workplace.

Give First

In the startup community there is an often quoted mantra of “Give First” – the entrepreneurial pay-it-forward. After hearing it a few times it might seem trite, but it’s definitely one of those things that you don’t realise just how powerful it can be until you fully experience it. On our second day in the office we were introduced to another resident, James, who has experience marketing to enterprise customers. He went out of his way to spend an hour of his time learning about our product and then giving us a brain-dump of highly valuable advice on marketing it.

Learning & Sharing

The office layout in most co-working spaces is very open-plan as it encourages more incidental conversations. As I met and talked with more people at it became clear that people were genuinely interested in just learning as much as they could about what we were doing, what stage we were at, and if they knew anyone who they might be able to connect us with to help us on our path to success.

This willingness to learn was most obvious during a conversation between ourselves and another resident who was also working on a fin-tech startup idea. Despite having a working knowledge in how foreign exchange markets work, when he discovered that he could gain a deeper understanding from Cale, he didn’t let his ego get in the way of learning and started asking lots of questions.

Job Titles

Most of the startups I talked to were 1-4 people in size. Most of them had a business-y person and a tech-y person, but unlike the traditional business model where you’d see one person just tapping a keyboard and the other just doing marketing things – it was clear that most of the founders working in Fishburners were blurring the lines between their roles.

This is partly due to the constraint on resources, you can’t expect to have a developer, a tester, a business analyst and a designer dedicated to these roles if you’re cash strapped and pre-revenue. However it creates a more collaborative and inclusive culture, and going back to my previous point fosters more open learning and sharing.

Summary

Employees of large companies are often “too busy” to share their knowledge or learn new things, or they are pigeon-holed into doing only what their job title says they do.

It’s a stark reminder that any motivated and resourceful startup can achieve great things and it’s no wonder that startups are coming along and disrupting the status-quo.

So why don’t we create this culture and environment in our enterprises and companies? I think organisational inertia makes it difficult, but that’s no reason not to try. The excitement and passion shown by theses startups creates the sort of environment I want to work in, and I’ll start by embracing the above points and encourage those around me to adopt them too. (I challenge you to try the same)

  1. pay it forward: offer your colleagues your skills, knowledge and time.
  2. embrace learning: approach everything with child-like curiosity.
  3. ditch the titles: just be part of the team.