Key Characteristics of a Great Startup Culture

Today’s great VC post is by Greg Gottesman (a managing director at Madrona Venture Group) and is titled Thirteen key characteristics of a great startup cultureIt shows up in John Cook’s column in TechFlash – the article is solid and the comments (all 66 of them at this point) are priceless.  I’m baffled by the super-negative anonymous commenters as they add absolutely nothing to the conversation.  If you are going to be critical (which is fine – and often helpful in sharpening up the ideas), be bold and comment with your real identity!

  • Greg's approach to presenting the information served as an excellent discussion starter — his stated purpose — and so the post did elicit many rich, insightful responses which is part of its value. I am among those who were appalled by the sophomoric behavior of some of the anonymous commenters. I wonder how many startups the critics have observed because while the points Greg made were straightforward and simple (in an elegant way), they ARE NOT OBVIOUS! If they were, I would not have sadly witnessed so many otherwise brilliant founders fail miserably in establishing the type of culture that promoted the company's sustainability. In many instances if the company did not fail, then it never reached its potential in spite of all the accolades it received for innovation. The team's passion was stymied even if intellectually they were committed to producing excellence.

  • I believe it is impossible to over emphasize the significance of culture. I would go so far as to say that Greg's assessment is profound — and most of the comments add even more to his insights. I won't repeat here my own comments to the original post (although I do wish there had been an “edit” button). However, I will say that in re-reading, the points on strong leadership, good communication, mutual respect, customer obsession and integrity leapt out as being particularly astute. These are the ones that you'd HOPE would be obvious, but there is too much evidence to the contrary. Thanks again, Greg.

  • I agree – because one thing I have seen over & over again in small businesses (and that includes 4 'startups') is that the “obvious” things are what gets left out.

    Not getting into those culture details – to many SMB managers are;

    Analytical – can't execute to save their ass

    or the opposite – execute every whim and fancy with no analysis of who – what and where their market / customer is

    Fail to learn all the parts of their busines **** to the relevent level of detail*** – then just abdicate the rest

    Can't provide (let me use the term governance) visible by a complete whipsaw of activity spiking up and down like a heart monitor

    Cn't forcast or budget – so every expense is excess and an emergency

    In summary – you may be the best engineer on the planet – but if you want your business to get past that tipping point (or Chasm a la Geoffrey Moore) you need to look at those “obvious” things –


    They don't


  • You are so right about the comments — whew. My guess is that those people are angry with something other than the article and need to spew hatred for some deep-seeded reasons.

    In any case, I am in complete agreement that many, many, MANY start-ups never think about the culture they're inviting a VC to invest in. A business plan/model is terrific, but if the culture stinks… well… we all know what's going to happen.

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