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  • Part two of Culture and Team, and

  • we have Ben Silverman, the founder of Pinterest, and

  • John and Patrick Collison, the founders of Stripe.

  • Founders that have obviously sort of, some of the best in

  • the world at thinking about culture and

  • how they build teams.

  • So, there's three areas that we're gonna cover today.

  • One will just be sort of general thoughts on

  • culture as a follow up to the last lecture.

  • And then we're really gonna dig into what happens at

  • the founding of these companies.

  • And building out the early team.

  • And then how that changes and evolves as these

  • guys have scaled their companies up to 100 plus.

  • I don't even know how many people you have now,

  • but quite a lot.

  • Very large organizations and

  • how you adapt these principles of culture.

  • But to start off I just wanna ask a very

  • open-ended question which is,

  • what are the core pieces of culture that you found to

  • be most important in building out your companies?

  • >> So what are the most important parts?

  • >> It's on. >> Oh, it's on.

  • Yeah I mean I think for

  • us, like we think about on a few dimensions.

  • One is like who do we hire,

  • and what do those people value?

  • Two is what do we do every day, like why do we do it?

  • Three is what do we choose to communicate?

  • And then I think the fourth is what we

  • choose to celebrate.

  • I guess the converse of

  • that is like what you choose to punish.

  • But in general I think running a company based on

  • what you celebrate,

  • is more exciting than what you punish.

  • But I think those four things kind of make up

  • the bulk of it for us.

  • >> We've placed a large emphasis on, as Stripe has

  • grown and probably more than other companies is,

  • transparency internally.

  • And I think it's been something that's been

  • really valuable for

  • Stripe, and also a little bit misunderstood.

  • All the things people talk about like hiring really

  • great people, or giving them a huge amount of leverage.

  • Transparency for us plays into that.

  • We think that, if you are aligned at a high

  • level about what Stripe is doing, if everyone really

  • believes in the mission, and then if everyone has

  • really good access to information, and kind of

  • has a good picture of the current state of Stripe.

  • Then that gets you a huge amount of the way there in

  • terms of working productively together.

  • And it kind of forgives a lot of the other things that

  • tend to break as you, as you grow a start-up.

  • As we've grown, we started off two people.

  • We're now over 170 people.

  • We've put a lot of thought into the tooling that

  • goes around transparency, because at 170 people,

  • there is so much information being produced,

  • that you can't just consume it all as a fire hose.

  • And so

  • how we use slack, how we use email, things like that.

  • We can go into it more later.

  • But I think that's one of

  • the core things that's helped us work well.

  • >> I think culture to some degree is basically kind of

  • the resolution to a bandwidth problem.

  • In the sense that, maybe when you start out working

  • on something, you're sort of coding all the time, but you

  • can't code all the things that you think the product

  • might need, or the company might need, or whatever, and

  • you so you decide to work with more coders, right?

  • And so the organization gets larger.

  • And maybe, in some idealized world,

  • I don't think this actually true, but kind of ideally

  • you could be involved in every single decision, and

  • every single sort of moment of the company, and

  • everything that happens, but obviously you can't, or

  • maybe you can if two people.

  • But you certainly can't at even like five or

  • ten kind of that point comes very quickly,

  • then by the time you're 50 it's completely hopeless.

  • And so culture is kind of how you kind of,

  • what the strands are that you sort of want to have,

  • the invariance that you want to kind of maintain,

  • as you can get specifically involved in sort of

  • fewer and fewer decisions over time.

  • And I think when you think about it that way it,

  • maybe its kind of importance becomes sort of

  • self evident, right?

  • Because again, like the fraction of things you

  • can be involved in directly is diminishing, I mean,

  • almost exponentially,

  • sort of assuming your head count growth sort of is

  • on a curve that looks like one of the great companies.

  • And yeah that's super important.

  • And again, it manifests itself in a bunch of

  • different ways.

  • Like for example, in hiring, I think a large part of

  • the reason why maybe the first ten people you hire,

  • what kind of goes to ship,

  • decisions are so important is because you're not just

  • hiring those first ten people.

  • You're actually kind of hiring 100 people.

  • Because you should think of kind of

  • each one of those people as bringing along sort of

  • another ten people with them, and

  • sort of figuring out exactly what 90 people, you would

  • like those first ten people to bring along is obviously

  • gonna be quite consequential for your company.

  • But really briefly I think it's largely about sort of

  • abstraction.

  • >> So one thing that a lot of speakers in this

  • class have touched on is how hiring those first ten

  • employees, if you don't get that right,

  • the company basically will never recover but

  • no one has talked about how to do that so.

  • What have the three of you looked for

  • when you've hired these initial employees,

  • to get the culture of the company right?

  • How, how have you found them, and

  • what have you looked for?

  • >> Sure. So,

  • I guess this answer is different for every

  • company and I'll say for us it was very inductive.

  • So I literally looked for people that I wanted to work

  • with and that I thought were talented.

  • I think, I've read all these books about culture,

  • because when I don't know how to do something,

  • I first go read things and

  • everyone has all these frameworks.

  • And I think one bit, big misconception that someone

  • said once is that people think culture is like

  • architecture when it's a lot more like gardening.

  • You know, you plant some seeds and

  • then you pull out weeds that aren't working,

  • and they sort of expand.

  • So, when we first hired people we hired people that

  • were like ourselves.

  • I often looked at like three or

  • four different things that I really valued in people.

  • You know, I looked for people that worked hard and

  • seemed high integrity and low ego.

  • I looked for people that were creative, and

  • I usually meant that they were really curious.

  • They had all these different interests.

  • Some of our first employees are probably some of

  • the quirkiest people I've ever met.

  • They were engineers but

  • they also have all these crazy hobbies.

  • Like one guy made his own board game

  • with this elaborate set of rules.

  • Another guy was really into magic tricks.

  • And he had coded not only like this magic trick on

  • the iPhone, but

  • he had shot the production video with a preview.

  • And I think that, that quirkiness has actually been

  • a little bit of a calling card.

  • And we find that really creative, quirky people that

  • are excited about many disciplines, and are

  • extraordinary at one tend to build really great products.

  • They tend to be great at collaborating.

  • Then the last thing is, we really look for

  • people that wanted to,

  • they just wanted to build something great, and

  • they weren't arrogant about it, but they just felt like,

  • it'd be really cool to take a risk and

  • build something bigger than themselves.

  • And that, in the beginning, is very,

  • very easy to select for if you're in our situation.

  • We had this horrible office, like, nobody got paid.

  • So there was no external reason, other than being

  • excited about building something to join.

  • In fact, there was every reason not to.

  • And that's something, looking back,

  • I really, really value,

  • because we always knew people were joining for

  • the purest reasons, and in fact,

  • were willing to forgo other great job opportunities,

  • market salary, a clean office,

  • good equipment just for the chance to work.

  • So, to this day I think a lot of those traits have

  • been seeded and

  • are embedded in the folks that we look at now.

  • >> Yeah the first ten hires are really

  • hard because you're making these first ten

  • hires at a point where no one's heard of this company,

  • no one really wants to work for it.

  • You're just these,

  • like two weird people working on this weird idea.

  • >> And like their friends are telling them not

  • to join.

  • For our second employee, I think

  • he'd accepted the offer or he was just about to, and

  • his best friends took him out the night before, and it

  • was like a full on assault for, why you should not join

  • this company, why this is ruining your life basically.

  • And so anyway the guy subsequently

  • continued to join.

  • And actually one of

  • those friends also now works at Stripe.

  • But this is what you're up against.

  • >> Yeah.

  • And I mean it's also hard because no batch of

  • ten people will have as great an influence on

  • the company as those first ten people.

  • I think everyone's impression of recruiting is,

  • you open LinkedIn.

  • It's sort of like ordering off the dollar menu.

  • It's, I want that one, that one, and that one.

  • And, and now you have some hires.

  • Whereas at least for us, it was very much over a very

  • long time period, talking people we knew or

  • friends of friends into joining.

  • We didn't have huge networks, Pat and

  • I were both in college at the time.

  • So there were no people that

  • we'd really worked with to draw on, and so

  • a lot of those early Stripes were people we had heard of,

  • friends of friends, and the other interesting thing they

  • all had in common is that they were all

  • early in their career, or undervalued in some way.

  • Cuz when you think about it,

  • if someone is a known spectacular quantity,

  • then they're probably working in a job and

  • very happy with that.

  • And so we have to try and find people who were,

  • in the case of our designer that we hired, he was 18 and

  • in high school and in Sweden at the time.

  • In the case of our,

  • our CTO, he was in college at the time.

  • You know, a lot of these people,

  • they were early on in their careers and

  • the only way we could, you can relax when constrained.

  • You can relax the fact that they're talented or

  • relax that it's apparent that they're talented,

  • and we, not consciously, but we relaxed the latter.

  • >> Yeah, I think finding kind of people who are, or

  • just think like a value investor.

  • You're looking for the human capital that's

  • significantly devalued by the market, you know?

  • You probably shouldn't look to

  • hire your brilliant friends at Facebook and Google or

  • whatever, because they're already discovered.

  • You know, if they're wanting to join that's great,

  • but they're probably harder to convince.

  • John and I spent a little a while yesterday

  • afternoon sort of trying to figure out in retrospect,

  • what kind of traits our first ten or

  • so people had in common that we thought were significant.

  • And you know, in general sort of in speaking about

  • culture, I sort of want to caveat everything we say

  • with, I that sort of advice is very limited experience,

  • widely over extrapolated.

  • And I think there's a lot of truth to that.