How Having, and Articulating, Core Values Attracts the Right People to Your Startup

When my co-founders and I came together in 2012 to found Beam around an idea to use sensors and mobile technology to usher in the era of data-driven dentistry, we connected around our mutual interest in hardware startups and the future of medicine. We never ‘vetted’ each other or interviewed each other. In fact, we could have never explained how we managed to work together so well, beyond the obvious complementary skill sets and our existing friendship in engineering school.

When we completed our Series A raise, Drive Capital for the first time made us aware of the importance of synthesizing the values that we found to be desirable in each other, and how that can extend to the type of person we would want to join our team in the future. In short, find the personality features you like, want, and desire for your team members and explicitly screen for it and ask it of your candidates. We realized the ingredients of the glue that held us together pretty quickly, making it a surprising easy exercise.

1. 'Blue Collar' Approach

In short: hustle factor. Our team highly values working hard, but smart.  Efficiency is key, but we also recognize that company building takes a deep commitment of man-hours. We chase every opportunity, and take full advantage of any situation that could benefit the company, even if it means longer hours and later nights.  The more you put in, the more you get out.  We pride ourselves on being able to plug in and go at it longer and harder than peer companies and our competitors.

2. Moonshot Mentality

In recognition of the commitment and intellectual horsepower required to build a successful startup, Beam believes that effort should be channeled toward a big vision, a big risk, and a big outcome.  This was a primary driver of our team in pursuing health technology…it can make a great business, and a better world.  Improving access to dental insurance and care is a worthy and important goal; not something every product can claim.

We welcome and appreciate the ‘moonshot’ mentality; if you are going to make mistakes, make them doing something big. Something important. Something worthy of your time and a home run swing.

3. Commitment to Innovation

Innovation is perhaps the most overused word in business today.  Big companies ‘innovate’. Every startup is ‘innovating’ everything, all the time.  Beam tries to stay true to meaningful innovation, helping lead the nascent internet of things space, cutting-edge health data science, lean manufacturing, and going after huge markets no one else is thinking about. This is a much truer definition of innovation.  Whether your unique contribution is large or small, we actively pursue and celebrate new and better ways of building products and businesses.  There isn’t an ‘innovation time’…it is woven into our daily approach.

4. Intellectual honesty

Beam prides itself on transparency. We keep each other honest by being unafraid of the truth. Our bank balance, struggle to close a key deal, failing prototype, poor feature performance, etc. are all on the table. The more open we can be about our problems, the more smart people can be thinking about solutions.  Intellectual honesty means being secure and data-driven in our approach. The natural bias for your own ideas and theories should be replaced by the pursuit of evidence to support a thesis.  Customers want this feature? Bring the proof. Question everything and challenge assumptions.

5. Full-cycle ownership

No one wants to be a cog in the machine. At Beam, we want all of our people to full ownership over everything they are creating. Tangibly, this means minimal managing and tons of autonomy over your projects.  See your work through to the finish line.  Nothing feels as good as shipping product or code that you created.

What we have found is the incredible value in not only knowing what these values are for the sake of reinforcing it internally, but also in being able to be very explicit in our hiring process. Being able, as a team, evaluate candidates based on these criteria help us better understand how to build our team. And, the people attracted to working at Beam do so because we represent these values, so it functions as a positive feedback loop across the entire company.

 

Author Alex Frommeyer

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