I bet everyone is just really excited that it’s not just me posting on this thing (finally!) right? Yeah, our team is pretty awesome, and have really amazing insights that I thought should be shared with the world at large (or at least internet-dom for starters). I thought it was time for a post from me though, mostly because I was getting a bit nostalgic since it’s been a little over two years since I officially became CEO of NextDrop.
Good News: Company has not been run into the ground yet.
I digress though. What did I want to talk about today? I wanted to talk about company culture, because I think it’s probably one of the most important factors for startup success. Why do I think this? Greatest influences on my business life thus far: books like Good to Great, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, and learnings/slideshares/conversations with people who have actually done stuff that I want to do, like Chamath Palihapitiya and Fred Destin.
How have they influenced NextDrop? In a few ways.
Everyone Learns Python. Yeah, Even You, Civil Engineer
I remember around January, Quijano approached me and Nishesh after a team meeting and basically said that we would suck as a company if we all didn’t learn Python. (Ok maybe not his actual word choice, but that was my takeaway). Of course Nishesh and I were terrified because…well..IT’S PROGRAMMING. I am a CIVIL ENGINEER. That was WHY I chose civil engineering, and not..Computer Science or something. Same with Nishesh- Water Engineer and POLICY. Totally not what we signed up for. We tried to push back, but Quijano was adamant. Luckily we both secretly (but not so secretly) sort of think Quijano is a genius, so we decided to just go with it and…learn Python. Best decision EVER. Why? Think about what we’re actually doing at NextDrop. We’re using simple technology to solve complex social problems. The hardest part is understanding what problems need to be solved, and how we can solve them. But the other really important part is knowing what technological solutions are available in your arsenal to solve these problems. Without an intimate understanding of your system, there is no way you can accomplish this. Also, it saves a TON of money on development, because in this early stage, most of what is going to hold you back is programming. So if you have all key people focusing on the biggest barrier to moving forward, then you make the most progress. I know I know, you’ll probably argue that everyone should be focused on what they do best. Sure, in an ideal world yes. But in that ideal world, we would also have all the technology we want developed in an instant and we would have all the data we need at our fingertips. Without data, we have nothing. Plain and simple. And speaking from experience, let me tell you this is what makes or breaks you as a company.
Again, I would encourage everyone to adopt this policy. I’m currently working on a program that more accurately breaks down/visualizes our valvemen data so that we can make more informed decisions around our valvemen incentive program. Really stoked about it actually!
Hire People You’d Want To Hang Out With
It’s pretty simple actually. You’re going to spend most of your waking hours with these people. If you wouldn’t even want to be friends with them, chances are, you wouldn’t want to work with them. No matter what their resume says. This goes even beyond work though. I think it also self selects for people who believe in your vision and mission. Chances are you hang out with like minded people. At least for me, I hang out with all sorts of people, from different walks of life. But the thing they all have in common, is that they think what I do at NextDrop is pretty neat. They get it. They may not want to do it themselves, but they get the vision. The most important thing I can do is make sure I populate NextDrop with people who jive with the vision, and are working at NextDrop to build a new reality- one that doesn’t exist today. And have a really good time along the way of course. As long as that is your motivation, I’ll probably want to hang out with you and we can hire you at NextDrop.
Fail Fast, Fail Often, Learn As Much As Possible
The Hacker mentality and the Lean Startup. Let me tell you, another thing that really influenced my personal life greatly, and all of us at NextDrop, was the essay, How To Be A Hacker along with Eric Reis’s book, The Lean Startup. In short, the life of your company is determined by the number of experiments you run, and the number of learnings you can acquire within the lifetime (i.e. burn rate) of your startup. You’re probably going to be wrong, so just be nimble, and as soon as you know you are incorrect, pivot. Putting ego aside, just look at the facts and do what needs to be done to achieve our goals. Pivot or persevere. It doesn’t matter, as long as we know we are headed in the right direction.
Those are the 3 major takeaways regarding culture I wanted to share/learned along the way. Personally, it’s been an incredible journey, and in addition to just being really thankful that I get to work on solving really interesting problems, with the smartest people I know, I’d have to say I’m a pretty lucky person.
I also wanted to say thank you to everyone out there, reading this post. It’s been two years, and with all of your support, we’re still alive and kicking. We wouldn’t be where we are without you, and I wanted to make sure everyone knows how much we appreciate it all.
So thanks, from all of us here at NextDrop.