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  • George Samuels

Why Culture Is So Important For A Startup

1. The Definition


2. The current state of things

Now that basic Internet infrastructure is being provided and improved upon through intelligent engineering and machinery, it’s opening up new possibilities in the realm of entertainment, art, game and design (i.e. culture).

Instead of simply focusing on operational efficiency (a relic of the Industrial Age), we can start exploring the areas of human society which help reconnect us with our why, our purposes here in life.

I once met a great Frenchman by the name of Serg. He called himself a man of the emerging “Digital Renaissance.” I, too, believe that we are on the verge of another Renaissance.

Take a look at Magic Leap for example, an augmented reality company that raised $542m from Google in 2014. In conjunction with Weta Workshop, they’re looking to bring cinematic quality virtual experiences to the masses. Their slogan? It’s time to bring magic into the world.


3. An opportunity for creative entrepreneurs

“Businesses started by designers have created billions of dollars of value, are raising billions in capital, and VC firms increasingly see its importance.” #tech #culture #design

Once upon a time, designers and artists (i.e. creatives) used to think the only way they could make money is by not being an artist.


However, when Steve Jobs stepped onto the scene, especially with his iconic quote, “Real artists ship,” he helped lay the foundations for a slew of creatives to start applying their creative juices to the entrepreneurial landscape.

In fact, if you look back in time, creatives were once called “artisans”, and contributed greatly to local markets and intersecting trade routes.

Some of their outputs including poetry, jewellery, pottery, etc. left great clues for current historians on how the people of the time felt outside of basic economic and wartime records.

And now that technology is enabling more and more people to get things done painlessly and simply, sites like Etsy, Youtube, Kickstarter and Patreon are helping to bring creatives out of the shadows (and make money too).

4. Great looks, intuitive mind

This artisan-like surge is also allowing professional designers (those who perhaps studied or climbed up the corporate ladder within larger organisations), to team up with tech-based engineers and entrepreneurs to create truly remarkable online experiences for users.

Think Apple, Airbnb and Uber.

These companies not only provide well-designed apps, hardware and user experiences, their functionality go above and beyond our expectations!

And as our expectations in the West increase, knowing that we can get things that look good and work well, we expect more of it.

Today’s users are smart, informed and design-critical. A far cry from the past when information was scarce or not easily accessible.

It’s now easier than ever for a customer to do their research, and see what their closest friends have to say about you, all within minutes from their smartphones.

Consumers are increasingly wanting to feel, not just know.

This increased need for connection is an effect technology has had on us in attempting to connect us virtually. But, in doing so, it has also disconnected us from each other physically.


4. Bridging The Gap & The Experience Economy

In order to bridge this gap, I believe increased investments into things like arts, entertainment, games, and design will have a huge impact on technology application to improving the human experience.

If we are to prevent the machines from “taking over,” which many Hollywood films seem to love to portray, let’s look at solutions where technology can harmonise with us and our planet.

According to Jeremy Rifkin, author of the Zero Marginal Cost Society, humans will reach a point where they increasingly start to question their existence (if they haven’t started doing so already), once technology has taken full care of all their basic needs and labor.

At the rate we’re going, Artificial Intelligence is surely set do this for us sooner rather than later.

But just like how “big data” became one of the most valuable assets to invest in for the 21st century, I believe that how people think and feel will be the next most investable asset.

In the past, this was acquired via art, theatres, books or music. It will soon be the most phenomenal experiences that technology can create for human beings (e.g. augmented reality).

Don’t take my word for it? Have a look at what Eventbrite has to say about this, and why they’re calling it the “experience economy”.

And when companies like Microsoft, Samsung and Google all battle each other to invest in the next best augmented-reality startup, which essentially aims to connect the virtual and digital worlds, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be excited!


5. Cultural Experiences For Your Own Startup

Team productivity is influenced by more than just what happens “on the field.” It’s also about the bonds created off the field.

This is why micro management around time management and efficiencies during work hours are missing fundamental elements that can make or break culture.

We are human beings. We want to feel and connect.

Simple things like team drinks after hours, or watching movies together, can encourage a sense of stickiness and loyalty. Although not always measurable, it’s something intuitively known by some of the best team leaders and managers around the world.

Having fun can lead to happiness, and happiness leads to a more productive workforce.

Therefore, when growing your startup, it’s important to look at the team you wish to attract (or already have), and identify what it is you collectively consider to be “fun”. This can help unlock dormant creativity within the group, increase the team’s “stickiness”, and get everyone in sync to be able to achieve goals faster.

And if you’re wanting to see just how important culture is in growing your startup, have a read of these articles:

Don’t Fuck Up The Culture – a note from Airbnb Company Culture, Design or Default? – Firespring Culture Isn’t Kumbaya Stuff – First Round Review

Look at ways to create more experiences within your startup that are reflective of the culture you wish to build. Value fun? Do the Zappos thing and have crazy dress up days. Value problem solving? Put on Hackathons just like Facebook. Value family? Setup frequent barbecues for employees and their families. So you can leave this article with something actionable, click here to download the widely popular “culture deck” that was created by Non-Profit Organisation Possible. Once you’ve reviewed it, try creating a Culture Deck of your own. It is similar to a Pitch Deck.