This post is the third in a series of ten posts about the 10 key reasons your consumer startup will succeed.

I speak with hundreds of aspiring consumer entrepreneurs and review thousands of executive summaries and pitches each year. From all this activity, certain patterns emerge that remain consistent with successful consumer startups. In this series of 10 blog posts, I will list the top 10 reasons consumer startups succeed. Note that all seem necessary, but none on their own are sufficient.

#3 Culture

Company culture and values are closely related to the founding team concept, but so underrated in Silicon Valley, we want to call attention to this critical factor by naming it #3.

The reality is that even with a small founding team of 2 or 3 people, a company culture already exists. So, we work with all of our Maven startups to actually articulate and write down their company culture. It can be painful to take the few hours or half day to do this exercise, but once it’s done, it’s really a magical experience. We went through the culture experience with our small Maven team, and it’s been refreshing to make sure we’re all on the same page about what we’re doing at Maven and what our priorities are. Dave Kashen, one of our Maven mentors, is one of the best at helping startups go through a company culture and values exercise. I’m so grateful we took the time to do this at Maven.  Here’s what we came up with:

Vision:

To meaningfully improve consumers’ lives at scale by building valuable enterprises that achieve top 10% Micro VC returns

Values:

Here are the values we live which drive our reputation and success:

  1. Collaborative: We are not political.  We are willing to share praise, and be honest and transparent with each other. We put the team and company first.
  2. No jerks: We are happy, positive, and fun to work with.
  3. Accountable: We are high-performing, get stuff done, and value attention to detail.
  4. Curious: We are always willing to learn. We are knowledgeable and strive to be experts in our field.
  5. Self-starters: We take initiative, work autonomously, and are resourceful.

There are many great examples of company culture documents like Zappos and Netflix. Your company culture will define the tone for the rest of your startup’s existence. Define it early and re-examine it every year. Startups are made up of people and are living organizations, so as you grow and mature, you will need to revisit your company values and culture.

Here’s one of the secrets of why you need to do this early — it will help you hire the right people for your startup. Many startups mistakenly hire first for talent then later realize that, while the second engineer is a really talented coder, he’s a jerk and doesn’t fit in the company culture. And, now the founders are going to spend more time trying to get rid of this employee than they did to hire him. When interviewing, we encourage all of our portfolio companies to first look for culture fit before focusing on a talent and skills fit. Save yourself the headache and define your company culture early.

Are you ready to document your company culture?  You’ll be grateful you did.

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