In this interview series, we get inside the minds of leaders from the startup world, to explore what it really takes to build a high-growth company.
Our top 5 values are:
- Obsess over our users/customers
- Be bold and move fast
- Work with respect
- Build trust with transparency
- Learn by doing
We’ve also kicked off an embedding process. The most important part of this is rewarding success by attributing it to values. It’s much more important to say “Well done to this team because they were bold and moved fast”, versus saying “Well done to this team because they increased revenue”. What you have to reward is the values not the output.Values are reiterated by the leadership team, so when we discuss decisions and projects, we anchor to them, and use them to question what we do. And in our performance sessions, we give feedback specifically on a value level.We also have a public team manual, which the team can refer to, and candidates can see up front. And we have fun things, such as the “weekend break with a twist” we gave everyone for Christmas, where they had to record a video either making a joke out of, or embracing, one of our values.
We started off with everyone booking their own flights individually, and me paying for it on my personal card, with no control over what was going on. TravelPerk has been key in the evolution of how we manage travel and how we operate. Living up to our key value of building trust, we try to eliminate people getting approval for things, so we love that they can just go ahead and book their own travel. Departments need their own budgets, which you can manage using the platform, so having this tool has helped us achieve a lot more. It’s had a huge impact on us and our culture.
The easiest place to drop the ball when you’re bootstrapped is the finance part, so you need to think early on about who will be leading that. Especially because most Co-Founders don’t have that function. You need to think about finance in the right way—whether it’s an advisory team, or part time or whatever. In our case, the transition was going from four founders building a tool on our headsets, and out of nowhere we’re on €10m ARR. The lines are so blurred when you’re bootstrapped—it’s easy to be insular. So it’s important to able to take a step back and think very high level.
Invest early into Engineers and Product Managers—our biggest mistake was not doing this. It took us a few months to realise that one of the Co-Founders should shift to lead and hire for Product & Engineering. We expected our Co-Founders to do this while they were doing their other job, which was pure insanity. While you’re bootstrapped it takes some time to realise that something is painful and needs to be addressed.
The biggest change is that I used to spend a lot of my time in prototyping and writing, thinking about how the product and funnel work, and what projects we'd do. Now I spend most of my time on calls, inspiring people or interviewing people. I’ve learned to love this new role, but that is the biggest shift.
Something I’m really excited about is the recent restructure of the organisation. Now we have designers, engineers, support, and members of other teams, all focused on how we get people to understand the product and use it early on. This is compared with what it used to be like, where I’d do things on my own—I’d think “Let’s do this” and we’d just do it. It’s a big transition, especially as we’ve gone from 5 to 72 people in four years, which is a big jump!