#16 Culture Vulture 🦅


  • 🦅 Culture Vulture: Ben Horowitz’s “What you do is who you are”.

  • ⚖️ Trade-offs & Values: Functionality, Quality and Schedule - pick 2.

  • 💵 Recent Deals in Spain: Volava, Koa Health and more!

  • 💭 Thinking or Reading: Real wipeouts and social media 3.0

🦅 Culture Vulture

Culture is an important thing people talk (a lot) about in startups.

Yet, it is amazing how often people talk about it, but don’t follow through.

There is hardly a better way to ruin the vibe in your workplace than not walking your talk, particularly for leaders. Like Jocko says:

“It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate

You may no think people notice, but those little details, that crumb-trail of little details a “bad” leader takes advantage of relative to what everyone on the team gets - everyone notices.

I always think back to Band of Brothers, the episode where the new Lieutenant Dike (a posh boy who wanted to be in politics and needed “field” experience) joins Easy Company during the invasion of Foy in the Ardennes.

Easy Company is stuck in Bastogne and it is very, very cold - they don’t have winter clothing, their boots are wet and freezing, and they sleep in holes in the ground.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Norman Dike is not as around as he should be (he goes back to HQ often to eat warm food), has slightly better clothes and runs a little slower when taking the town - everyone notices.

Lieutenant Dike is a Culture Vulture, because he feeds on other people’s efforts instead of adding to them. Don’t be Lieutenant Dike.

In his book “What you do is who you are”, Ben Horowitz highlights a set of lessons on culture - using history as a reference point. Here’s the net net:

  1. Culture = what happens when nobody (or the person in charge) is looking.

  2. Tactic N. 1 = utilising shocking guidelines to keep people thinking. Toussain Louverture (the guy who eradicated slavery from Haiti) used this to his advantage. An example: He used shocking guidelines (prohibiting married officers from having concubines) to instil trust among the population (ok, not shocking today but it was back then).

  3. Tactic N. 2 = remember death at all times. Just like the samurai, it will help you focus - and acknowledge the worst possible result. The author also suggests internalizing other samurai virtues like honor, politeness, and sincerity: which translate very well to business.

  4. Tactic N. 3 = view things from the perspective of a newcomer. This lesson is pulled from an imprisoned gang leader who ruled his prison.

  5. Tactic N. 4= enable a sense of inclusion. Genghis Khan was a master of inclusion, which in turn made him the greatest effective leader in military history. He understood that Mongol tribes lacked a common goal - which he turned into a military campaign in which he imposed a clear meritocracy.

  6. Tactic N. 5 = do what you have to, to instil the 2 capital virtues in business - trust & loyalty.

⚖️ Functionality, Quality, Schedule (Pick 2)

My friend Stelio - who works in product at a tech company with a blue logo - shared an interesting article, highlighting the importance of Quality in software engineering.

‘They don't understand the most fundamental truism of software: functionality, quality, and schedule—you get to pick only two. By the way, if you're going to pick functionality and schedule, I'm out of here, and so is every other high-quality engineer, because I don't want to deliver shit.' says Bryan Cantrill (CTO, Joyent).

Should you compromise quality in order to stick to your launch date? Or does limiting the functionality make more sense? Or push out the launch date? What would your team do?

We are constantly hit with tradeoffs like this one. But identifying and expressing our team values can help clarify the mission of a team - allowing us to make better tradeoff decisions.

  • #1 - Start by understanding your individual values. These can be anything from accountability, achievement or balance to competence, excellence etc. Then narrow down from hundreds of values, to 10, to 2. Here’s an exapmle:

  • #2 - Share the values with your team - form a sentence for each value and concisely communicate it to your team. Example:

  1. Revisit over time, and see how you & your team’s values change.

Check out Colin Breck’s exercise ‘Understanding Our Core Values: An Exercise for Individuals and Teams

💵 Recent Deals In Spain

You love startups and want to enjoy a Spanish lifestyle? Come join the Spanish startup ecosystem. Here’s a list of recently funded startups:

💭 Thinking or Reading

A Real Wipeout

Don’t try this at home.

Evolution of Social Media

Interesting read and framework by Digital Native.

Quote I’m Pondering

Seek to recover and exploit failure, since this is far more common than success - John Danaher.

If you find this interesting, please consider sharing with your friends. I’d also love to get your thoughts and feedback on Twitter. Until the next one! 😃

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