Building a Company That Stands for Something: A Video Interview With David Hauser

5/24/11

I had the pleasure of sitting down with David Hauser recently to talk about his Boston-area company, the Grasshopper Group.

David is the CTO of the company and co-founded it with Siamak Taghaddos in 2003 when they were both students at Babson College. From its beginnings as a virtual phone system, the Grasshopper Group is now the parent company of multiple Web-based products all focused around the company’s core purpose of empowering entrepreneurs. Grasshopper employs about 50 people, continues to grow, and has never raised any capital from VCs.

The first part of our conversation (see video on YouTube) was focused on the origins of the company. How did two college students decide to start a telecom company out of their dorm room? As is often the case, it originated from an authentic need that the founders encountered through their own experiences as entrepreneurs.

We also talked about mentorship and role models. Grasshopper was started in the tech doldrums. David and Siamak admit to having very few role models in the ecosystem to look up to. During this part of the talk, David gives excellent advice on being bold and resourceful about seeking people out and sharing your story to get people (partners, customers, and mentors) to become advocates of your cause.

But the real magic of the Grasshopper story is the way the entire company is anchored around a core purpose and core values. As David says, “We are not just selling some stupid phone system.” Everyone in the company and everything they do is anchored by a vision of supporting 1 million entrepreneurs with products they love that help them achieve their passion, he says.

Vision and values are pretty soft stuff. Many great companies have value statements that don’t mean much (most employees couldn’t recite them if asked) and many startups want to stand for something, but fail in the process. What you hear from David is the way the vision and values of the company permeate through all aspects of the company. For example:

The whole interview is really meaty, but if you only have 5-10 minutes, watch the second segment, below, where this is all discussed. Also, you can keep up with David by following him on Twitter or checking out some of his presentations on entrepreneurship and Culture, Purpose, and Values.

Thanks to Xconomy for helping to make this interview happen, and to Sean O’Connor who helped me significantly upgrade the production quality of these videos.

[Editor's note: Rob Go blogs at www.robgo.org.]

Rob Go is a partner and co-founder of NextView Ventures, a seed stage venture fund focused on Internet enabled innovation. Prior to forming NextView, Rob held investing and operating roles at eBay, BzzAgent, and Spark Capital. Follow @

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  • http://www.twitter.com/ntreuter Nick Reuter

    I had the pleasure of hearing David speak at Ramencamp in Boston this past weekend. He is an amazing guy who has built an amazing company. I really admire Grasshopper Group and it’s a shame more entrepreneurial companies don’t carry that kind of startup culture.

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  • Dan

    Sucks for Grasshopper, but their systems crashed today effectively stranding all of their clients without phone service or online account access. The perils of a startup that supports startups I suppose. They’ve been down for 8 hours+ with no end in sight. Hoping they survive this…

  • RB

    Grasshopper is still crashed as of 6/8/11 1:30 pm (EST). What’s even more frustrating is we’re unable to transfer our 1-888 number to another company in the meanwhile!

    It would be interesting if the author investigated how this group of Entrepreneurs handle this.

  • Alvin

    Maybe David should spend a little less time on creating internal core values and take some time to think about the entrepreneurs his company serves. Our phones have been down for about 48 hours and phone are our lifeline. No apologies, no notifications, no informative updates. Grasshopper is a disgrace. Competitors please email me, I’d be glad to switch to you!

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