Building a Company That Stands for Something: A Video Interview With David Hauser
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:
- Establishing culture and maintaining culture as a company scales
- Raising (or not raising) money
- Sending dead insects to 5000 thought leaders
- Staying creative in PR and Marketing
- Searching for companies to start
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.]