Six Startup CEOs On Their Company Culture, Boiled Down to One Word

8/21/09Follow @gthuang

You can tell a lot about a company from its chief executive. They set the tone, the direction, the pace of operations. For a startup, it all starts with the CEO.

A startup’s culture is what sets it apart from its peers. It is the essence of the operation. It directly affects the company’s strategy, hiring practices, and the personality of its products.

Corporate culture is notoriously hard to define and measure, but critically important to whether a business will succeed. So I recently took a small (and highly unscientific) sample of Northwest startups, spanning the fields of business software, Internet, mobile, gaming, video, and materials—and asked the CEOs to talk about their company’s culture. Furthermore, I asked them to boil their culture and philosophy down to one word.

I’ll spare you any psychoanalysis of their answers, but it’s interesting to see how their descriptions reflect both their own personality and the market they’re in:
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Apptio (Bellevue, WA)
CEO: Sunny Gupta
Culture: “Paranoid”
Comments: Gupta says the Apptio mantra is “glass half-empty.” But he doesn’t mean it in a negative way. He means the company is relentlessly focused on pushing its advantage, improving its weaknesses, and crushing its competition all around—a necessary mindset in the crowded and cutthroat environment of IT cost management and optimization.

Elemental Technologies (Portland, OR)
CEO: Sam Blackman
Culture: “Execution”
Comments: Blackman says he and his co-founders came from a previous company that started out executing well, but then took its eye off the ball and got distracted by things like … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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