Community, Transparency, Excellence
This is the first in a series of posts that will articulate our approach to building our company. Today, I’ll share some of our organizational philosophy and views on culture. Over time we’ll also introduce our team, share more in-depth details about our technology, and uncover the grisly details of banking behind the scenes.
Transparency is one of our core values at Seed, and we feel that being open about our culture, our team, and our technology is the right thing to do. Our hope is that by sharing our experience, we’ll be able to help demystify the process of building a company, and perhaps inspire other folks to take on ambitious projects while building their own great businesses.
We’re living in an incredible time, where a little bit of software and a lot hard work can literally change the world, and we feel privileged to play our small part by bringing together a group of incredible people to make something that people love — while also solving entrenched problems in banking.
One of the most exciting parts about starting this company is the chance to create the kind of team and environment that I’ve always dreamed of working in. For most of my 20-year career, I’ve been a hands-on engineer and technical leader. I felt frequently frustrated when working within a company that harbored an inhumane, unproductive, and poorly led culture. In my role as CEO, I’m delighted to create an outlet for those frustrations and a company where people love to work, to build great products, and to delight our customers. So let’s get to it.
While it has become popular within our industry to build cultures without conventional structures, at Seed we recognize the need for leadership and well-defined roles. We also believe that we are a team of peers, and we seek to foster a sense of community above all else. Being part of a diverse community of peers means that titles and roles do not define relationships between team members — our collective humanity does. Everyone will be treated as equals, regardless of experience, position, or background, because we believe that we are all equal as human beings.
While we share some of the goals that motivate flat, “managerless” organizational structures, we feel that a hybrid approach ensures that everyone in our organization can thrive with the proper support and education. We certainly aren’t big on titles, but we want to make sure that our coworkers are clear about their own responsibilities and expectations. In turn, we want to empower everyone in the company to contribute his or her voice and talents.
We’re still very small, but as we grow, we look forward to fostering an environment where our coworkers can explore and experiment in ways that will help them grow best. There’s no reason a member of our customer service team can’t contribute to engineering, marketing, or sales. Similarly, our engineers will work directly with customers and contribute in non-technical ways. If one of our team members wants to start her own company, we will support her wholeheartedly — even if that company competes with us. If someone thinks they would be happier working somewhere else, we will encourage them to do whats in his or her best interest and help in any way we can.
We do not regard people as assets or currency. We will not hire a massive workforce just because we can, because it’s popular, or because it increases our valuation. We will hire people we love because we believe in them, and they believe in us. We are honored when any person, regardless of experience or background, chooses to spend their time working with us. We believe it is our duty to ensure that they are happy, healthy, and well-supported while doing so.
Most importantly, we are dedicated to providing a safe and happy working environment for everyone, regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion (or lack thereof). We only want to work with people that believe in diversity, mutual respect, and kindness.
I hope that what I’ve written above seems obvious. It should. Of course, people should be treated with love and respect. Of course, companies should encourage their people to thrive. Sadly, these values are selfishly disregarded by some within our industry.
Our investors, our customers, and our industry will evaluate Seed in many different ways. As our leader, I will judge my success on one thing above all else: Did I create a company where a diverse group of wonderful people love to work? If not, I will have failed, regardless of any economic success we achieve.
I touched on this a bit above, but I want to explain our commitment to transparency further. What transparency means for our culture is that, to the greatest extent possible, everyone within the company will have the opportunity to know anything that I, any other leader, or any other team member knows. It does not mean that everyone will be copied on every email, or that every decision will be made collectively. We’ll strive to be reasonable and seek to avoid the unwanted effects that can result from these kinds of extreme approaches.
We believe that there is no single structure that can accommodate every individual’s unique approach to doing work. Some people are happy going solo, while others want to have their hands in everyone else’s cookie jar. Because of these different approaches to work, we strive to build a culture where both folks are equally happy, rather than forcing everyone to hew to some company-defined norm.
There will be times when I am not able to share certain details with our team, whether for legal or sensitivity reasons. One of the most difficult things I have done in my career was lying to my team in an effort to protect them. I will do everything in my power to avoid doing so again. That said, I believe that part of being a good leader is having the courage to do what is best for the whole team, even if it personally feels horrible. If I am successful in my role, then my team will trust that I am doing my best. And, when I fail, they will give me the benefit of the doubt and support me.
Our belief in transparency also extends outward. We will go out of our way to be honest with our members, the press, and everyone else. If we have technical failures, we’ll own up to them, provide as many details as possible, and share our approach to avoiding them in the future. Or for example, if we change our pricing or terms, we’ll be up front about what factors led to the decision. Whatever we do, we’ll be open with the greater community around us. It’s the right thing to do.
In addition to community and transparency, the third core value that defines our culture is excellence. We will always sweat the details to ensure that we are building the best possible product, providing the best possible service, and offering the best possible price. We won’t try to save time or money by cutting corners, because we’re in this for the long haul, and there is no victory in winning when you play dirty.
To be truly excellent, we will orient everything we do around what is best for our customer. We will invest in design, technology, and service to ensure that we provide a modern, beautiful, and delightful experience. We know that there are many ways to be successful without making these kinds of investments, especially within banking. Honestly, we’re saddened that many companies in our industry don’t truly embrace the power of operating ethically and treating people with respect. We want to do our part to show that you can do well by treating people well, whether they be employees, customers, or competitors.
We are extraordinarily lucky to be in the position to build this company. We are overjoyed by the opportunity to put together a group of incredible people dedicated to doing good works. We will work tirelessly to provide a service that makes life easier for our customers. To be able to do this is a gift, and it’s our duty to do it right.
If Seed sounds like the kind of company you’d like to work with, join us.
With love and respect,