Company Soul

I read two things today about entrepreneurial failure.  One was a great long form piece by Alyson Shontell of Business Insider about Fab.com and one was by Tyson Ho about an unnamed diner in Manhattan which was shuttering.

They were both well-written and painted very different pictures of failure. The story of a Fab was one of bad economics, hubris, premature expansion and of investor/founder/employees selling a big vision and chasing the unicorn dream.

It reminded me a lot of Kozmo when I worked there.

But there was one notable thing that seemed absent about the Fab story. There was no soul. It was let’s get big and chase user growth and create buzzwords about emotional commerce, but it mostly seemed like founders and employees buying into we are going to be huge one day dream that didn’t materialize. And just as quickly as it came, it disappeared.  No big deal.

Of course, this is an impression based on reading a few 2nd hand accounts in an article so I could be mostly or entirely wrong.

But when I talk about it not having soul, it didn’t feel like anyone cared about Fab’s demise. It was an ego and financial hit but the prevailing sentiment was we tried but failed – oh well. There was a little about “what could have been” but really, it was we’re going to get big followed by a realization we’re not followed by the realization that it’s time to get another gig.

When contrasted with the restaurant story, you see people on the team there who genuinely care about the business and what happens to it. There are people there like the line chefs who take immense pride in making food that people really like.

Of course, a lot of this might be due to the industries both businesses are in and the socio-economic status of the people working at both organizations, but chalking it all upto that would mean that there are no tech companies with soul.

I have a hard time believing that, however.

I suspect Mailchimp or SpaceX have soul.  I don’t think soul has to come from having a “change the world” credo either although I imagine with SpaceX that a change the universe mission does help 🙂  But Mailchimp is doing email newsletters. You can spin that into changing the world, but let’s be real. But nevertheless, it’s a company that seems to have soul (I could be way wrong here too)

We have talked a lot about culture at CB Insights, and I think a lot of it comes down to building an organization with soul. Where there is a team that really cares about their work, the customers, each other.  I’m not sure how to do it, but I hope we’ll build a team and a company with soul.

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