In the last few months, 500 Startups has grown A LOT as a company. We’ve made good progress, but still have plenty of challenges to overcome and problems to solve. I never want us to rest on our laurels; We need to stay hungry, keep fire in our belly, and retain an overwhelming sense of urgency if we want to grow 500 into the best, most diverse seed fund and accelerator in the world in the universe.
One our biggest challenges is making our culture sustainable and scalable. Everyone who comes into the 500 family needs to know what our culture is about and what we stand for, and it’s only through redundancy that we’ll be able to extend the #500Strong mentality to a global network.
Part of that is holding ourselves accountable to the outside world. We’ve always been an extremely transparent organization, so in that vein, I want to post the 500 values so everyone knows why we do what we do. If we don’t measure up to these standards, we want you to give us shit about it.
Here’s what drives us:
BE BOLD, BE HUMBLE
We’re about taking risks and making things happen: as individuals, as a team, and as a family. We should always think BIG and BIGGER about our strategies and our tactics. Big ideas should not come at the expense of executing on those ideas, but we should encourage some risk-taking in exchange for some failure. If/when things don’t work – and sometimes they won’t – we should be humble, accept responsibility, ask for help if needed, and then quickly go fix that shit. (this value somewhat borrowed from Wikipedia, although we aren’t anywhere nearly as anal-retentive as those n3rdz)
We forgive mistakes, but not timidity.
MOVE FAST, BREAK THINGS
We’re ok with occasional failure (if you’re not fucking up something, you’re not being ambitious enough), but we don’t tolerate the two b’s: bureaucracy and bullshit. We should always aim high. Aim for the moon and land on the roof. We don’t accept status quo – sitting on your ass, analysis paralysis, or indecision. A quick, small wrong decision is almost always better than a correct one that takes forever. (Yes, we copied this from Facebook. Another core 500 value is copy great shit when it’s obviously a good idea, hopefully without violating any laws ;)
Iterate to success. Fast.
CHALLENGE YOURSELF, AND OTHERS
500 is not a top-down organization; we lead from the bottom and the edges. Everyone should drive, everyone should take the reins, and everyone should be accountable to both themselves and the rest of the team. Our newest hire is fully within his/her rights to grill me on how I’m doing my job, and I should be able to answer their questions. (This one we copied from PayPal, also Microsoft & Intel. All those folks are arrogant fucks, but they did back it up at one time or another)
Hold each other accountable 100% of the time.
BE DIVERSE, BE DIVERSIFIED
This pretty much goes without saying: make lots of little bets, and use lots of different strategies. We’re all about diversity, in both people & approach. If things fail, that’s ok. When they work, we double down and scale them up bigger & faster. (Here, we are borrowing from Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek, also from LeVar Burton and George Takei – ‘cause it’s ok to be Takei :)
Diversity is our strategy and moral imperative. Embrace it.
HAVE FUN, MAKE MONEY
It’s always a priority for us to HAVE FUN and also MAKE MONEY. That former is easier to figure out than the latter, but both are important. We MUST have fun if we want people to work hard, stay engaged, take risks, and grow the organization. But we ALSO MUST make money and be sustainable in order to accomplish our goals. Being able to do these at the same time is exactly makes us 500 – we like to crack jokes, dance and laugh, but are also hard-nosed, focused and brainy.
(This one we didn’t really copy from anyone. We are actually pretty original at having fun while making bank.)
It’s our job to make money, but it’s also our job to have fun.
So – that’s a brief summary of what we believe in at 500. While we’re certainly not perfect (and don’t hit these 100% of the time), having values keeps us in line – and gives us something to strive for.
Now let’s get back to fucking work.