Startup Offices Are Like Faces

I love when I have an opportunity to visit entrepreneurs in their offices. After an initial pitch, and as we are getting to know a company, we nearly always visit the startup at their own site.

To me, startup offices are like faces – they communicate what is going on in the inside. Of course, they convey an intentional outward expression, like a face does. But they also reveal subtle cues about a company’s core, just as a face does, too.

The importance of picking up on these indications helps us as VCs get to know companies better. Don’t get me wrong – there isn’t one “right way” that companies’ offices should look. Quite the contrary. Just as all startups are different, their offices should be different as well. I think that the key is that the environment in which start-up employees work should match that of the company’s story and culture.

When I’ve seen companies who claim to be extremely frugal and their surroundings match that proposition, my expectations are perfectly aligned with the situation. In the same vein, I’ve visited gaming entertainment companies that have had vintage gaming and arcade paraphernalia strategically-placed as apropos decor. Also, I’ve visited firms poised for explosive growth have empty desks and room to spare, which makes a lot of sense. And finally, I’ve seen young startups just getting off the ground sharing space with other startups in an effort to leverage common resources and share knowledge/expertise. All of these are just examples demonstrating how the current internal situation of a company is appropriately and authentically reflected in its external work environment.

A startup’s office directly speaks to prospective & current employees, customers, and investors. Not only does it communicate an outward and explicit message, but like a face, it provides insight into what’s going on underneath the surface.

David Beisel

David Beisel is a co-founder and Partner at NextView Ventures. He has been focused on early stage Internet startups his entire career, both as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. As an investor in the digital media space, David was most recently a Vice President at Venrock and previously a Principal at Masthead Venture Partners. Prior to becoming a venture capitalist, David co-founded Sombasa Media, an e-mail marketing company best known for its flagship product BargainDog. Sombasa was successfully acquired by About.com where David served as Vice President of Marketing. David holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and an AB in Economics, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Duke University. He also founded and leads the Boston Innovators Group, an organization which holds quarterly entrepreneur events drawing a thousand attendees.

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