Startup Offices Are Like Faces (Part II)

Startup offices are like faces. They communicate what is going on in the inside, revealing subtle cues about a company’s core. An office is both a reflection of and a signal to prospective & current employees, customers, and investors what a company is all about.

At Sombasa Media, our first office barely fit us four founders who were bootstrapping to get the company off the ground. It was a tiny brick room with no windows; so small that for one of us to leave for the restroom, all of the others had to scoot further towards the desk squeezing to let the person by. Our second office was a larger one-room area (this time with windows, fortunately). And on the first day we moved in, we built our own desks. Realizing that this assembly was not just a necessary frugal requirement, but also a metaphorical symbolic act of us building a company together, all future new employees of the company built their own desks in this and future offices (even after we emerged from full bootstrapping mode post-investment). Everyone from interns’, to experienced MBAs’, to quota’d salespeople’s first task at the company was to construct their desk, like the entire team who had started before them. Our third office was a large funky space which seemed like too much room when we moved in, but quickly filled up as we grew, necessitating that we move yet again.

In every one of our office locations, the physical space was a manifestation and communication of something deeper about the company’s stage, vision, and culture. And other little things, like the employee picture bulletin board and an open seating arrangement, further solidified communication about our strong culture.

How is your startup office a reflection of who you are as a company?

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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