GenuineVC David Beisel's Perspective on Digital Change

November 1, 2005

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.

  • vruz

    This reminds me of an anecdote a friend shared with me.

    He was promoted to CTO, (which at that moment it meant that he would draft an IT strategy, cut wires, plug PCs and sweep the floor too) and his first task was to meet his predecessor, who would transfer some knowledge about the inner workings of the local network.

    When he arrived to his predecessor’s desk, he was amazed of the utter chaos, propped up barely letting the door shut.Piles of books, cables, CDs, floppies and personal care objects too.

    For our own sanity I’ll omit describing the trashcan and the surrounding area.Suffice to say this generalised disorder wasn’t limited to his personal space, but also the way in which he managed his business affairs.

    My friend knew this guy, and he had some appreciation for his technical achievements, but he reached the logical conclusion that there was no way a network manager (much less a CTO!) could manage something, being barely able manage his own desk.

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