I don’t really speak all that Wall Street bullshit, you know what I mean? We’re just like five guys hanging around in a house trying to make cool shit. –Erlich
A lot of startups are inherently about rejecting old methods and promoting cutting edge ideas. Inspired by the stories of Facebook and Apple, entrepreneurs build narratives for themselves about finding new, better ways of doing things.
Certainly, these are great aspirations. There is great value in being critical of worn out conventions that too many follow like sheep because they can’t be bothered to challenge them.On the flip side, many business traditions exist for a reason: they work.
In “Signaling Risk”, problems in communication and efficiency threaten to damage Pied Piper’s credibility and burn through their funding before they can take their product to market. Now that they finally have their vision, funding, and legal issues ironed out, Richard takes a whack at building Pied Piper’s Corporate Culture.
What’s in a Logo
The quest continues to find a Pied Piper logo that strikes the right chord with the team. Erlich decides on his own to seek out local street artist Chuy. He also has very clear ideas of what he doesn’t want.
This is what we need; something raw. We already have kind of a shitty name, ‘Pied Piper’, but the last thing we want is two lower case P’s in a square like those motherfuckers across the freeway would make. –Erlich
What Chuy delivers ends up being quite graphic. Pied Piper is scrawled out in barely legible graffiti script and suffice it to say there’s a sex act being performed on a prone Statue of Liberty by Dinesh. Any designer worth their salt would probably find a hundred and one ways that image fails as a logo, even beyond the obvious obscenity issue. A logo needs to be accessible and communicate that your company is stable and reliable. It also needs to be legible and attractive in large and small sizes and in black and white.
A perfectly decent example of a logo fulfilling these parameters is seen when Jared proposes to produce it internally to save the company $10K. Quickly, he sketches out two interlocking P’s. It’s not slap-you-in-the-face exciting or anything, but it’s recognizable and it won’t get you in trouble with the police.
Are you fucking serious? Lower case letters? Twitter: lower case T, Google: lower case G, Facebook: lower case F. Every fucking company in the Valley has lower case letters. Why? Because it’s safe, but we aren’t going to do that. We’re going to go with Chuy. –Erlich
After another revision that doesn’t do much aside from replacing the Statue of Liberty’s face with Erlich’s (lol), Chuy finally delivers them a logo that’s exactly the two interlocked lowercase P’s that Jared scribbled quickly.
It’s no groundbreaking design, but there’s a reason for that: it works.There’s no point in being cool and countercultural for its own sake. It could probably be best expressed by adding words onto Facebook’s famous motto: Move fast and break things, if there’s good reason to.
In the beginning of the episode, Jared flags the team that they’ll run out of money in 5 months on the outside and that they really have to get their efficiency issues checked if they’re going to beat Nucleus to a launch. The state of emergency is compacted when Gavin Belson announces he intends on launching at TechCrunch Disrupt, in 2 months.
Pied Piper has loads of communication and governance issues. The ones they specifically emphasize in this episode are the constant bickering and lack of communication that caused Jared to not realize they had to cancel their TechCrunch competition registration and Dinesh and Gilfoyle to waste time by working on the same task. Meetings are constantly interrupted and there is no method in place to monitor the progress and completion of jobs. As Jared attempts to propose solutions, he gets pushback from Dinesh, Gilfoyle, and Erlich who think they don’t need to operate like a traditional company.
Jared: I think we need to define our corporate culture.
Erlich: Our whole corporate culture is that we don’t have a corporate culture.
Jared: Take Dinesh and Gilfoyle, they are wasting an enormous amount of time arguing. What if we were to separate them? Right? Divide their existing workspace into two areas. We could put in some sort of portable barrier.
Dinesh [barging into the managers-only meeting]: He’s talking about cubicles!
Gilfoyle [barging into the managers-only meeting too]: We’re not doing cubicles, no way.
Jared: No no no, don’t think of it as a cubicle. Just think of it as a neutral-colored enclosure, about yea high, around your workspace. You know who uses cubicles? Every single Fortune 500 company. Why? Because they work.
Gilfoyle: He’s trying to turn us into Corporate Rock, Richard. We are Punk Rock.
Dinesh: Actually I think a better analogy would be Jazz. You know, riff and improvise around a theme to create one cohesive piece of music.
Gilfoyle: You take fucking Jazz at Juilliard. We’re not jazz, we’re fucking Punk Rock.
Jared: You see you guys are arguing over what metaphor to use to agree with each other. This is the inefficiency I’m trying to eliminate. My suggestions could actually help you beat me in this argument. Do you see the irony there?
In the end, Jared (who is quickly turning into one of my favourite characters) manages to make Gilfoyle and Dinesh follow his “Scrum Method” by tapping into their competitiveness.
Jared: So from Rules-based Filtering we go to Workflow, which means that card is moved from the Ice Box into the In Progress column. And it stays there until it’s ready for Testing. This increases visibility into our team’s progress and that gentlemen, is Scrum.
Gilfoyle: This just became a job.
Dinesh: He’s trying to make us compete so we’ll work faster. He thinks this wall of Psych 101, MBA mind-control bullshit is going to motivate us.
We tend to indiscriminately condemn all bureaucracy as stodgy and unnecessary. But bylaws and guidelines exist because ultimately nothing else ensures that a group of people working together day in and day out will be able to align their efforts to achieve all-important long term goals. Jared trusts in “the system”, and it produces results. You can use the system and still be an innovative and groundbreaking company.
Dinesh: Feeling pretty happy about yourself?
Jared: I’m pretty happy with OUR-self.
Vivien – Richard really needs to stop thinking and complaining about the 10 million they turned down in the first episode. It’s a distraction. They should do a post-mortem report on what lessons are to be learned, but I think they need to stick with their choice and move on.
ThePoet – I’m an ex-anarchist, poet, artist, and law breaker, the beard says it all! When I made the transition from college to freelance and then to working with and for startups, the consensus was always to do things different. Break the rules. Make new rules. At Brendan & Brendan we often talk about how we think “Agencies are broken” but, we’re not specifically referring to process, policies, guidelines, etc. These things are necessary to run a business. We’ve learned the hard way at B&B. Agencies are broken because of the individuals who are managing these processes, policies, guidelines, etc. Defining your corporate culture and determining workflow are absolutely essential, otherwise nothing gets done!