The Grid — an unconventional startup
I’m in Hawaii right now, but I’m not here with family nor am I on a company boondoggle, well not really… but sort of… allow me to explain.
When I joined Google in 2002 (500 employees), I thought Google was unconventional. We had a company chef, went on 3 day ski trips and most importantly, had extremely talented engineers who helped change the internet as we know it today.
Since leaving Google in 2010 (25,000 employees), I helped start a company called The Grid. You may have heard of The Grid, AI designed websites, apparently many of the Geniuses at the local Apple store here in Honolulu have, as we were delighted to learn when visiting the store.
I knew I was going into unchartered territory when I partnered up with Dan and discovered he used to sell diamonds and was “fronted $1M of goods” to move in jewelry stores around the Bay Area. The diamond business led to the need for a website and the resulting quixotic search for a solution to the website problem.
I’ll tell more of The Grid story in future posts, but want to tell the story of the unconventionality of The Grid. To make it more fun and more real, I’ll compare The Grid to early days at Google.
Founding Team: Like Google, The Grid has a diverse set of tech founders. Unlike Google, one lives in San Francisco, the other in Berlin.
Funding: Like early Google, The Grid is well funded. Unlike Google, the majority of funding to date has come from friends, family and fans instead of institutional investors — each and everyone act as evangelists and community leaders in their own tribes.
Team: Like early Google, The Grid has a highly talented engineering team. Unlike early Google, The Grid engineering team works from 7 different time zones from which each were converted from rabid fan to employee. Interestingly, Wordpress which also shares the open source developer culture has a similar distributed team.
Team discussions: Like early Google, The Grid passionately debate technical decisions. Unlike early Google, the debates take place in chat streams, Google video hangouts and over Hawaiian sunsets.
Campus: Like early Google, The Grid has a college campus feel. Unlike Google, the campus literally moves from Florence, to Berlin to exotic locations across the globe during face to face meet-ups or “team-cations”.
Office Space: Like early Google, The Grid pays for a common place for teams to work together. Unlike Google, this place popups every few months in exotic locations of the team’s choice across the globe (and averages out to be less than the cost of dedicated office space!).
Team events: Like early Google, The Grid provides budget for team building events. Unlike Google, these events occur organically during meet-ups in exotic locations.
Work-Life Balance: Like early Google, The Grid respects a work-life balance. Unlike early Google, The Grid creates getaway “team-cations” (an inverted variant of the “work-cation”) for employees to completely immerse in work 24 x 7. Although many of us are away from our families (half the employees or more have kids), the concentrated “team-cations” and resulting progress allow one to really unplug and be present with family upon return. An in some cases in exotic locations as family can join in on the tail-end of these trips.
Distributed Team Culture of The Future?
I’ve heard of other startups moving their entire company to an exotic location. Anyone with school-aged children knows the non-starter issues with this strategy. However, the periodic “team-cations” in exotic locations works great for those with children of any age, and for that matter anyone who is married, or single. Anyone who works with a distributed team should take note.