Building a culture first company: step 2.

Late last year I wrote a post on what it meant for us to be a culture-first company. In that post I explained a lot of the reasons why we hadn’t taken funding … which was why you might be surprised to hear that we just announced that we closed a $6.3m Series A. So why did we raise money if we are committed to being a culture-first company?

At Culture Amp we still believe that the world should be a better place to work. And, not only do we want to be a culture-first company — we want to help create more culture-first companies by building a platform that enables that. As we got to the end of last year, we kept asking ourselves one question: If three years from now, we have only helped a few hundred companies, have we actually made a dent?

Probably not.

It was this realisation that compelled us to take investment money. We have several hundred of the most innovative and disruptive companies in the world as customers — and a great product that they rely on to crack their culture code, but to make a dent we have to help a lot more companies than that.

So the point of raising money is to help us build the platform that can be used by 10,000+ companies. If we can do that, then I will feel that we are starting to make some headway!

We’d just come to this conclusion when we serendipitously found ourselves talking to someone who understood exactly what we wanted to do — and wanted to help us do it our way.

On a Sunday morning, when I just happened to be in San Francisco, I got an email from an Aydin Senkut from Felicis Ventures, who said that he kept hearing about us from his portfolio companies and wanted to chat.

We were actually on our way to the Bridge School Benefit concert in Mountain View and then we flew to New York the following day so I didn’t think we’d have a chance to meet. That’s not how Aydin works however — so roughly an hour later, with Aydin fresh from his only family lunch, and us making a short detour on our trip up the peninsula, we met in Palo Alto.

What was immediately apparent was that Aydin shared our culture-first passion. His background (he is Turkish, speaks several languages and was a CFO before joining Google as an early stage PM) makes him almost uniquely qualified to advise not just a valley startup — but a global one.

Jon and I walked away impressed.

Fast forward roughly two months later, and we had our end of year founders and advisers meeting in Sydney. We talked at length about the company we wanted to build and debated the merits of seeking to go faster. I am very fortunate to count the Atlassian founder Scott Farquhar not only as a friend, but as an adviser and he put it perfectly when he said:

“If you have a product that customers love, no real competitors (yet) and clear air in front of you… put the foot down.” Scott Farquhar

We closed the meeting and whilst in the cab on the way to airport I get a call from Aydin saying “we’d like to offer you a term sheet…”.

And as we explored the opportunity we understood just how good a match Felicis was for where we were, and where we wanted to go. We were even more convinced when he introduced us to one of the newest additions to the Felicis team — Wesley Chan. Not only did Wes share Aydin’s approach and focus, he happened to be one of the main guys behind Google Analytics. For years I’d be saying we were, in essence, Google Analytics for Culture. So we were extremely excited to know that someone so instrumental in its success wanted to help us build on our vision to do the same thing.

We were also very fortunate to bring on two other investors in Index Ventures (who will help us drive growth in Europe as well as already being investors in many of our best customers) and Blackbird VC (who we have known for a long time and are proud to work with in the Australian startup industry). And it was actually our investors approach to things like keeping our head office in Australia, how we wanted to work as founders, and the culture we wanted to build that got this deal done.

It wasn’t about raising money. It was about raising the right money. Money that wants to not only build a culture-first company — but wants to help other companies become one too.

(Coming up next will be step 3 … so what does all this mean for our people & culture?)

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