This summer I passed my 3 year anniversary as a Venmo employee. In Venmo years, that’s on the longer side. There are now 80 people at Venmo, and I’m the fifth active hire. On the exact day of my 3-year mark, in a moment of serendipity, Venmo hit one of its biggest milestones ever.
My job at Venmo has continued to be surprising and surreal: two acquisitions, bouts of both explosive and stunted growth, 3 NY offices, imploding technical challenges, viral advertisement, (seemingly) immense product releases, and a growing team that delightfully surprises me every day.
A lot of people ask me what it’s like to be at Venmo now that the 2 acquisitions have settled. I can answer each of those questions quickly & confidently: it’s still the same great place to work, and we still operate nearly 100% autonomously. We’re still Venmo to the core because we choose to make it so, and the people within the organization are what make it wonderful.
Over these 3 years, both Venmo and I have grown tremendously. I wrote a post about my first 3 months at Venmo (though I won’t link to it out of embarrassment) and looking back, I realize how much we’ve both grown. I like to think I’m now more mature, accountable, slightly more able to think before I speak, and prepared for new challenges that the world throws at me. I think Venmo is the same way. It’s become less “bro-ey” too (as my friends so kindly described me); we’ve established more clearly defined roles (which people were craving) and we’re planning out long term goals & projects well into 2015. I’ve learned a lot of share-worthy things, and I hope these experiences are valuable to you.
Here are some of my most meaningful lessons and anecdotal stories I’ve discovered throughout the years:
All companies look great on the outside, but are messy on the inside. This is true of Venmo, Paypal, and everywhere else. The challenge is to convert that messiness into well-defined problems and even better-communicated solutions.
I’ve made many of my closest friendships through working at Venmo. I wouldn’t give this up for the world, and I want this to be true wherever I am. Work is better with your friends, it’s that simple.
Steadfastly have your team’s back. Especially when you’re small, this is critical. I learned the hard way how toxic it is to talk negatively about people or doubt them. In the end, I was the one that came across as foolish to other people. The best work relationships I’ve seen or been a part of are when there’s the utmost respect in & trust for each other. Opinions/feelings are never swept under the rug and decisions aren’t pettily second-guessed.
Swim in solutions, not problems. I don’t remember where I first heard this, but I’ve kept it near and dear. Nobody wants to be around downers and hear problems all day, but it’s important to be communicative of those problems. Early on, we set “active user growth rate” to be Venmo’s #1 priority. We all saw the number sit stagnant for several months and felt paralyzed. Morale was low. One day, Staub, our growth engineer, presented numerous tactics and predictions on how much growth would improve by. Immediately, Venmo’s morale rebounded and our growth followed suit.
Be scrappy. Be known as the guy/gal that can GTD. You’ll be trusted, valuable, and impactful.
Set the example. I learned this from Venmo’s cofounders. Kortina specifically, for the first several years of Venmo’s history, was consistently the first one in the office and last one to leave every single day. Seven days a week, his pedal was to the metal. It was absolute inspiration and motivation to work hard, love Venmo, and solve problems. For me, being a work horse isn’t something I can learn, it’s something I am inspired to be.
A year ago, the Paypal acquisition was announced to the team. Since day 1, our founders have always painted Paypal in a positive light and impressed upon me how great of a company they are. Despite this, the day the acquisition was announced, there was still unease about merging with a competitor’s brand that many thought was drastically different from Venmo’s brand. Jesse (who started the same day as me) and I made an effort to portray our combination of genuine excitement and triumph to the team. I think that because of this top-down mindset, the Venmo team entered the Paypal era with gusto. We also quickly discovered that Venmo and Paypal’s missions & brands were much more aligned than we realized.
Have fun. It sounds cliché, but it’s worth repeating. I learned this from our cofounders too, but this one especially from Iqram. When we were still small, he always knew how to energize the team, be a magnet for passion, and motivate us to think big. I had no doubts that I wanted to work on sunny Saturday afternoons in an office room (dubbed the “Magic Room”) with no windows, mostly because Iqram was there and he made it fun. Don’t be that guy who’s all work and no play. Being a delightful person makes meetings, hiring decisions, and your team a little better.
Venmo is truly a wonderful place. Like me, it’s growing and maturing. We’ve still got plenty of room for improvement, but Venmo has given me the opportunity to make mistakes, make friends, and learn. Looking back, 3 years doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a great start.