The Wisdo Manifesto (And Why Every Company Needs One)

Starting a company is hard. Running it is even harder.

When you’re running a company you’ve founded, no matter how determined you are, the pressure is crushing. Deadlines are constantly looming. Nothing can wait for tomorrow.

Ben Horowitz, a general partner of super fund Andreessen-Horowitz, was once asked to describe his experience as a startup CEO. “I slept like a baby,” he said. “I woke up every two hours and cried.”

There’s just one way and one way only to cope with this onslaught of constant distractions and must-dos. It’s this: to remind yourself daily why you got into all this in the first place.

That Why (sometimes also known as “Why the hell…”) is what leads us, as startup founders, to convince investors they should believe in us. It’s what gives us the drive to recruit employees, users, and partners. The Why gets us through long nights, impossible deadlines, mental and physical pains, heartaches and heartburns. It’s a shield. Protective metal wear. Go to war without it at your own peril, folks.

The purpose of the mission.

What my two years as a startup co-founder have taught me about building a company is, what a constitution is to a country, a manifesto is to a company — because sometimes we forget what we’re building and why we’re building it.

We’re so busy pushing ourselves forward — towards the dream, to the belief that it has to exist, to building the company itself — that we get lost in the process.

In these darker moments, it’s the manifesto that holds us together.

The manifesto is the foundation of our culture, what we’re loyal to, and what keeps us working when times are tough.

Without it, we’re just a group of cavemen searching for berries and hoping for the best, while really big beasts are looking for cave people to munch on.

Company manifestos have been celebrated but also bastardized.

Culture experts and opinion leaders like Scott Goodson and Professor Barry Schwartz have written widely about how essential a core list of principles and values can be, even more so as a company evolves with the intent of bettering human lives. Full disclosure: Scott and Professor Schwartz are friends of Wisdo who’ve inspired us greatly. (See Professor Schwartz’s moving endorsement here.)

Nevertheless, countless companies both big and small have come up with charters that feel — let’s call it like it is — fake.

They feel engineered by force, reaching to push their agenda. Instead of being written from the bottom up, they read as if they were dictated by management. Or even worse, a bunch of hired hands recruited to help figure out “Who They Are.”

This never works.

The best charters are about what companies really are and not the dream. They’re written in an actionable language, with a goal and a mission.

A great charter is more than a list of values: it’s a roadmap.

They are about what the company wants to be, rather than what the company is and should be.

What makes a great manifesto? The same thing that makes a great company: honesty. Genuine goals. Caring about users, partners, and employees.

To work — manifestos need to be authentic. To be authentic, the truth needs to emerge about that specific company. The company’s history, DNA, heart, soul, aspirations, and failures need to be visible.

It’s also a pledge to our employees who are expected to commit years of their life to making sure we succeed. They won’t be fooled by corporate-sounding maxims that tend to evaporate when things get rough. Once sacrifices are made, the company needs to huddle together like a football team, look into each other’s eyes and swear that nothing but victory will do. Even when faced with painful decisions, they march out into the battlefield and play.

A manifesto is a reflection as well as a creator of personal, human connections.

In Wisdo’s case, these personal connections were impossible to ignore.

We — like all humans, everywhere, now and throughout history — have dealt with personal challenges and opportunities, from cancer to parenthood. These life paths taught us the value of timely, experience-based knowledge, as well as the meaning of knowing who to connect to, and when.

The manifesto was living in our hearts. All we had to do was to write it.

What we know now

Manifestos are living documents. They live and breathe, evolve and improve, change lives and are changed by lives. Putting our manifesto out into the world not only serves the purpose of publicly declaring an identity and personality; it’s an invitation, an opportunity to start a conversation with others who, in our case, are Wisdonians without knowing it yet.

This is the Wisdo manifesto, our rallying cry.

If it resonates with you, join us in our movement.

If not — let us know why, so we can improve.

We have no other way of becoming wise.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Boaz Gaon, CEO and co-founder

The Wisdo Manifesto

Practical wisdom is not musing about how someone else in a hypothetical situation ought to act. It’s about “What am I to do?” — right here and right now.

  • We all seek wisdom — and we all have wisdom to share.

Wisdom is first-hand knowledge that can only be gained from experience.

When you find yourself faced with a situation you don’t know how to handle, wisdom is the most valuable kind of knowledge to guide you through.

We at Wisdo believe that wisdom is meant to be shared — so we’ve built a library of knowledge that everyone can access — and find what they need when they need it.

  • Wisdom is even more powerful when it is delivered at the right time.

Wisdo wants to get ahead of hindsight. We know that advice is only as powerful as its timing, so we encourage our Wisdonians to identify major milestones in their experiences, empowering others to see how those milestones fit what they’re going through in order to prepare them for their journey.

If we do this right, no one will ever have to face a human experience as if they are the first people to ever go through it. With Wisdo, people everywhere will gain visibility.

  • Wisdom, powered by technology, can brighten everyday life.

Our shared experiences and moments of triumph can and should empower us to face life more confidently. Wisdo believes that we can satisfy our ancient human longing for consolation and inspiration by following and supporting others.

We also believe that technology can play a historically unique role in providing specific people with daily, proactive and predictive recommendations that can brighten days and change lives. Why should we go through life alone, if technology can provide each and every one of us with specific wise insights and people, who can shine our way forward?

  • Wisdo is a movement — calling for the return of wisdom to our daily, too-busy lives.

Don’t want to drive your car home? Order an Uber. Want to feel like a local in Amsterdam? Get an Airbnb. Need a quick e-card design? Fiverr.

We have solutions for everything. Except for wisdom.

Wisdo is fixing this. No matter who you are, we want to know what you’ve been through — to share and celebrate your experiences for the benefit of everyone, everywhere.

In today’s world, assets are shared. Ironically, wisdom is our most valuable asset (which is totally free to seek and share) but it has not been made equally accessible, and hence, is still not a companion to daily life.

Wisdo believes in bringing people together from all nationalities, genders, creeds and colors, in the offline and online worlds, so that wisdom can be shared and celebrated for the benefit of everyone, everywhere.

And like every movement, we rely on specific community members who can carry the torch. We will forever celebrate our valued community members, our Gurus and Sages, and also remember that we are here to help them help others — and never feel alone.

With practical wisdom we prosper. Without it, we wither.
 (Aristotle, 4th century BC).

Originally published at The Wisdonian.