Mission Driven Cultures Win
I spend a lot of time thinking about why certain entrepreneurs succeed and others fail. While there is no single reason for it, I have come around to the absolute conclusion that in order to win and build a lasting and transformational business, you must have a mission driven culture. Through my investment in WeWork and by walking the halls of WeWork buildings, I keep learning that mission is becoming even more important as we get further into the 21st century.
Since the day I met Adam Neumann, co-founder of WeWork, he has been talking about the power of WE to build new companies and make entrepreneurs more successful. By enabling collaboration with community sharing and support, creators and entrepreneurs of all types could build more innovative and lasting companies that were consistent with their life goals. This is WeWork’s goal and it fits neatly with the mission driven culture of millennials and small businesses of today. When you meet Adam, he is always wearing WeWork mission statements on his shirts and talking energetically about the “We” community.
When Eden and I first met Matan and Ami, co-founders of Windward, they exuded both a deep love of the sea and a mission to bring transparency to the last dark frontier, the waters of the world. They effused passion to rid the world of bad actors hiding at sea and to build a better commodities and business eco-system through data and transparency. If you visit Windward HQ, you will see the museum Ami and Matan have built highlighting innovations and artifacts of the sea.
I know Zvi Schreiber, founder and CEO of Freightos for a long time. When he first told me about Freightos he said, “I couldn’t believe it, here I was a software engineer and I was sending faxes to get my light bulbs shipped across the world and it was taking days to get an answer.” Zvi, whose sisters own small businesses, resolved that he could lower the aggravation, the cost of living and the anxiety for small (and large) businesses who move products around the world. He could also make these businesses price-competitive if they could find an easier way to price, bid and ship cargo. Freight is a significant component of the cost of goods. Zvi has assembled an incredibly culturally and geographically diverse team to get after this giant trillion-dollar industry and lower all of our costs. The Company’s mission unifies and galvanizes its diverse team. *
When I look at what it takes to scale a business, the obvious answer is innovation, talent and money. The question is what attracts the talent and money? The answer, I believe, more and more is mission. You cannot attract great talent simply with financial incentives and revenue momentum. If your team is going to scale and move mountains in businesses like freight, ships and buildings, they need to join for the mission. As Adam said recently at the Goldman Sachs conference, when you build a great mission, the money follows it. Not vice versa.
This should have been obvious. Facebook wants to connect all the world’s people. Google wants to organize all of the world’s information. The great companies are built on creating great aspirations and great missions. As I wrote a year ago in my post on why you should leave Adtech, time to revenue, time to money and ease of launching are all the wrong vectors to choose to start your business or to join one. As famed investor Howard Marks says, “business is supposed to be hard.” I would add: “Business is supposed to have a mission.”
When we started Aleph, Eden and I set forth a very simple mission: We aspire to build big companies out of Israel. When we invest in a company, that is the first question we ask ourselves about the entrepreneur, “do they want to build big companies?” We are increasingly asking, what is the entrepreneur’s mission? The answer is never perfect. In all businesses it would be polyannish to believe that 100% of your decisions conform exactly to your mission. However, your mission is your North Star and your brand. Your mission enables you to scale and to make hard decisions about what not to do. It enables and encourages other great talent to join your company, blend with your team and tell your story passionately and well.
What is your mission?
* In coming blog posts we will highlight other missions.