“I guess we are just a bunch of communists here,” Philip, the guy with the technical vision for Centrifuge, laughs. “We keep mentioning stuff like ‘reducing inequality’ and ‘leveling the playing field’ and talk about reinventing how trade works”. “Maybe we are,” counters Maex, our CEO, “but operating with a capitalistic mindset. We want to be successful after all”.
We’re sitting in a semi-circle in a converted barn in Werneuchen, 1.5 hours outside of Berlin. Phrases and words, some crossed out, others underlined, cover the flip chart. For the past three hours, our small team of now seven people has tried to put in words what makes us tick as a company, and what exactly we’re working towards. The “Mission, Vision and OKRs” workshop is part of our offsite, two days of intense discussions and planning in the idyllic German countryside. Some of us have sat through such workshops before and are weary of yet another dreary exercise. So far though, Philipp — another Philipp, not our CTO — has left the playing field to us, directing us from the sidelines like a good coach. Pinpointing the border between dreamy ideals and realistic goals is harder than we thought.
I look at my notebook. “I like the phrase we came up with, ’change the rules of global trade’. I think it encapsulates quite well that we think the way that trade works now is broken.” Maya, our Team Assistant who has a background in alternative currencies, jumps in. “True, but I think we need to mention economic opportunity. If we talk about a mission, it needs to be broader than just changing trade.” “‘Change the rules… to foster economic opportunity?” suggests Lucas, our founding engineer. Heads nod. “I think we’ve got it,” says Philipp, writing the phrase on the whiteboard.
Mission and vision, as difficult as they are to pin down, turn out to be a valuable management tool. If chosen well, they give employees something to hold onto, and customers as well as partners an idea of what a company stands for. For us as a rapidly growing 6-months old start-up, it’s vital to agree on some values, and a common course. The mission, the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of our business, sets a goal for us to work towards — even if it is impossible to achieve in reality. The vision, much more concrete, encapsulates a concrete idea of where we as a company want to be at one point in the future.
In our workshop, our discussion on vision is stuck in a minefield of buzzwords. “Let’s get away from using crap like ‘blockchain’ or ‘identity’” says Martin, the third co-founder besides Philip and Maex. “Every crypto company out there talks about the same stuff.” We mull over alternatives. What do we actually want to achieve, beyond being “the Operating System for global commerce” as our tagline suggests? What does that mean, in more concrete terms? “I guess that every company uses our OS,” Miguel, our second engineer, suggests. Getting closer. We throw in “decentralized economy” for good measure, because that’s what we’re working on in the end. As the sun is setting outside, the final version of our vision statement reads: “Every business uses Centrifuge OS to participate in the decentralized economy”.
As we’re preparing breakfast the next morning, Maya looks up from the apple she’s slicing. “I really liked the workshop yesterday. It’s so interesting to see what everyone thinks about where we’re headed with this company”. I agree. I only joined Centrifuge three weeks ago, and am still trying to find order in the chaos that is any start-up. Philip, Maex, and Martin have been working together for almost 20 years and know each other inside out. To have a mission and vision that we all agree on to point towards puts us on an equal playing field for strategic decisions going forward. Not quite “communist” — but very much aligned with a common goal.
At Centrifuge, we believe that every person’s opinion should have equal weight. We all work towards a common goal, a common mission. To “change the rules of global trade to foster economic opportunity everywhere”.
If you, too, believe in this mission and want to join us on the ride, head over to the jobs section on our website! We’re looking forward to you getting in touch.