The Type of Company Culture I Hope To Build at Genesis Block

This topic has come up frequently in our interviews with potential hires. Today I share some initial thoughts on company culture, values, and priorities.

Mick Hagen
Jul 2, 2020 · 9 min read

e’ve just wrapped up our “Spreading Crypto” Series and soon we’ll be kicking off a new series around how our digital bank is leveraging crypto & blockchain technology.

Today’s post is a break between series/themes.

In the last few weeks, many people have reached out to us, eager to learn if we’re hiring. Yes, we are hiring. Yes, we want to grow our team. Understandably, people are excited about Genesis Block. The opportunity in front of us is massive.

As I’ve been interviewing potential hires, the topic of company culture is frequently brought up. I’ve been sharing my thoughts on this privately quite a bit. But I thought maybe it’d be a good idea to share publicly as well.

So today we’re gonna talk about the type of company culture I hope to build at Genesis Block. The values I hope we can instill. The things that matter to me as the CEO and Founder.

Let’s dive in.

Blank Canvas

I’ve had a lot of wonderful conversations with many impressive people — mostly engineers but also marketing, business, finance people. There is so much talent out there. We’re excited to continue to assemble a world-class team that ships world-class products.

Some of the common questions I’m asked include: What is our culture like? What do we value? What matters to us?

These are essential questions that every candidate should ask and every company should have a thoughtful answer for. When I answer these questions I always preface it with perhaps the most important part of the answer:

Our team is still very small. We’re just getting started. The culture of our company is like a little baby — still growing, forming, developing. People who join now can certainly have a hand in rearing it. They can help shape it. That’s one of the great benefits of joining a company at our stage — when the canvas is mostly blank, each brushstroke is foundational to how the rest of the picture comes together.

I believe each company is a living, breathing, evolving organism. A company’s culture grows from the behavior, attitude, values, and habits of the individual contributors within.

So while I recognize that my influence is strong, I alone cannot force a specific path. Nor can words on a Medium post.

But people are still curious to hear my thoughts. And I’m not afraid to share them. Trying to get this directionally correct is a high priority for me right now, especially as we bring on new team members.

I’ve thought a lot about the culture I hope we can adopt, the values I hope we can defend, the type of company I hope we can build.

So let’s go through a few points. These are in no particular order, and this post is by no means exhaustive.

Doing Good

I’m at a point in my life & career where I can say no to a lot of things — to most things. I can choose where I spend my time, who I spend it with, and what I work on. I’m grateful for that.

As a result, the value I place on my own time has increased dramatically in recent years. If I’m gonna be working on something, anything, it needs to be important. It needs to be fulfilling, inspiring, and rewarding — and I’m not talking in the economic or financial sense.

I want to be doing work that matters. I want to be building products that have the potential to make a massive, positive impact on the world around us.

This is one reason why we’ve incorporated as a Delaware Public Benefit Corporation (with the goal to ultimately become a Certified B Corporation). This means that our company is not just about profit, but it’s also about purpose. And not just in press releases and tweets, but in the actual core of our legal structure.

I want the expectations to be crystal clear from the get-go — to potential employees, partners, users, and investors — that our company is about so much more than just making money. Money is not the end goal. Money is just the fuel that can propel us towards our ultimate destination: delivering meaningful, substantial, lasting value to our users.

This company is about providing people all over the world with equal access to financial services and economic opportunities. It’s about upward mobility. It’s about financial inclusion. It’s about providing financial tools and resources to the most vulnerable and marginalized — including the underbanked or unbanked. It’s about reducing poverty. It’s about providing people with hope.

This company is about impact.
This company is about making a difference.
This company is about doing good.

Diverse Backgrounds

I really enjoy meeting people from different walks of life. I enjoy learning from their experiences, hearing their perspectives, understanding their values. Life is far more interesting when I’m interacting with people who are different than me.

It’s why I enjoyed my time at Princeton (one of my roommates was Jewish, one was Black, and one was Gay). It’s why I enjoyed my time living in Brazil as a volunteer missionary (some of the happiest people I’ve ever met lived in extreme poverty). It’s why I enjoyed my time living in San Francisco (I came to know and love many members of the Gay Mormon community). It’s why I enjoyed my time living in London (melting pot of cultures, crossroads of the world). It’s one of the reasons why my wife and I love to travel.

But going beyond my personal enjoyment for meeting interesting and diverse people, I believe companies are more likely to be successful when their team is diverse. Exposure to different experiences can lead to greater empathy & understanding. Exposure to different ideas can lead to healthy, respectful discussion & debate. Getting to know people who see the world differently can have a powerful effect on the mind — it opens it. It invites flexibility and adaptability. That creates fertile ground for learning and growth. These are all ingredients that lead to designing and building better products.

The skills cultivated in a diverse team environment apply directly and meaningfully to the skills required for building a great product.

Having empathy for users. Listening to their perspectives. Understanding their use-cases. Being willing to adapt and learn. Operating in a culture of healthy, respectful debate.

Diverse teams create better products.

Excellent Work & Effort

I’ve always been a product-driven CEO. I was a designer and front-end developer early in my career. I’ve always cared deeply about delivering high-quality product experiences.

When it comes to product, I am demanding. I can be a perfectionist. I’ll push for performance. I’ll push for simplicity. I’ll push for polish. I’ll push for craftsmanship.

I’m always willing to make compromises when it comes to overall scope and feature-set — especially if it means shipping faster. That’s the startup way. But whatever we decide to ultimately ship, even if minimal, that needs to be high-quality work. It needs to be excellent. It needs to be thoroughly tested and ready for users at the frontlines.

Do bugs get through? They always do.

But we should still strive for excellence in our code, in our review process, in our testing, in all our work.

I’m okay with mistakes. I’m not okay when team members are sloppy, careless, or lazy with their work. Great products don’t happen overnight. They are a result of thousands of great moments, great decisions, great processes, great habits, great attitudes.

We are a financial product. Users need to have confidence that our product is stable, reliable, and working as expected. Trust takes a long time to be earned. But it can be destroyed in an instant. Our work must be excellent. Most importantly, our effort must be excellent.

Curiosity & Learning

In the world of technology, things move very fast. In the world of crypto & blockchain, things move at warp speed. There are constantly new protocols being launched, new tools being developed, new ideas being explored.

If we want to win our market, then we have to stay alert and engaged with what’s going on. It’s essential we stay curious.

I hope to build a team that enjoys learning, experimenting, hacking, and tinkering. Of course, everything we ship to users in production should be thoroughly vetted, tested, and stable. I’m referring to our own internal R&D (when stakes are low). As we try new things, there is no such thing as failure — only learning, growth, and progress. No questions are dumb questions.

This attribute is often reflected by where one spends their free time (non-work, non-family). Do they read? Are they tinkering with new open-source libraries or frameworks? Going to museums or traveling? Cultivating unique skills, passions, or hobbies? These are all positive signs for someone who is curious and likes to learn.

Learning (and applying those learnings) is an essential part of the startup process. In the world of blockchain, it’s that much more important.

Work Should Serve You

I recognize that not everyone will have the same life goals and priorities that I do (some of which I’ve shared here in the first point). That’s a beautiful thing.

But if you were to join our company, I would still want to know: What are your goals? What’s your purpose? What’s your North Star?

Whatever it is, whatever path you are pursuing, whatever your priorities are, I want to build the type of company that can support you in that quest. Our company should be a resource. It should be a vehicle that helps take you there. Let this company be a platform for your dreams. Life is way too short for it to be any other way.

Yes, we need to have a strong, healthy foundation as a company. We need to make money. But each of us should have a clear method behind the madness. What’s getting us out of the bed every morning? What’s the end goal?

I love this quote from Walt Disney:

“We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies.”

Let’s not just build great products to make money. Let’s make money so that we can build more products that we’re passionate about. Let’s make money so that we can pursue our dreams. Let’s make money so that we can go after moonshot ideas that will change the world.

Given the amount of time we all spend at work, it needs to be working for us. It needs to serve us and align with our pursuits.

If you were to join our company, I hope that Genesis Block can be that for you. I hope that Genesis Block can help you achieve, reach, and conquer whatever your goals and pursuits are.

If you like what I shared today, and you want to explore work opportunities with Genesis Block, we’d love to hear from you. Go to GenesisBlock.com/jobs to send us a message and tell us more about yourself. We are growing our team. Let’s talk!

Next week we kick off a new series called “Crypto-Powered.” We’ll discuss how blockchain technology will give us an unfair advantage in the world of consumer finance & banking. We’ll try to explain things in a way that even crypto n00bs can follow. Until next time!

Other Ways to Consume This Episode:

Genesis Block

Digital banking powered by crypto.

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