Company Culture and Building a Team, Part 2

Patrick Collison, Co-Founder, Stripe; John Collison, Co-Founder, Stripe; Ben Silbermann, Founder & CEO, Pinterest discuss finding, hiring, and integrating a startup’s first 10 employees.

Patrick Collison (@patrickc)
John Collison (@collision)
Ben Silbermann (@8en)


  • 52s – Ben Silbermann; what are most important parts of building out culture and hiring
  • 1) who do we hire and what do they value 2) what do we do and what do we value 3) what do we choose to communicate 4) what we choose to celebrate
  • 1m32s – John Collison; transparency of plans with employees; use slack
  • 2m50s – Patrick Collison; need to delegate via culture
  • 5m10s – how to hire first 10 employees
  • Ben: very inductive; look for people you want to work with; hiring like gardening; look for creativity and quirkiness
  • John: first 10 hires hard, friends of friends, hires early in careers
  • Patrick: people who like getting things finished, github resume not as good as deep projects; genuine, caring, completing things
  • Ben: craigslist, tech talks, weekly bar-b-q; you have to go seek them out
  • get them excited early; anticipate recruiting need down the road
  • hard to hire people for niche things
  • 15m40s – as an inexperienced founder how do you identify raw talent?
  • Ben: you’ll never 100% know; if a bad hire, try to fix, then end quickly; find mentors who are experts; build list of questions and evaluate metrics
  • John: interview in way you feel comfortable
  • Patrick: work with them before you commit to hiring for first 10
  • Ben: reference people, what are they like to work with, reference good source of new recruits
  • 24m20s – what have you done to get new hires up to speed?
  • Ben: at first onboarding happen naturally and fast; need more formality as company grows
  • John: 1) get them up and running doing real work quickly so you can measure them, 2) give feedback quickly (e.g. how to adapt to culture)
  • 28m20s: what are biggest changes to hiring process and management as company has grown?
  • Ben: goal is to make teams feel as autonomous as possible; startup of startups; abstracted units; remove barriers; referrals become more important
  • Patrick: time horizons change quickly; thinking farther ahead long term; plays into hiring; group meals
  • transparency easier in startup because everything is new, rowing in same direction; weekly catchup meeting
  • hackpad (google docs with newsfeed) to see everyone’s work
  • Q&A
  • 39m14s – are early hires able to grow into leadership roles?
  • yes and no. not everyone born knowing how to manage but can learn, volunteer lead project, group, dept; give people a shot
  • 42m58s – how has pinterest vision change?
  • discovery by viewing other peoples boards not just building your own
  • 43m33s – how do you convince people to join a startup?
  • Patrick: prospect is exciting, guarantee would be boring
  • find out if they are good fit with mission or just looking for startup experience
  • make more of a contribution at startup than big company, attracts the best and most capable
  • 48m26s – how has user base affected hiring strategy?
  • hire people who understand product and use it, ambitious about mission

Additional Reading



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