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Values & Principles

Hiring managers talk about “Fit” a lot for good reason. The biggest part of finding a company you are happy at long-term is finding a workplace that shares, encourages, and evolves values that match up with what you believe and what you want to accomplish.

If you want to predict what someone will do, you need to know what’s driving their decision-making process. The values and principles below represent our sincerely held views on our culture, and we judge every decision we make by them. We talk about them constantly, think about them constantly and let them drive every single move we make.

Extreme Curiosity

We are annoyingly curious. We ask “why” and “how” many times in a row with the intention of getting to the root of a problem or situation, because we really want to understand it deeply from first principles. We continually challenge our understanding of our customers, our market, and our business. We avoid unexamined assumptions and think through our actions from first principles starting with the end goal in mind. We actively look for clues to disconfirm our deepest held beliefs and are continuously updating our mental model of the world. What was the reason, and what may have been right yesterday, is no longer so today.

Initiative

We have a Bias for Action. We know many decisions are reversible and take calculated risks daily to deliver results today rather than tomorrow (much less next week) because our customers are suffering today. We are scrappy & self-reliant, stretching ourselves to “get the MVP out the door today” rather than wade through meetings and coordination just to get the first version out. When we are a stakeholder, we

we try to push forward towards a solution rather than just push back against a proposal with “but what about…” sentences. We will never have all the information we want to make a decision, and analysis paralysis can kill us as a startup. We are proactive & deep: when something goes wrong we ask what the root cause is, consider it deeply, and extract all the learnings we can personally and for our team. We learn by doing, not by discussion in a committee. Speed matters. We don’t worry about “stepping on toes” - we don’t have toes here, nobody has a monopoly on work they’re not doing.

Ownership

We take full responsibility and accountability for our domain areas and our results, and we own the outcome. We believe that we have agency over what we do and that no one else is to blame. We own up to where things fall short, and we figure out how we can improve our world through our actions alone. We seek and fix problems beyond our immediate designated areas, so nothing falls “between the cracks.” We fix problems we see quickly and put processes in place to make sure they stay fixed and don’t happen again. We are proactive - we 1) notice subtle clues that may portend more systematic issues, 2) dig to find out the root issue, and 3) fix the root issue that improves our business for the long run.

Judgment & Noticing

We are right a lot. We notice clues to issues or opportunities when others may not. We have strong judgment and good instincts. We are quick & decisive. We step up and make the call, knowing we’ll make mistakes but hey that’s better than putting off the decision or asking yet another person for their opinion. We are detail-oriented, at the correct level of detail for the situation. We know when to be scrappy experimenters & when to build hardened scalable solutions; very few items are in between.

Customer-Centric

We feel each customer’s pain viscerally, even though we must fix things systematically. Talking to customers and fixing a particular customer’s job is everyone’s job. We obsess over how to improve customers' lives immediately and in the long term.

Uncomfortably High Standards

We have uncomfortably high standards for ourselves, our teams, and our peers. We believe in quality and speed. We surprise and delight our customers and each other with outcomes that are far better than expected. We imagine what a magical outcome would be, and aim for that, executing with exceptional effort and creativity. We set the standard for our industry in Operational Excellence. We push ourselves & each other towards something that seemed impossible just weeks ago. We are proud of what we create and our reputation with our customers, our industry, and our community. When customers work with us, or when a new employee joins us, we want them to say: “wow, every part of their organization is excellent.”

Humble

We’re low ego. We care about getting the best results, not about who is right. We care about how much we learned, not how much we know. We care about doing what’s best for the team & mission, not what’s best for ourselves today. We are gracious to each other. We look for ways to encourage and help when possible, even if it doesn’t fall in our “designated” domain. We readily admit it when we don’t know something, and act swiftly to rectify it. We want to become better versions of ourselves, so we actively search for our own faults. We cherish feedback, seeing it as the gift it is to help us improve, and acting on it as appropriate with haste & vigor.

Relish Discomfort

We have the courage to do what’s needed even if it’s uncomfortable; especially if it’s uncomfortable. Need to jump into analytics but know you’re weak at math? We put in the extra time to learn it and jump in with both feet. Need to tell someone their work wasn’t up to your high standards? We don’t look away or delay to avoid discomfort and instead act quickly & decisively without sugar-coating it.

Think from First Principles

We don’t believe in asking “how can we be 10% better” because the status quo is the wrong starting point. Instead, we imagine the ideal impossible customer experience from scratch and back our way into reality. We seek the fundamental truths and reason up from there [1]. This applies to how we work as well: we re-imagine how product, operations, engineering, and every part of the org should be; not what they’re like in other companies and how we can improve on that.

A great example of First Principles Thinking: Somebody could say, “Battery packs are really expensive and that’s just the way they will always be… Historically, it has cost $600 per kilowatt-hour. It’s not going to be much better than that in the future.” With first principles, you say, “What are the material constituents of the batteries? What is the stock market value of the material constituents?” It’s got cobalt, nickel, aluminum, carbon, some polymers for separation and a seal can. Break that down on a material basis and say, “If we bought that on the London Metal Exchange what would each of those things cost?” It’s like $80 per kilowatt hour. So clearly you just need to think of clever ways to take those materials and combine them into the shape of a battery cell and you can have batteries that are much, much cheaper than anyone realizes.

Elon Musk [2]

Dive Deep

We operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdotes differ. We touch reality for ourselves by talking to customers, listening to calls, reading the history of specific tickets & pull requests, and secret shop the experience our team is giving customers. Our managers know their metrics deeply [3] & are excellent at the craft they lead [4]. They obsess over Metrics and Customer Conversations (see Letter to folks working with Bo) to better understand their business “to the metal” and make well-considered data-driven decisions when possible. No task is beneath them, or “above their pay grade”. We realize the one customer complaint they happened to hear about probably isn’t unique, and take it as a clue to seek out the truth at scale.

Unreasonably Fast

We set our operational cadence to “run”, not walk. When someone asks us if they can get back to us about something next week, we reply ‘how about tomorrow morning’ even if it’s unreasonable, because you’ll never know until you try. We’re known as the place that reaches out to candidates within hours of them posting their profile, and always first. When we promise something to a customer, instead of saying “next week” we say “in two hours” because it is easy to differentiate ourselves by being faster, yet so few bother to do it because slow is comfortable. We constantly ask ourselves: “can I get this done faster?”

Hire, Develop, and “Rehire” the Best

We raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent and willingly move them throughout the organization including to other teams to learn & deliver. Leaders realize when they’ve hired someone unexceptional and unapologetically hand that person an exit package to make space for someone exceptional in that role. We focus our precious coaching and development time on growing and rounding out exceptional talent so they can become the next generation of leaders, instead of shoring up underperformers hoping they’ll magically improve. Leaders know that with every new month, every new quarter, they are “rehiring” the person already in a seat for that seat for the next month or quarter, and their High Standards are no different for rehiring that person than for hiring him on the first place.

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[1] Throughout most of our life, we get through life by reasoning by analogy, which essentially means copying what other people do with slight variations. We try to boil things down to their fundamental truths and reason up from there, as opposed to reasoning by analogy.