Startup culture, like all business cultures, is the environment created for your team. It is formed by a combination of leadership, values, behaviours, and attitudes that together form the ideologies of your startup.

When you establish your startup, the culture is the heart of it. For your startup to scale and thrive you need your people to be engaged and motivated, this is where culture plays a massive role.

Why does Startup Culture Matter?

You don’t want your employees to dread work and a healthy startup culture means that you will have employees who feel valued, are engaged with their tasks, and progress in an organic way.

When there is a strong startup culture naturally better relationships, consistency and overall productivity will thrive which makes culture central to both employees and employers.

Your startup’s culture dictates how you engage with your customers, freelancers, employees, and partners. Establishing a culture that places innovation at the forefront of your startup is the key to a successful journey for both the founders and the team, professionally and personally.

The key elements to an innovation-first culture are;

  • Transparency across all team knowledge
  • Valuing one another’s experience
  • Supporting each other with effective communication

This makes it a nicer place to work which ensures that your employees are excited and committed. A defined startup culture also makes it easier to select your team and for potential team members to envision how they would fit into the team.

How to Build a Strong Startup Culture

When you build the foundation for your culture you need to consider the following aspects;

  • Your values
  • Inclusivity
  • Ongoing evaluation
  • Lead by example

Your Values

The molten center of your startup culture should be focused on values that really matter to you. These are not values that you feel will be received better by your target audience or values that sound nice, but that truly identify to your leadership.

When you’re working out what your startup should be centered around it can be useful to consider the following;

  • Team goals
  • Company mission
  • Employee behaviour
  • Customer focus

These central pillars will help you develop values that are not only important to you as a leader but that become integral to your startup as it grows.

Inclusivity

Diversity is beneficial for your startup because it means you have no barriers in place from the get-go.

Being active about inclusivity at this early stage will ensure a culture that blooms equally. Take into account your hiring process and align it with diversity, equity, and inclusion best practices.

The overall benefits of diversity include transparency for diverse clients, enhanced innovation, a range of perspectives, attractive to all talent, and an overall improvement in productivity. Find our diversity and inclusion guide for startups here.

Ongoing Evaluation

Growth means change and evolution to both your services, your team, and your culture. When we consider a startup culture we are expecting it to shift alongside scaling. If your culture doesn’t adapt to your startup’s needs you could find yourself struggling to identify who you are as a leader and as a business.

Every person who joins your team will bring a new set of experiences, personality, and perspectives. The sign of a culturally aware startup is acknowledging these small shifts and realigning to accommodate them for future growth.

We asked the Digital Uncut team what they thought best represented our culture from the following; collaborative, motivating, nurturing or driven.

60% of the team chose to describe the culture as nurturing followed by 30% identifying it as collaborative and 10% as motivating. No one in the team found the culture to be a driven atmosphere.

Our values at Digital Uncut include:

  • Devotion to data
  • People first
  • Flexibility

Given that 60% of the team feel that the culture is nurturing shows that currently we are aligned with our values through the flexibility and people-focused approach. However in a year’s time when we have expanded even further, adjusting the goalposts to suit that team may mean investment in cultural tweaking. Just as the culture has adapted since Digital Uncut first started out.

Develop Your Startup Culture

A great way to hone your vision for your startup’s culture is to learn from other startups. Look at who they are trying to be, what their values highlight and how their people respond to the culture they have established.

Ask questions such as;

  • Is the team motivated? By what?
  • What are the team’s work habits?
  • Is there diversity across the team?
  • Is the team social?
  • Where does innovation come from?
  • What does collaboration look like for them?
  • How do they handle conflict?
  • Is the team promoted from within before looking elsewhere?
  • How is the team rewarded?

The sum of this is of course the startup’s values, norms, and expectations. How does the startup operate, who makes decisions, where do rewards come into play?

Key Takeaways

A startup’s culture is driven predominantly by the people within it. It is set by the leaders and done so early but adapts alongside growth.

A fun office environment is great but your startup’s culture is set by how the startup operates, how it communicates, and how it rewards its people.

Work out your values, strive towards inclusivity, never forget to evaluate and lead by example for a startup culture that resonates beyond your team.

Once you have your culture defined, you can get all your brand positioning tips here.