Do you value quality over delivery? Do you value truth over comfort? These questions present themselves on a regular basis in any company, but in a startup their importance is so much more important. In a startup, the answers to these questions by the people on your team can mean the difference between the life and death of your startup. That’s why it’s so important to ensure your team shares the same values. This is the basis for your company culture.
The variation in your team’s skills and experience can bring a wonderful complement of viewpoints that makes your startup better and more effective in a number of ways. The variety of focus amongst these roles can be challenging but is ultimately rewarding for a business to accomplish its goals. But if your team doesn’t share the same set of values, this can cause all sorts of challenges for your company. These cultural values inform how you make your decisions over things like where to focus your time and how much of it you allocate, as well as when and if you have difficult discussions that need to occur.
And the importance of culture fit is amplified when you have remote team members. By introducing extra factors such as time difference, non-native languages and different native cultures, you are adding more potential complications to the mix. But as a startup, there is one major reason to still go down this path – money. With the dearth of available and affordable quality tech talent in Silicon Valley, startups are forced to look elsewhere. And if you do it the right way, and hire the right people, it can mean greater results and productivity than a local team.
Because there is so little margin for error in a startup, I, and others (whether they realize it or not) default to pattern recognition in determining who we hire from abroad. There is a strong correlation between culture fit (which includes shared values) and country of origin. I’ve had better experiences working with some cultures than others, so I’m naturally inclined to look for resources from those countries when hiring. This may not be politically correct, but political correctness is a luxury available to companies with a larger runway and bigger bank account.
So when I thought about my attitude to this, and I look back on when I last raised money for my own startup, I thought about how pattern recognition plays out in investment decisions. As a female founder, I was acutely aware of the abysmal numbers when it comes to amounts of money raised by women vs men. And the lack of women in tech is definitely a problem.
Pattern recognition in investment decisions is a big factor in the reason why so few women get funded. I can talk all day about how terrible that is for women, but am I doing any different when it comes to choosing where I want to hire my developers from? No. I actually think investors, especially angel investors, have every right to choose and apply pattern recognition when investing their hard earned money. They, too, want someone who mirrors their value system. Investors are taking a large risk with their money by investing in startups and they must employ every technique available to them to mitigate that risk. I apply that pattern recognition filter to my remote team by country – some investors apply age, ethnicity and gender to their filters. Politically correct? No. Expedient. Yes.
As humans, our brains are always looking for patterns to learn from and apply later, so pattern recognition shouldn’t be a dirty word. It allows us to make decisions quickly and get on to the next task. We all do it. If you’re in engineering or User Experience Design, you employ pattern recognition techniques all the time. And given that many people with these skills become investors, it’s natural for them to extend this practice into their investment decisions.
So let’s bring this pattern recognition concept more out into the open. Let’s understand it better, because it’s not going anywhere any time soon. And we won’t combat the disproportionate investment of women founders by ignoring it and hoping it will go away. It won’t.