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August 6, 2010

The NextView team went away for a couple days recently for a strategy offsite.

One of the major topics we discussed was firm culture.  It’s an elusive idea. 

Usually, culture happens TO you.  You inherit it when you join a firm based on the personalities and decisions of those who came before you.

Even if you are a founder, I think culture can still happen to you.  Without knowing it, you can establish a firm culture that might reflect some of the undesired idiosyncricies of your personality or the incentive systems that are in place within the founding team.  

I think it’s important to be intentional about culture.  It impacts the strength and efficiency of the team, it enhances your ability to hire well, and it helps to build an enduring organization over time.  

Although culture stems from within, you can help to shape it through your actions, processes, and language.  We spent a ton of time talking about the language of NextView, how we will talk internally and externally about entrepreneurs, investing partners, team members, etc.  We’re working to codify this into something that is concrete.  Hopefully it isn’t just a hokey and generic list of values that we put on our office walls, but something authentic and unique to us. 

In the meantime, one way I tangibly see our culture being formed is around respect for time. I attribute this to my partner David who is remarkably punctual.  Being on time isn’t industry standard in venture (probably an understatement). I think every entrepreneur will attest to stories of VC’s showing up 30 minutes late, cancelling major meetings at the last minute, etc.  I’m certainly guilty of this.  But working with David has made me better, not great yet, but certainly better.  Surprisingly, this change has actually come pretty easy, almost naturally, because it’s getting ingrained into the culture of our firm.  

Many thanks for Eric Dobkin for helping us remember how important this is, and how lucky we are to be able to craft this during the early days of NextView. Also to Jo and Eric at Kepha who gave the same advice and put there mission and operating principles front and center. 

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