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Working at inDinero: Culture and Purpose From the Start

Posted by Jessica Mah to Inside inDinero

From the start, working at inDinero has been all about the culture, having fun and great people. (Pink bike under a sign that says work.)
inDinero is a relatively new company—we've been a corporation for a little over a year, full-time for only a few weeks, yet we've put a lot of thought into what we stand for as a company. Since deciding to work at inDinero as our full-time jobs, many people have suggested we shoot for early acquisitions or even that we build out the ultimate Quickbooks replacement, without putting much thought into what we wanted to do with the company. I actually found it pretty shocking that friends and classmates would suggest flipping the company as quickly as possible for a few million dollars, and that they would find it shocking that a quick flip wasn't something that interested us.

inDinero: Hard Work, Serious Fun

Andy and I have put a lot of thought into why we're doing inDinero and what we stand for. We know precisely why we're building our company, and every decision we make is aligned with the key motivator for why we're working at inDinero: we want to have fun.
Sounds pretty cheesy, but if you think about it, what keeps you going during times good and bad? The common answer is "the prospect of finding success.: Or unfiltered, "the prospect of becoming a millionaire."
The problem with that type of thinking is that, during gloomy times, you might consider a quick pivot into a completely different business idea. Or some friends I know would just leave entrepreneurship and go into a banking job that's guaranteed to make them rich. But fir everyone working here at inDinero (all four of us), we're purely in it for the fun and joy of building a great product. And as long as all of our big "strategical decisions" are aligned with the purpose of optimizing for fun, we know we can't fail. People frequently ask me why I'd want to go into the accounting space. Quick answer is that we're not - we'll always stop short of doing formal accounting, simply because I don't think it's fun. And we won't build comprehensive tax-management features either, because I don't think it's fun. If the company doesn't make as much money as a result, it's okay, because we're fulfilling our core purpose as a company. And that's to have fun.
I probably feel more insane about my company than most entrepreneurs - in fact, I know that I'm 99% more fanatical about inDinero for reasons I'm having trouble describing. I had the stark realization that as long as I continue to build inDinero, everyone in the company is going to have fun, which by obvious logic means that we'll obviously be a successful company. And the true beauty behind that statement is that we've already achieved great success by merely having fun. So in order to be successful, we just need to stay in business and manage to continue this trajectory for the next 60 or 70 years of our lives. Having massive amounts of fun while building a company also needs to be rationalized.
What comprises fun?
  1. People
  2. Product
  3. Vision

Having fun while working to build a product is relatively easy—just don't build features that you find useless, and don't build complex accounting features just because people want them. Frequently, there are simpler ways to solve the same problem. I'll describe "vision" further in a future blog post, but I don't think that's immediately important for having fun working for a company like inDinero.

Which leaves "people" as the most important factor to consider. Among my entrepreneurial classmates at Berkeley and friends in the YCombinator program, I've found that a lot of them have trouble recruiting talent. Finding technical expertise is often considered the most difficult part, with less consideration being placed on culture fit. With inDinero, we quickly brought on two early members, Chris and Borden. The main reason for bringing on more coders so early in the life of the company was primarily because we didn't know how long it'd be before we could find other incredible computer scientists who we would consider family. Consider this thought: you met the woman of your dreams, and she wants to get married soon. If you don't propose now, she's definitely going to leave you. Even if you're not entirely ready to get married, it makes obvious sense that you should marry her. Andy and I made a similar decision for bringing on Chris and Borden - simply put, we wanted them to be family, and if we didn't do it now, we probably never would.

Work Culture at inDinero

inDinero is actually like a family. We cook and clean for each other, treat each other like playful siblings, work as hard as you'd expect from a group of Asian immigrants, and it works out incredibly well. The interesting thing is that many software companies have cultures equally as unique. I've seen other early startups with cultures that resembles that of a fraternity, class project team, united nations delegation, or for the unfortunate business-people-only teams, a Fortune-500 company. All startups pride themselves on having a "hip" culture, but the interpersonal dynamics are vastly different from startup to startup. Some people say that your culture is solidified from the first people you hire, but from personal observation, it's usually based on the relationship between the original cofounders. For example, my co-founder Andy is practically family to me, and therefore, our company has been shaped around the idea of being a very cohesive family.

inDinero Employees = Family

While I run the risk of one day contradicting myself, I think it's important to give some tangible examples of what this means going forward: Anyone we involve in the company will feel like family. This includes employees, and even investors and board members. If I wouldn't adopt them into my family (and if the rest of my family wouldn't either), it's a no go. This is consistent with our company's purpose of existence, because we'll continue to have massive amounts of fun as long as there's nobody here to crash the party. Based on these thoughts, we've been able to narrow our hiring process down to a single question: do we trust them enough to adopt them into our family? Is it too early for a technically three-week-old startup to be thinking about these kinds of things? Perhaps, but it didn't take us long to come to the conclusion that we were in this for the fun.

And it won't take others to realize that they're in it for the money, the excitement, escape, or challenge. As your company grows, continue to be mindful of the original reasons for why you decided to go into business. That way, you'll somehow find certain success.

Download Jess' manifest to see how inDinero has grown!
Download The Entreocracy Manifesto by Jessica Mah, CEO of inDinero

About the author
“Jessica

Jessica Mah

As Product Architect and CEO, Jessica loves helping entrepreneurs run better businesses. She studied Computer Science at U.C. Berkeley and has been running businesses since she was 13. Jessica has been featured on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 and Inc’s 30 Under 30 lists.


Disclaimer: The inDinero blog provides general information about tax, accounting, and business-related topics. It is not intended to provide professional advice. Read more in our Terms of Use.

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