Startup Hacks: Build Culture from the Inside Out

Everybody talks about the importance of building a user base for your startup.  Does anybody really know how?

I’ve written and spoken about the importance of creating a culture for your startup if you want it to succeed. Culture is the seed from which your user base will grow. People sign on to things because of the culture they represent, not because of price, ‘pain points’ or UX. Culture is at the root of all of that.

So, where is all that culture supposed to come from? From the inside. From you, your cohorts and company co-founders.

Let’s dig into that. Companies, startups, brands – they are all judged by what they do, not what they say. Andy Spade of Partners & Spade, talked about this. When viewed from inside a company, Hugh MacLeod calls this type of thinking ‘culture shifting.’ MacLeod dials it down to this thought: The Future of Advertising is Internal.

Let’s dig into that, too. Your job, whether you know it or not, is to be Chief Storyteller of your startup. Your job, as a leader, founder, or CEO is to convey the meaning of your venture to users, future users and investors. With a good slide deck, friendly UX, and enthusiasm, you can go far. Much more difficult, however, is selling internally – to your team, your employees, your coders, your marketers. They, too, have to carry your mission forward, and do it willingly, not just because you’re paying them or giving them a t-shirt with your logo on it. It’s deeper than that. They have to share your vision and help get it out into the world. They have to help you become remarkable.


Simon Sinek has written a book called ‘Start With Why.’  Your WHY is a great place to start on the road to becoming remarkable.  Consider what I call your WHY Chromosome. This requires doing some deep thinking about WHY you do what you do. Start with just four questions:

  • Why are you starting this work? What are your true motivations?
  • Who will benefit from what you are creating?
  • Is there a greater good to what you’re doing?
  • Are you part of a larger social movement or do you have to create one?

Startups work only if they create a culture around themselves, from the inside out, and that culture has to benefit other people, and connect with a greater good if it is to be remarkable. If you can express those answers honestly with yourself, and share them with other people, guess what? You’re on the road to culture building.