The no douchebags culture at MindTouch
- The fact MindTouch raised $12 million certainly got attention. What is less well known is that the company operates a no douchebag policy.
Last week, MindTouch, which provides software that helps improve the customer experience, announced it has raised a modest $12 million. Of itself, that's not exactly earth shattering although the fact the company is profitable and had not raised external cash in its 10 year history is more interesting in my view. Those facts aside, I wanted to hear more about the back story, how this company got to where it is and what's next. Imagine my surprise to learn that part of its success and future lies in operating a "no douchebag" philosophy.
I've known Aaron Fulkerson, MindTouch's CEO for about nine years. We first met at an event in Boston where he was enthusiastically going on about some new software he was building using open source principles. At the time, I had a tough time understanding what he was on about. MindTouch sounded to me like a highly technical wiki style solution. The way Fulkerson spoke about MindTouch the product made it feel unapproachable from the business perspective and there was no question in his mind that the solution was for a technical audience. Even so, Fulkerson and I got on well, and over the years we've had plenty of back and forth around the product. Today, MindTouch is much more easily understood and solves an interesting problem around supporting the customer experience.
What I didn't realize until last week is that about six years ago, Fulkerson and his co-founder thought the business would not survive. In anticipation, they carved out the values around which they wanted to pursue what was left of MindTouch. As we now see, it all turned out well and as of today, the 65-70 person strong business is busting out of its current premises and can name customers like Whirlpool and partners like Salesforce and SAP. I was especially struck by Fulkerson's statement that he doesn't want MindTouch to work with douchebags. That's a big statement and sufficiently important for him to make that a defining principle around which the company lives. The video at the top includes our conversation on this topic but for a longer version that talks to the back story around the company and the inward investment, please check out this video link.
I pointed out to Fulkerson that I am seeing more companies adopt similar value statements that define what they stand for. It's a useful exercise because the form of words sets the tone by which the business operates and sets appropriate expectations among both employees and customers. In short, when a company has clearly defined values, then you know what you're buying into and can hold the business accountable when expectations are out of alignment with reality. That's important in an industry where the prevailing culture would suggest a 'dog eat dog' world where winner takes all.
As part of the video shoot, I said I'd like to get some employees on camera to give their one word description of the company. We had plenty of laughs while some 30 people paraded past the camera lens. What comes across is a sense of enthusiasm and energy for a business where people see themselves as members of a family. What also comes across is the extraordinary level of diversity in the team. Whether that is by accident or design, MindTouch is a fascinating company and certainly one to watch for the future.
Bonus points: MindTouch, One Word
Disclosure: SAP and Salesforce are premier partners at time of writing