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James Jeffries

Lessons from out West: Building Entrepreneurial Culture

Show it. Don’t say it.

That is a tricky bit of advice given to any aspiring writer—tricky, first, because it’s spoken and, second, because you can’t take it literally and still be a writer. It’s a metaphor. And it is a metaphor borne out in the cultures of some of the most entrepreneurial companies in the San Francisco Bay area. They show it, even when they say it. Often they don’t have to say a thing.

Show it. That was our mission when my boss and I took a troupe of twelve aspiring entrepreneurs, designers, techies, and businessmen from Wabash College to the Bay. Four of our students will blog about the experience for Verge in the coming days. We came back bearing gifts—lessons from out west—and with some luck and skill, we’ll show you what we saw.

empower-entrepreneurship

This is the first thing you see when you enter Indiegogo’s offices on Mission Street in San Francisco. The imprint of this imperative was palpable as we spoke with our new friends at the crowdfunding company. They empower entrepreneurs, artists, and anyone with a vision to act on their ideas. They empower their employees to play leading—frankly exciting—roles with their customers through gold standard customer service.

The way this plays out can be subtle. Did you know that an Indiegogo campaign can put invaluable market research as it primary focus, and provides excellent back-end analytical tools? Did you know that a real human being will patiently work with you to design your best campaign? Indiegogo is a place filled with enthusiasm for what happens when you link power to possibility.

I have heard chatter about measuring culture. Whatever merit this management tactic has, it can only apply to the extent that you can also measure how much a house is a home.

We asked our students to prepare startup ideas to pitch during our visit to Indiegogo. Given the constraints on the exercise, the pitches were only quarter-baked. But our host came instantly alive to the ideas, ready to develop, assess, and campaign for them. I don’t know what you would measure to quantify her efforts, but it was clear this was her house, and she was at home.

That’s not all. Throughout our visits to places like Google, Twitter, Red Rock Coffeehouse, and Wikimedia, we constantly found houses made into homes. Employees live in their native settings, ready to add value and act on their strengths in ways that amplify the vision they all share.

So let’s start with two lessons: show it, don’t say it; and make your house a home. But I would caution against taking these lessons too literally.

About James Jeffries

James Jeffries is Assistant Director of the Schroeder Center for Career Development at Wabash College. He helps lead entrepreneurial programming at Wabash, teaches some philosophy, and is an entrepreneur himself.

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