5 tech companies share exactly what makes their cultures so unique

by Joyce Famakinwa
June 21, 2018

Founders and CEOs are fond of saying that culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Why? Because startups and tech companies pride themselves on disrupting the old guard — and that all starts with fostering an inclusive and innovative culture. We asked five LA-based tech companies what makes their culture special. From elaborate happy hour outings to flexible work hours, here’s what they said makes their company culture stand out:

 

KEYPR team
photo via keypr

KEYPR provides a cloud-based management platform for the hospitality industry. According to Megan Pope, the company’s vice president of marketing and customer success, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is a cornerstone of the culture at KEYPR.

 

How would you describe your company culture? What do you think makes it unique?

At KEYPR, we pride ourselves on creating a collaborative environment. We have an open workspace and blend teams so that no one is working in a silo. We have a nurturing culture filled with experienced tech leaders from companies like Facebook, Sony and Namco, just to name a few. This proximity to greatness allows our younger talent to quickly learn from some very insightful tech veterans.

Work-life balance is a vital part of KEYPR culture. We work very hard, but we make it a point to ensure there is always a balance and that everyone feels free to prioritize accordingly.

Work-life balance is a vital part of KEYPR culture. We work very hard, but we make it a point to ensure there is always a balance and that everyone feels free to prioritize accordingly.”

 

How does the company reinforce or nurture this type of culture, and what impact has this had on the business as a whole?

We get together for happy hour, and they start at 4:30 pm so that all those who choose to attend don’t feel pressured to rush home.

We are careful not to schedule unnecessary meetings. We often take the time to review special projects across departments to celebrate wins and the work of colleagues.
 


What initiatives, formal or informal, help keep your culture intact?

Meetings geared around innovation. Happy hours stimulate interactions with colleagues that don’t always work together to learn about one another on a more personal level in a more relaxed environment. It is strongly encouraged for new employees to have a weekend stay at one of our multiple affiliate properties; this allows each employee to see our products working in the real world, and oftentimes sparks new ideas on improving our products for our growing client base.

 

Hallmark Labs team
photo via hallmark labs

Hallmark Labs is the tech hub of Hallmark Cards and the driving force behind services like Hallmark Movies and Hallmark eCards. As a company, Hallmark helps us celebrate those special moments in life — so, naturally, celebrating their employees is a major part of Hallmark Labs’ culture. Talent Acquisition and Retention Manager Gareth Linnard told us more about how they build a caring office culture.

 

How would you describe your company culture? What do you think makes it unique?

We keep it very down to earth here at Hallmark Labs; we know how to balance our work and our personal lives. And we certainly take time to celebrate our employees: we are in the celebrations business, after all. Our ability to step back once in a while to value our shared experiences makes us unique.

We keep it very down to earth here at Hallmark Labs; we know how to balance our work and our personal lives. And we certainly take time to celebrate our employees: we are in the celebrations business, after all.”

How does the company reinforce or nurture this type of culture, and what impact has this had on the business as a whole?

We have a flexible PTO policy and flexible work hours in general, which means our employees can attend to their personal commitments without the sense that they're missing opportunities at work. This has resulted in a highly dedicated, well-rounded team of Labsters who we're proud to call our own. When people have space to live their lives, they accomplish much more during their working hours than they might otherwise.

We also recognize our people on their birthdays, work anniversaries and other milestones. We do this with Hallmark cards and grassroots events organized by the team themselves. The level of support and enthusiasm people bring to these celebrations is truly incredible.

 

What initiatives, either formal or informal, help keep your culture intact?

Our administrative and HR teams go above and beyond to plan company activities: everyday things such as catered lunches, frozen yogurt and peer nomination programs, as well as bigger things, like Dodger Games, our annual Beach Day and volunteer events. I think participating in these activities together helps us remember what it means to connect with others, which is important in the Greetings business. Expressing our company mission in our day-to-day work life helps us commit to our customers and to work better together.

 

Gem team
photo via gem

Gem is a blockchain startup that has an all-in-one cryptocurrency platform to track and manage digital assets and connect you to the new decentralized economy. Madeline Mann, the company’s director of people operations, explained why people who are intellectually curious fit right in at Gem.

 

How would you describe your company culture? What do you think makes it unique?

Our company values are the backbone for everything we do. One of our values is “empower others.” Our most recent quarterly survey showed that 100 percent of employees agree that they feel their opinions are heard at Gem. Another value is “destroy your masterpiece,” which embodies that we are dedicated to doing our best work, but we put our egos aside when we need to switch gears and better solutions emerge.

Something unique to Gem is that we are rabid cryptocurrency enthusiasts. Outsiders are astounded that we are able to put together a team of such passionate cryptocurrency investors. Our secret is that we actually don't hire crypto enthusiasts. We hire people who fit our cultural value “seek knowledge,” because we have found that anyone with a high level of intellectual curiosity in this environment will quickly fall down the blockchain rabbit hole.

We hire people who fit our cultural value ‘seek knowledge,’ because we have found that anyone with a high level of intellectual curiosity in this environment will quickly fall down the blockchain rabbit hole.”

How does the company reinforce or nurture this type of culture, and what impact has this had on the business as a whole?

It starts with the onboarding process, where every new hire goes through a “culture orientation” which details why we chose those values, why we run meetings a certain way, why we prioritize unstructured one-on-ones, and why we provide feedback the way we do. This gives us all a baseline of communication, since every company views these topics differently. All of these cultural decisions were intentional and were born out of informal and formal feedback loops and then rolled out over weeks as facilitations. The business impact of a well-understood culture has been strong internal communication, improved hiring decisions around culture fit and an ingrained sense of humor that stems from fostering moments of pure silliness to keep ourselves spirited.

 

What initiatives, formal or informal, help keep your culture intact?

The backbone of our culture initiatives is our weekly all-hands meeting, “Gem sesh.” This is an employee-centric meeting where we visit the goals of the company, celebrate wins and tackle some of our biggest cultural initiatives. We keep our culture in check through our quarterly pulse surveys, annual reviews and reoccurring “walk and talks” for frequent and unstructured feedback.

 

Ace Metrix
photo via ace metrix

Ace Metrix provides data-based insights for marketers and creative departments, helping their customers test new campaigns in real time. Ace Metrix CTO and CPO, William Parducci described the company’s transition from traditional review based measurements to a more community based solution.

 

How would you describe your company culture? What do you think makes it unique?

We live by the mantra “make it, make it better” as our guiding principle. We are not afraid to release product that we know has the potential to be great someday, but can add value today. This translates to a “sell what you make, make what you sell” cycle with our sales and CS teams. We also take the concept of a meritocracy of ideas seriously.

We subscribe to agile ideals but are not bound to the hard and fast rules of any given variant. Our team-based approach provides the opportunity for each group to work at a release pace it is comfortable with.”


How does the company reinforce or nurture this type of culture, and what impact has this had on the business as a whole?

Our company culture is very informal and decentralized. The engineering, product and R&D departments are divided into small groups, each with a team lead. We subscribe to agile ideals but are not bound to the hard and fast rules of any given variant. Our team-based approach provides the opportunity for each group to work at a release pace it is comfortable with. Also, because these teams revolve around tiers in our application stack or specific roles within the organization, each is able to evaluate and adopt the tools and technologies that best suit its subculture.

 

What initiatives, formal or informal, help keep your culture intact?

We have moved away from traditional review-based measurements to a more “community based” solution that we call a “MURCS” (SCRUM backwards). Instead of having team members get up and tell others what they are going to do that day, they get in front of the teams and tell everyone what they did. We generally do this monthly so people have time to talk about non-trivial accomplishments that are open to review and discussion by their peers. A side benefit of this approach is that it gives everyone a heads up on what the “other guys” are working on, as well as time to discuss common issues.


 

Bridg team
photo via bridg

Bridg uses AI and big data to help retailers and restaurants identify their customers. According to the company, creating a sense of community — and maintaining strong avenues of communication — are integral elements of the company's culture.

 

Our particular approach helps to create an environment where employees feel valued, involved and above all, empowered to create products that wow our clients."

How would you describe your company culture? What do you think makes it unique?

Bridg’s company culture centers around our enthusiasm to create great work that we are proud of. We’re all about communication, collaboration and inclusion. From our weekly all-hands meeting discussing all the moving parts of Bridg, to our Bridg builders committee where we gather a member from every department to create and coordinate our office events, we aim to reinforce a sense of community and communication in everything we do. Our particular approach helps to create an environment where employees feel valued, involved and above all, empowered to create products that wow our clients.

 

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