"We Win or Lose Together:" RoundPegg's Team-based Approach

September 24, 2013

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Boulder-based RoundPegg develops culture management software that helps companies hire more effectively, measure and monitor their culture, and improve workplace morale. A 2010 TechStars grad, the company recently raised $2.4 million in seed funding.

RoundPegg co-founder and Super Domestique Brent Daily shared some thoughts about the company's past, present and future, common hiring mistakes, the importance of trust, and what company culture really means. (Hint: it's not about furniture or clothes.)
 
Each of the founders have different backgrounds and strengths. How did you all come together to create RoundPegg?
 
It was fortuitous chocolate and peanut butter meetings. I literally ran into Tim [Wolters, co-founder and CEO] at the Boulder Open Coffee Club and we got to talking, and it turned out we were both tackling the same problem. A couple months later I met someone who, when told what I was working on, said, “Oh, I just built a website for someone who does the exact same thing.” Turned out to be Natalie [Baumgartner, co-founder and Chief Psychologist].
 
All three of us were open to meeting new people and the Boulder community provided enough opportunities for that to happen.
 
Your title is “Super Domestique.” What the heck does that mean?
 
In cycling, the Super Domestique is the one on the team who does whatever is necessary to help the team win. That could be fetching water bottles or leading a breakaway. That’s how I see my role. 
 
What have been some of the company’s major milestones and achievements so far?
 
The achievement of which we are most proud is having only one ‘Pegger’ voluntarily leave the team in the last four years. (We give ourselves a little bit of a pass with him because he went to start his own company and continued working with us for nearly a year afterward.) 
 
Our most recent product, EngagePegg, ties culture and employee engagement together for the first time and is a finalist for HR Product of the Year. And obviously, being recognized as a Best Place to Work by the WorldBlu was also a satisfying testament to our software. 
 
RoundPegg recently raised $2.4 million. What do you have planned in terms of growth?
 
The most recent investment is nearly all going toward growing the business. We will be investing heavily in sales and marketing in terms of both headcount and direct spend. 
 
What’s the culture like at RoundPegg? Do you feel extreme pressure to have a really awesome company culture and employees who are a perfect fit?
 
With every hire we make, their fit to our culture is a massive consideration. It’s pressure, but no more so than it should be for any company of our size. 
 
With respect to our culture, we love it. It’s a culture that allows everyone in the company to play to their strengths. We’ve built a team-based approach and everyone who has opted in realizes that we win or lose together. That means that if I have to drop what I’m working on in order to help someone address a more important issue, I do it. The common thread is that we all respect and trust one another, which means we can all focus on the job at hand instead of our interpersonal dynamics.
 
What kinds of hiring mistakes do startups often make? Are they different than the kinds of mistakes made by larger, more established companies?
 
The biggest mistake startups often make is giving a disproportional weight to skills and speed of hire. While there is something to be said for speed when your company has a very brief window of opportunity to create and dominate a market, these companies are the outliers. Most won’t notice whether filling the seat will take an extra few weeks in order to find the right person. In the long run, it’s a price well worth paying. 
 
Larger corporations make these same mistakes but it is easier to hide bad hires when they don’t represent a crooked number in terms of percentage of employees.
 
How did your experience with Techstars affect your success as a company? Would you advise other startups to apply to an accelerator?
 
The Techstars community is a great one and if a startup isn’t looking to bootstrap, it’s a path they should definitely consider. The biggest factor for companies in the early days is keeping the lights on. Having been one of the 11 companies selected from the 700+ who applied is a huge signal that helps cut through the din of other companies chasing the same investment dollars. It changed the conversation with investors. Having the Techstars seal creates a "lean forward" conversation.
 
What other advice do you have for early stage companies that are just starting out? Any good lessons you’ve learned that you’d like to share?
 
We’re biased, but the biggest advice we can give to any company is to think about your culture. First, recognize that it is not created by furniture or clothes, but by how people interact, make decisions and decide rewards.
 
Create a culture plan, just like you do with the financials, and manage toward it as it impacts the effort everyone will apply on behalf of the company. Ultimately, your job is to turn brain waves into dollars, and if everyone is coming to work with those brain waves flowing then half the battle has already been won.
 
What do you like about Boulder as an entrepreneurial community?
 
The Boulder community is fantastically collegial. When riding the ups and downs of startup life it helps having dozens of other companies willing to do whatever they can to help. From a startup and investment standpoint Boulder is an underdog and full of tons of smart, highly competitive people who hate to be told they can’t do something.

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