Mission driven: How culture fuels purpose at 5 Seattle tech companies

by Quinten Dol
March 26, 2019

Every company has a mission statement — words painted on a wall that sound nice and express overarching goals for the company. But without concrete action that instills the importance of a mission into everyday interactions and company culture, the words amount to little more than empty slogans and, perhaps, a waste of paint.

All businesses have their own method for living their values. To learn more, we spoke with five Seattle-based tech startups where efforts at connecting a company’s culture with the overall mission have been particularly successful.

 

axon seattle tech team
photo via axon

Axon’s hardware and software tools are built to make the lives of law enforcement a little easier. The company changed its name to Axon from TASER International in 2017, having reinvented the eponymous stun gun around the time it was founded in Scottsdale, Arizona back in 1991. The company has since branched into new fields, developing officer body cameras, automated reporting and evidence management solutions to boost the amount of time officers spend in the community rather than filing paperwork.

Vice President of Axon Records Bryan Wheeler said his team is motivated by the desire to contribute to the safety of the many thousands of communities where their law enforcement clients operate.

 

What’s your company’s mission?

Our mission is to protect life. All over the world, we encounter communities dealing with very significant challenges when it comes to public safety. We want to help solve these really hard problems. The company was founded based on an insight that technology can enable law enforcement officers to better protect life and trust in our communities by giving them safer options when confronted with dangerous situations. This passion around protecting life is what drives us. We are committed to pushing the boundaries of technology to help keep communities safe.

Technology is present in every facet of our lives, which gives technologists unprecedented choice in terms of what impact their professional efforts will have on the world.”

 

How does your company culture reflect that mission?

We overwhelmingly attract people who want to make a difference with respect to the really tough problems our communities face. Technology is present in every facet of our lives, which gives technologists unprecedented choice in terms of what impact their professional efforts will have on the world. Many of us at Axon have had those moments at previous companies where we realized we no longer wanted to spend the bulk of our waking hours helping people watch TV or optimizing the click through rates of ads on the internet. It’s highly motivating to be around co-workers who are also inspired by the same mission.

 

hearsay systems seattle tech office
photo via hearsay systems

Hearsay Systems’ predictive analytics software helps businesses in the financial services sector optimize their web presence and marketing efforts. The company’s products include a social media management tool designed specifically for financial advisors and agents, a platform for building mobile-friendly websites, a compliant texting and voice platform — and plenty more. Headquartered in San Francisco, the company has offices across North America, Europe and Asia.

Seattle-based Director of Engineering of Hearsay Social Rafi Ruiz highlighted his team’s emphasis on speed when executing on new ideas.

 

What’s your company’s mission?

Hearsay is a trusted partner to the top financial service companies in the world. We’re dedicated to digital transformation in financial services. To put it a little differently, our mission is to reinvent the advisor/agent-client experience in wealth management, insurance and personal and commercial banking. We supercharge their ability to communicate over social channels, voice, text, email and more. Every day we work to optimize advisor/agent communications by automating actions to prepare for a new era of communication.

Iterating without fear of failure is key to doing things right — and fast.”

 

How does your company culture reflect that mission?

We take great joy in executing quickly. Iterating without fear of failure is key to doing things right — and fast. Hearsay’s culture is one of the most open environments I’ve ever worked at. Anyone can contribute ideas, opinions and concerns on almost any topic to anyone at the company. There is no hierarchy for ideas.

We are encouraged and committed to take smart actions on opportunities — whether it’s coding methodologies, restructuring a customer presentations, anything that helps to have a stronger impact. In our environment, frank and rapid feedback helps everyone learn and get better, and we always keep an eye toward delivering for today and the future.

 

auth0 seattle tech team bellevue office
photo via auth0

Through it’s so-called “Identity-as-a-Service” platform, Auth0 provides seamless authentication and security for tens of millions of logins each day. Developers can automate device set up, enterprise integration, API security, user management and more — so they can instead devote time and energy to efforts that will actually create results for the business.

With more than half of Auth0’s 450 employees working remotely, VP of People Melinda Starbird and Director of Culture Clayton Moulynox have to get creative in developing and fostering a strong company culture.

 

What’s your company’s mission?

Starbird: Our company’s mission is to make identity management and authentication simple. In today’s multi-cloud, multi-device, multi-everything environment, managing the identities of consumers, employees, business partners, even machines, is incredibly complex. We help companies in every industry manage this process, and keep users’ information secure.

We’re constantly fostering an environment that supports trying new things, starting stuff and not being afraid to fail and learn — all in the pursuit of moving forward and innovating.”

 

How does your company culture reflect that mission?

Moulynox: Innovation, experimentation and learning are the backbone to our company culture. Just as our mission is to free up developers to innovate, we’re constantly fostering an environment that supports trying new things, starting stuff and not being afraid to fail and learn — all in the pursuit of moving forward and innovating. In some ways, my role as “Director of Culture” — a role that doesn’t exist in most companies — was implemented deliberately as a way to enable us to be innovative around culture.

The tenets of simplicity, power and trust from our mission are also reflected in many ways within our culture: when presenting new ideas, we prefer the simplicity and brevity of a one-pager and quick informed decision over the verbosity and complexity of a thirty slide deck and a week of conversation. Many roles at Auth0 are remote (about half of our staff currently work from somewhere other than our major offices) which has bred strong trust and what I like to describe as a “relationship culture.” It also gives people the power to work in ways that produce their best results.

 

xinova seattle tech startup
photo via xinova

When businesses encounter a problem they can’t solve on their own, they outsource the challenge to Xinova and its global network of over 12,000 researchers, experts and inventors. The company has helped businesses with everything from superfoods to robotic vision, and was named one of Built In Seattle’s 50 Startups to Watch in 2019.

Global Head of Operations Kaj Pedersen and VP of Product Matthew Holloway said their mission to empower innovators and help businesses is a huge motivation at Xinova.

 

What’s your company’s mission?

Changing the world for the better is not just our mission — it’s our business. We are building the world’s first innovation market network to solve challenging and meaningful global problems. By leveraging a unique combination of talent, technology, capital and demand, Xinova identifies industry disruption points and defines strategic problems to unite expertise in bringing new solutions to market.

Establishing trust with our members, customers and investors helps us to contribute ideas, invest in their development and share in their reward.”

 

How does your company culture reflect that mission?

Our cultural values aren’t just ‘on the wall.’ They help us shape our creation process and provide clarity when things get messy. We expect messy — we look for those who are willing to jump into the mess and are willing to clean. Our values allow for a common language to ensure everyone is working on the same mess, in the same direction, to achieve the right result.

We embody those same ideals of trust, autonomy and transparency in our market network to help transform how companies, organizations and individuals innovate. Establishing trust with our members, customers and investors helps us to contribute ideas, invest in their development and share in their reward. We are providing them with the tools they need for collaboration and exploration, empowering them to discover the innovations that will solve global problems.

 

transparent seattle tech
photo via transparent systems

Transparent Systems works with open platforms, distributed cryptographic systems and secure APIs on a mission to revolutionize financial settlements and B2B payments. The company is keeping its cards close to its chest for now, but based on descriptions of their current open roles, they are working at the cutting edge of digital technology in pursuit of their goal to “modernize money.”

Director of Recruiting Karl Augustine said the company’s culture reflects its need to be nimble at this early stage.

 

What’s your company’s mission?

Our mission is to modernize money and improve financial accessibility to serve the public good. We’d like to change how money actually moves.

We believe in the mantra of ‘strong opinions, loosely held.’”

 

How does your company culture reflect that mission?

We are a product-centric group, focused on the customer experience first. We believe in the mantra of “strong opinions, loosely held.” We value long-term integrity and authenticity over short-term gains in conformity — we take everyone’s point of view into account, knowing that we all have positive intent.

We need to be nimble, speedy and thoughtful given our market, and our culture reflects this. We have daily engineering stand-ups, frequent company and strategy meetings and updates, and work together to foster diverse thinking to develop a product that can change the market.

 

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