Joe Stump on How Intrinsic Motivation Shapes Startup Success

In Chapter 7 of 17 in his 2011 Capture Your Flag interview, Internet entrepreneur and SimpleGeo CTO Joe Stump shares why startup leaders tend to be intrinsically and not extrinsically motivated. He notes the challenge creating, running, and sustaining a business without intrinsically motivated leadership. Stump uses Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg as an example, noting his style was about solving a problem - i.e "scratching an itch" - and not making money. When Zuckerberg did become financially focused, Stump still believes it was about company and vision control and not reward driven behavior. Stump is the co-founder and CTO at SimpleGeo (, a San Francisco-based mobile location infrastructure services company. Previously Stump was Lead Architect at Digg. He programs in PHP, Python, Django and enjoys scaling websites. He earned a BBA in Computer Information Systems from Eastern Michigan University.


Erik Michielsen: What has your entrepreneurial journey taught you about intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation?

Joe Stump: I think what it’s taught me is that there are fundamentally two types of people. Those that are intrinsically motivated and those that are extrinsically motivated. You can’t viably create, run and sustain a business if core, key people are extrinsically motivated.  Because you’re really in a startup – I think really the greatest startups that are in existence and have thrived are the ones where the people scratched an itch and were really very passionate about it and didn’t really pay attention to the dollars and the cents as they were going along.  

The only time I’ve rarely seen entrepreneurs that are intrinsically motivated act in an extrinsic manner is really around control of the company, and that’s driven I think entirely by passion for the product.  So, like the amount of control that Mark Zuckerberg still has at Facebook, I don’t believe that that was because he was fundamentally a money grubbing kind of guy.  I just don’t – I’ve talked with Mark a couple of times and that just doesn’t seem like the type of guy that he is.  I think he did it so he had utter control over the product and the direction of the company as it moved forward.  So, that’s probably the main lesson I’ve taken away from that.