In Chapter 6 of 17 in his 2011 Capture Your Flag interview, Internet entrepreneur and SimpleGeo CTO Joe Stump shares how management continues to challenge him as his company quickly grows. In his 2009 Capture Your Flag interview, Stump noted how general management challenged him as he started his business. In this 2011 interview, after securing multiple rounds of financing and building a larger team, Stump finds new levels of challenges across hiring, company structure, and culture building. Stump is the co-founder and CTO at SimpleGeo (www.simplegeo.com), 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 been most challenging about growing and starting this business?
Joe Stump: Oh, it has to be management, by far and away. The team grows really, really quickly and unlike I think a normal person that is a manager at a normal company, the company is always established, you get high engrained into the culture probably because you fit into it, where as in a startup, we went from zero to fifty employees in about three months. And so not only, you know in that other scenario there are two structures in place already as well so in a startup you have to define the structure, you have to hire the people, set the cultural tone and all of that stuff and that all needs to happen literally in days.
Like, so you pay more attention, like at SimpleGeo we establish what we call a cultural creed, which is like ten rules that we as employees agree to live by, we all participated in creating that, and then once you have fifteen employees you have to do things like establish PTO policies, and like follow them and once you hit twenty five you have to do sexual harassment training and the list just goes on and on, but I would say my biggest struggle has been setting up the team, setting up the structure, establishing culture and then essentially kind of, once you’ve done that getting them all pointed in the same direction and on board with the same vision, has… it’s something we struggle with even today.
We’re constantly getting better but we still have people in my one on ones that are “I really don’t, where are we going with all of this?” and it’s like, “Ok well clearly all of the things I’ve done to satisfy that question for everybody else aren’t working for you, let’s talk through it,” so yeah, it’s a constant struggle.