Building a Team and a Culture at Amperity with Kabir Shahani – Founded and Funded Episode 2

Our second episode of the Founded and Funded podcast features the founder and CEO of Amperity. Amperity works with brands like Starbucks, Alaska Airlines, MGM Resorts, Gap, Planet Fitness, and Brooks Running to help them understand their customers. The company launched in fall of 2017 and from the beginning was purposeful about their company culture. Shannon Anderson, Madrona’s Director of Talent, talks to Kabir Shahani about the process they used to develop their values amongst the founding team and how they have kept it updated over the last two years of growth.

Listen below or on any of your favorite platforms and let us know what you think at [email protected].

Earlier this year, when Amperity moved into a new space, they created a book about their story and that book inspired this podcast (which is not available on Amazon – you have to join the company to get one).

Kabir talks about creating and living a company culture, what he has learned as a manager and CEO about management, and the romance of being a creator and entrepreneur. One of the elements Amperity’s team used to create their initial set of values was a personal philosophy document. Below is the process that Shannon Anderson uses with our new companies who are not looking to spend a lot of time thinking about these big topics.

This should take only 1 hour. If you take longer, you are over-analyzing.

Step 1: Pull together everyone from your founding team for one hour. Set the time. Each person works silently to write down six single word adjectives that reflect your personal values at work (how you personally like to work with your team and your customers, how you like to get things done, and the behaviors you value in working with others). (10 minutes)

Step 2: Each person writes each of their adjectives on a sticky note. Paste all the sticky notes on a common wall. (5 minutes)

Step 3: Step back as a team. Reflect on what you see and then collaborate. Do a values sort, refining all the sticky notes into six categories of adjectives. Invent a new adjective, as needed, to reflect the meaning of the collection. These are your company’s six core values. (10 minutes)

Step 4: For each of the six core values write down the signals and noise. Signals are “what this behavior looks like in action”. Draw these signals from the adjectives in step 3, and from people in your life who model this attribute. Noise is not necessarily the opposite of signals but are sometimes confused with signals. For example, someone who is unwavering, dogmatic, inflexible might be mistaken for passionate and committed. Or, too much of a signal (works hard, simplifies and gets things done) might be noise (works hard, creates complexity or works on the wrong things). Again, pull from the model of real people in your life where you have seen noise that looks like signal. (20 minutes)

Step 5: Thread this language into your everyday meetings, performance reviews, interviews. Hold each other accountable and demand that everyone behaves congruently with these values in good times or they will not serve you when the going gets rough.

Madrona Appoints Veteran Talent Executive, Shannon Anderson, Director of Talent

We are very excited to welcome Shannon to the Madrona team today as Director of Talent. The talent and recruiting role is crucial for startups and Shannon will supercharge Madrona’s recruiting efforts to help our companies find the right people to scale their businesses quickly.
Shannon will lead Madrona’s Talent function in three key areas:

  1. Power Madrona’s talent hub. Identify and develop top leadership talent and rising stars that will fuel Madrona portfolio companies, potential new investments, and enhance the Pacific NW startup ecosystem.
  2. Be a strategic HR business partner to portfolio companies, with a strong focus on bringing best-in-class talent acquisition practices to the portfolio.
  3. Be a Talent Advisor inside Madrona, providing a Talent perspective on the firm’s investments and decision-making.

In Shannon, we feel very fortunate to have found a proverbial “unicorn” given her experience in all of these areas. Very few, if any, other people have Shannon’s set of experiences that are so relevant to Madrona. She has been a hands-on recruiter, both in the “go-go” days of Microsoft and in running her own talent firm. She has recruited for leadership, engineering and business roles. She has been a Talent leader inside a VC firm (Ignition), and thus has experience with how a venture firm works and how to engage with portfolio companies. Most recently, at Recruiting Toolbox, Shannon has been training companies “how to fish” and become world-class at talent identification, acquisition and retention. All this is combined with Shannon’s massive network of friends and contacts made during her years contributing to the Seattle technology ecosystem.

We see how the right people can make or break a company – and when you get those people on board it can change growth trajectories – or conversely, can be too much overhead early in the game. Shannon is adept at not only finding people but understanding how companies grow and when certain roles are needed.

As Director of Talent at Madrona, Shannon and Talent Associate, Matt Witt, will partner with Madrona’s portfolio companies to define, develop and refine their talent roadmaps, create compelling employment branding, great candidate experiences and fully develop their recruiting and selection capabilities.

When Shannon approaches training for HR and recruiting teams at startups and mid-size companies, she focuses not only on teaching hiring managers and executives how to find and attract the best talent – but, equally importantly, she teaches methods that enable the interview and selection process to create a great 2-way fit, ensuring happy and productive employees that stay and grow with the company over time. As a recruiter, Shannon did this herself – which helped to create an 80% retention rate for key roles.

“I’ve been immersed in the greater Seattle ecosystem for many years. We are fortunate to have so much talent here – and a lot of new talent coming to the area,” commented Anderson. “My role is to help companies attract and keep the right Talent; that’s what gets me up and excited every day. Madrona has been a crucial component to the startup culture here for a long time, and I’m excited to be on the team and to get involved with our portfolio companies to create even more value and success for the Seattle region.”

Shannon is also a frequent speaker and entertaining blogger on all topics of recruiting, HR, and talent. You can find some of her work on Medium.

Madrona Expands the Team, Adds Talent Director, Venture Partner and Principal

Veteran Tech Talent Executive Shannon Anderson Joins as Director of Talent, Luis Ceze, a leader in computer systems architecture, machine learning, and DNA data storage joins as Venture Partner; Daniel Li is promoted to Principal

We are so excited to announce today some great additions to the Madrona Team. Each of these people is incredibly talented and will add a significant amount to what we can bring to our portfolio companies and to the greater Seattle ecosystem.

Shannon Anderson is joining us as Director of Talent. We expound on her role here.

Luis Ceze is joining the team as Venture Partner. Luis is an award-winning professor of computer science at the University of Washington, where he joined the faculty in 2007. His research focuses on the intersection of computer architecture, programming languages, molecular biology, and machine learning. At UW, he co-directs the Molecular Information Systems Lab where they are pioneering the technology to store data on synthetic DNA. He also co-directs the Sampa Lab, which focuses on the use of hardware/software co-design and approximate computing techniques for machine learning which enables efficient edge and server-side training and inference. He is a recipient of an NSF CAREER Award, a Sloan Research Fellowship, a Microsoft Research Faculty Fellowship, the IEEE TCCA Young Computer Architect Award and UIUC Distinguished Alumni Award. He is a member of the DARPA ISAT and MEC study groups, and consults for Microsoft.

Luis also has a track record of entrepreneurship. He spent the summer of 2017 with Madrona and has been a vital partner as we have evaluated new ideas and companies for several years. In 2008, Luis co-founded Corensic, a Madrona backed, UW-CSE spin-off company. We are excited to have him on board, continuing and building on Madrona’s long-standing relationship with UW CSE, and working formally with us to identify new companies and work closely with our portfolio companies.

Last but definitely not least, we promoted Daniel Li to Principal. Daniel joined us nearly three years ago and has been an incredible part of the Madrona team. He works tirelessly to not only analyze new markets and develop investment themes that help us envision future companies, but he also dives deeply into his passions. He has built apps that we use internally on a weekly basis at Madrona as well as given a Crypto 101 course to hundreds of people over the past year. He has also proven to be an indispensable partner to entrepreneurs, leading the Madrona investment in fast growing live streaming company, Gawkbox, last year. In addition to digital media and blockchain, Dan has done significant work in investment areas from autonomous vehicles, machine learning, and AR/VR. Dan brings an energy, curiosity and intelligence to everything he does and epitomizes what Madrona looks for in our companies and our team.

We are excited to continue to build the Madrona team to even better help entrepreneurs and further capitalize on the massive opportunity to build world-changing technology companies in the Pacific NW.