I think the result of this is that a lot of employees believe it.
I think people generally, want something to believe in.
If you give them something to believe in, and it seems plausible, and especially if its tied to their income, they'll believe it.
And they'll work harder for it.
It worked on me-- that's why I didn't just go back to sleep that night. That's why I stayed on for several months after that, until things became untenable for me. Hell, I was going to stay with the company, I had met the AWS team, had gotten an offer for a position there and was in the process of transferring, and only quit when that transfer was blocked!
In a way, "well run" could mean that you get a lot of work out of your employees, even if they are miserable. I think optimizing for employee happiness can help you, but it isn't necessarily the only way to have high productivity.
- What's my name? (Covering your badge, naturally)
- What am I working on?
- Where am I from?
If the bigwigs can't answer that, I'm sorry, you've moved past actual startup-dom and you're just in la-la land where you just think you are one.
Unfortunately, I only thought of this acid test after leaving a place with 30K employees which had started proclaiming it semi-regularly during their Friday get-togethers.
There're varying degrees of success at this, ranging from "if I squint really hard, I could almost see it" to "Yeah...I don't think so." But I give 'em props for trying, as most companies with 30k employees don't even make the effort.
BTW, I could go all the way up to the VP level within the Search bigwigs and they'd be able to answer this.
Also, if they're public, they're not a startup!
This country really needs a damn visa for technologists, or something.
Anyway, at some point software development became a very popular career choice and so there is an endless supply of warm bodies graduating from colleges each year, all of whom know the Amazon brand and think working there would be really cool.