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How Dave Goldberg Built a Billion-Dollar Business and Still Gets Home By 5:30 PM (firstround.com)
250 points by bberson on Apr 11, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 124 comments



>Corporate culture isn’t your company’s ping-pong table. It’s not your catered lunch. It’s not the posters you tape onto the office walls. A real culture is the cumulative effect of productive relationships among employees. Those relationships can take years to develop. And they don’t always work out.

Probably the best statement on culture I've read recently.


One thing a lot of employers and managers don't realize is that humans aren't cogs. The general model of employment is that you replace a given human in a specific role with another human in the same role, just like replacing cogs. The real world doesn't work that way though. In reality everyone brings a different set of skills and passions to the table. And the way person X does job Y is going to be very much different than the way person Z does job Y. And sometimes this can be significant enough to where you can't actually replace person X with person Z directly. What you're doing is building a machine with parts that are all different, and if you have to replace a key part often times you will need to completely restructure the machine to make it work well again. Meaning, sometimes you might replace one person with several people who do different parts of the job. Or you might replace one person with a new person who now also does the job of current employee person W, who's know redundant.

Teams are complex beasts, and they get more complex the more talented people are in them. Managers need to be very mindful of those complexities when they form or change teams.


This is why managers are so obsessed with process and documentation, because they have a vain hope that they can replace people by just having someone following a process.


No, they want documentation because humans are mortal and selfish. Whether you leave the company by your own free will or in a body bag someone has to pick up the pieces and resume where you left off. Documentation means I can take a vacation and know things at the office will be fine.

If this also means I'm replaceable, so be it.


It's both. No documentation is irresponsible. An over emphasis on 'repeatability' through exhaustive process and product documentation (and strict adherence to said process) is a red flag in my book (in most situations).

To me it either means that the employer is worried about its employees walking (as you suggested), or that the employer wants to minimize the effects of discarding the employee. In the first case, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the latter case you'll achieve what you're after, but not how you planned. Instead you're minimizing the current value and productivity of the employee, meaning that when you fire him/her, the impact will be minimal.

The moral of the story? Limit the scope of your documentation, and place high emphasis on that limited scope. Instead of worrying about how you'll replace someone when they're gone, worry about whether or not you're putting them in an environment where they can perform to the potential of their unique abilities as an individual.

(And don't even get me started on the whole "No documentation is better than bad documentation" thing.)


Exactly, and honestly, this is something that more experienced people will see immediately.

The "culture icons" of the first bubble are actually red-flags in some situations.

There is a balance of providing real perks, while being on a startup budget, and using fake incentives to lure in talent.

The fact is that you will have both long-houred positions and people who will work 8-5 only. Both are valuable employees, and their commitment should be based on their productivity and value - not in how much free/extra time you can get out of them.

As people get older, they have kids and they have out-of-work priorities.

This does not make them less of a person/employee/resource.

If you require your employees to work ~12 hour days - then maybe you should be able to actually pay them for each hour of work.


> If you require your employees to work ~12 hour days - then maybe you should be able to actually pay them for each hour of work.

You are also very likely doing something terribly wrong and your employees aren't being very productive.


I don't have any data to back up this theory, but I believe that the trend towards less recreational benefits is due to an aging engineering talent pool. But until we make this jump as an industry we'll continue to see ping pong tables and ddr machines.

It won't happen quickly but I believe that the median age of engineers will dramatically increase in the next decade. We won't be looking for ping pong tables, we'll be looking for day cares.


It seems like you are implying that current and soon after generations of young folks aren't going to be entering the engineering/software trade in droves. Considering that's where a lot of the well paying, available jobs are currently, it seems like everyone and their sister will be vying to become developers


Sure, the transition isn't happening rapidly, but the agism you see in engineering now, isn't going to last long. You aren't a better engineer when you're younger, so by default the more experts in the field that are older will naturally cause a power shift from 20 somethings to 30 somethings.


Absolutely. I hope more companies take note of this and stop trying to blindly ape what Google/Facebook are doing. Not only does it result in a better environment, but -and arguably this is more important- its what makes you unique


Of course it is much easier to demonstrate and sell free food, ping pong tables, couches, posters, etc.

It's much more difficult to communicate and sell your culture to the people you are wooing. Perhaps we as applicants really need to take the initiative in calibrating ourselves to look for such culture fit. (Having worked at two places now, I now see this as my top priority that I'm willing to trade in 10~20% of compensation for. Hopefully I can act on these words!)


I actually wonder if this means that SF-based startups (or those who are blindly following this 'culture hacks' mentality) are actually worse places to work overall? I wonder if focusing on the quick fixes like free lunch, company trips & ping pong tables ends up outweighing REAL company culture in terms of ROI.


Perhaps, but I think we're missing a crucial point of the article, which is that the culture needs to match the employees. For a startup that wants to hire a bunch of college grads, company trips + ping pong tables + Call of Duty + Friday keg sessions may actually increase productivity. Conversely, for a company trying to hire older, more experienced employees, such perks are considerably less appealing.

I think the general takeaway here is not that X is inherently bad, or Y is inherently good. Rather, it's that you need to know yourself, know the culture you're trying to create, and know the people you're trying to hire, rather than trying to imitate whatever perks happen to be trendy at the moment.


My sense is that non-SF startups can be inclined to ape these "features." Not all of them, of course, but I've certainly seen it in at least a couple of cases. I mean, here we all are reading about them, right? Lots here don't live in SF, but do take their culture cues from whatever information sources they have. "This is the way they do it in the old country."


Have you worked at many non-sf-startup companies? Just because you don't have foosball and catered lunch doesn't mean you're doing squat to build a "culture."


There are a number of people out there who have a very rigid view of what "startup culture" means. I've seen it in first time as well as repeat entrepreneurs. Often they thing hard work, spending free time together, need the perks, everyone will always have the same rah-rah approach.

People have lives, hobbies, different interests. The best companies are those that have a management team that embrace peoples differences, nurture where needed, give space where appropriate, and cultivate a culture where people feel like they are contributing in the way they best can and allowing them paths to grow.


The company was "built" by Ryan Finley, and completely profitable before Dave Goldberg even heard of the company. Survey Monkey was 10 years old before Dave Goldberg was even hired.

Let's not rewrite history here. Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg both go home at 5:30, but neither are even close to founders.

I don't mean to diminish their accomplishments, but "built a billion dollar business" is misleading.


It's a lot easier to go home at 5:30 when someone else is doing the work that gets done after 5:30.


It's a lot easier to have children when you treat young, single, nonparent co-workers like cogs that can work late and do your work.


For what it's worth, this isn't the case at SurveyMonkey.


agree, is Survey Monkey really a worth a billion plus dollars?


Yes, it is. They do $100M in revenue, and it all pretty much flows to the bottom line. They have less than 200 employees and no matter what you assume for compensation, they are tremendously profitable.


I remember being on a mailing list [evolt] with Ryan when Survey Monkey was still very young. It's incredible to think that something I considered "Some guy's little survey side-project" is a $1b gorilla now. Kinda jealous, TBH!


To me, its an astonishing achievement. People, we are talking here about a simple two-pages PHP script that stores information from users input into database. Something a junior programmer can knock off in less than 4 hours, easily. Why on earth somebody, anybody, would paid monthly a hard dollar for that, no idea! Their exec team should go sell sand on African deserts; they would came back trilionaires.


I've never used Surveymonkey nor do I have any affiliation with them but this is such a crass and insulting comment.

Pretty much every web app is a "take input and stick it into a database".

Could a rough prototype of a survey system be made in 4 hours? Possibly, but to state that the entire app could be built in 4 hours by a "junior programmer" and claim their executive team is selling BS is offensive and asinine.


Every time I've worked anywhere, no matter how simple the problem domain seemed, it always turned out to be far more complicated than I thought at first. Eventually you'll learn that too.


The company I work for makes good money from several clients who came to us in desperation after a junior programmer knocked out a "simple two-pages PHP script that stores information from users input into a database" that were not in any way fit for purpose.

In one case we quoted for a job, were told someone else offered to do it for half the amount, and had the client come to us 6 months later and beg us to redo it from scratch.

Underestimating complexity is extremely easy.

E.g. your "two pages PHP script" that can be done in four hours is not going to be account for hosting it, for templates for various design needs, for proper analytics afterwards. If you have to spend 4 hours every time recreating it, and then additional time afterwards for analytics, that very quickly becomes worth paying for.


Four hours, huh? And here they've wasted 14 years working on it. They must be some kind of dumb.


They just did a financing that put them at something like $1.3B - and not a typical VC round of monopoly money - they borrowed money to swap out investors and buy out employees - sort of an exit, but not really. A home run by any standard.


>"How Dave Goldberg Built a Billion-Dollar Business and Still Gets Home By 5:30 PM"

The title is completely misleading.

A. It implies that Dave Goldberg is a founder of SurveyMonkey and built the company from the ground up. He didn't.

To quote the company website [1]:

    In 2009, an investor group led by Spectrum Equity
    Investors acquired the Company and appointed Dave
    Goldberg CEO. 
B. Furthermore, SurveyMonkey has been around since 1999 [2] when Goldberg has only joined in the last few recent years.

C. Lastly, SurveyMonkey is not a "Billian-Dollar" business, as the video states in OP link, they did $113M last year in revenue (which is greatly respectable) but a far cry from $1B.

[1] http://www.surveymonkey.com/mp/aboutus/press/surveymonkey-ra... [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SurveyMonkey


SurveyMonkey has a $1Bn+ valuation. It's not the case that every description of a company as an "X billion dollar business" is referring to top-line revenue. To see why, just observe that no company with a working business model is ever sold for 1x forward revenue.

It's also worth noting that as fuzzy as valuation numbers often are, SurveyMonkey is currently doing the "providing liquidity to equityholders without doing an IPO" dance. They are well past the point where they could be getting their valuation from a publicly traded market cap. They're very probably worth what they say they are.


They have $350 million in debt alone. $1B+ seems entirely reasonable for the whole company.


You can go past getting your team home for dinner if you actively work on having a family-friendly culture.

The best company culture I ever worked in was the early startup days at EnterAct, the Chicago ISP I ran technical operations for. Instead of an office, EnterAct bought a large apartment on the north side of Chicago (for a time, one of the founders had a room in it, but it was mostly occupied by the company). The founders were married and routinely (like, weekly) had friends/family over for dinner.

If you have a reasonably small team (like virtually every startup does) and you acknowledge that many on your team have families, you can put effort into integrating families into the company. Create times when it makes sense to have people's kids in the office. Make dinners. Take little trips. Pay for real health insurance (I KID I KID).

How weird is it that it's less odd to see someone's dog next to their Ikea desk than it is to see their 4 year old?


My issue with this is that people should not be working to create cultures where they never leave the office.

There is work - and there is life. Your work can be fun, fulfilling, challenging. But there should also be things you do which define you outside of the workplace.

I definitely wouldn't want to be in a family where my life revolved around my parents' work.

My life is based on my family, then work. I love what I do. But I love my family more.

And, as a family man, I don't want people bringing their dogs OR their children to work. If I had to choose, I'd put up with kids before pets.


So, I appreciate this perspective and think it's valid. But the counterpoint to "work/life balance" in these discussions always seems to be "we'll figure out work/life balance after we figure out traction for our company". That's a false dichotomy, is my point. If you're going to engage a small team of people in an endeavor that is going to demand some of their evenings or even weekends, you can still do that in a way that doesn't alienate them from their family life.

It's also helpful for the founding team to keep in mind that employees are human beings with human needs, and not Gravatars with particular Github histories.


Agreed. I've worked many days of long hours, and like many of those with a creative/programmer/entrepreneurial bent, my work and drive consumes me, far beyond 8-5. But the reality is that work and projects come and go - I can, and will, always make more - but my family will not come and go and the rewards of a lifetime of shared history and experiences are truly impossible to build without years of serious commitment.

As I look around today, I'm not working on what I was working on five years ago. I'm not working on what I was ten years ago.

But my family is the same family. My daughter is barreling towards college and my wife and I have a few more grey hairs, but we're all still here. Most projects have been completed, faded into digital dust in my mind and I've kept on going. But my family and the life I built outside of those projects is constant.

I know this only comes as the wisdom of age, but every time I hear about startup culture I snicker. Because in reality I pound out work. A lot of work. A TON of work. I take pride in the fact that I smoke young kids and their recently acquired ruby skills or whatever they have.

And I get home by 5:30 on most days, too.


>> How weird is it that it's less odd to see someone's dog next to their Ikea desk than it is to see their 4 year old?

I would find either of those things in a business odd. Maybe I don't understand because I'm a young guy but I don't see how integrating your employees family's into business life is helpful. I've never found the mixing of business and personal relationships to have any positive effects.

Could you give a couple of examples of how a business which incorporates employees family's is beneficial?


Older guy with children here. To me having a 4 year old, even well behaved, in the office is disruptive - period. Maybe occasionally is fine and a treat for everyone but I simply can't see how doing that on any regular basis makes any sense at all. And no comparison to a pet who, while needing walking and might bark occasionally, or get attention from co workers, can sit for hours and do nothing and not make any demands. Not that I haven't seen children of the owners of sushi or chinese restaurants sitting doing their homework while the parents work.


I think it's worth considering how the physical structure of the office and how the structure of people's working time at the office makes children more disruptive than pets.

I'm not a fan of dogs in the office during the day to begin with. Maybe it doesn't make sense to have kids coming in after school, either. But if you're regularly going to have people working into the evening out of a sense of shared endeavor, integrating kids into that (maybe they can do their homework, or play video games in the corner, or just eat a shared meal there) doesn't seem crazy.

I concede that you have to plan this out in advance; you can't just take an already-running open plan office in San Mateo and say "bring your 4 year old to work any time" and have that work out.


Do you have kids?

Having a 4-year-old in the office all day while people are working is negligent child care, except in cases of temporary emergency.

Dogs can nap on the floor for 8 hours and be happy and not bother anyone.


Allow me to blow your mind: I have both kids (plural) and a dog (singular). If the point you haphazardly tried to make here was "it's impossible to care for a preschooler in a knowledge worker environment", I'm just going to say you're wrong.


Sorry man. I want to agree with you - I really do. But I cannot envision myself both focusing on work and caring for a preschooler effectively. I might be able to do one well, but the other will necessarily suffer. Humans cannot multi-task, period, and research very clearly shows that switching tasks and contexts on a regular basis hurts productivity significantly.

I think the idea of work-life separation exists for a reason. You cannot have your cake and eat it too.


I'm not saying it works for every office, I'm not saying it has to work round the clock, and I'm not saying it's appropriate for every age. No office culture could have handled my daughter 10 years ago.


Every day, sure. But I've got a four year old, and when he gets busy with something (youtube lego videos...) he can be occupied for a long time without much need for constant attention.

But understood the original premise more along the line that if the office is geared for it you can integrate work and life in other ways, such as eating a family meal at the office now and again, so you maximize the time you can spend with family even when you need to work late - not using the office as permanent every day daycare.


I've worked in open-plan environments that made it a lot harder to focus than when I had to babysit my niece. You just give the kid some crayons, an iPad of Dora videos, and some fruit roll-ups and they are occupied for the afternoon. In contrast, there is little one can do to make an office busybody leave you alone, for even a couple hours.


    > You just give the kid some crayons, an iPad of Dora videos
    > and some fruit roll-ups and they are occupied for the afternoon.
Swap the Dora videos for Game of Thrones, and I'd be set for an afternoon there, too.


There's an awful-lot of absolutism here for such a short comment.

Funny the number of parents I know who have done exactly what you're claiming impossible.


What's really happening is that the thread is succumbing to nerdism; I made a statement that was too easily generalized, and then other people poked holes in the generalization.


i worked at home and cared for a four year old. it sucked. in fact, i avoided it as much as possible. didn't work for me, but it might work for some.


To be clear: I'm not suggesting that it's easy to keep your 4 year old in the office all the time.


I work in an office where people have had both kids and dogs in the office, on rare occasion.

I was always surprised by the kids, because they were really quiet. My own kids are very noisy and would not belong in an office, but these kids were sticking around for an hour or two between one event and another, completely unnoticed by me until I saw them. It's no skin at all off my nose and benefits my coworker in some way, so more power to him.


It's not bad if you actually have an office. It doesn't work out in an open office plan or cube farm.


For a lot of startups, this idea of not mixing business with employee personal lives tacitly does mix them up, but does so by co-opting time and energy from employee personal lives.


>Could you give a couple of examples of how a business which incorporates employees family's is beneficial?

For one, it's more humane. Family businesses, and businesses with close relations, have worked for centuries in other fields.

So why not in software/tech?

Of course if "making it big by any means" it's what motivates you, then don't do it. The family/close business is more like the highly successful restaurant that refuses to even become a chain.


Saying that 80 hours weeks are what it takes to become the next Google is like saying being an asshole is what it takes to be the next Steve Jobs.


I had lunch with a friend at Google and noticed that quite a few Googlers had their families coming in to have lunch with them. It seemed nice that people got to see their families in the middle of the day for an extra meal. I think that's one example where it was actually quite a nice way of balancing out the work day. That's one example, although I mostly share your view. I don't imagine that deep intertwining of work and personal life is necessarily a good thing.


So my first job after high school was a start-up where the founder had three kids, ranging from about 5 to 12. He worked pretty much all the time, but on the weekends he'd come in wearing flip flops with one kid or another who would sit quietly playing for a few hours before mom came to take them home. Nobody ever complained nor were they anywhere close to the biggest distraction in the office.

I remember him once telling me to properly install the IEC receptacle in some equipment I was building, because "(5 y/o) is going to be helping me plug and unplug stuff when we do field tests."


Dogs are orders of magnitude better behaved than four year olds.


The reason that Dave Goldberg can get home at 5:30pm is most likely because of this which comes at the beginning:

"SurveyMonkey is an atypical technology company. They’ve been profitable from almost day one."

If you've got a company that clicks from the beginning there are many things that you can do that won't follow a typical path. Most companies aren't profitable from day one. They need every advantage they can get. And you do need to work long hours. (Noting where Mark Cuban didn't take a vacation for 7 years and guess what I didn't take one for about 6 years iirc.) This isn't to say that you can't carve out time for family (you may be able to and it may give you better results it's possibl) but the reason you are successful has to do with many things that are beyond your control.

Goldberg could build Survey Monkey differently because he was on to something that clicked and, apparently that was highly profitable as well. A rising tide floats all boats.


Yes, but some of that is also about how speculative your ambitions are. Lots of small companies start with relatively conservative models that are designed to "click" almost immediately. That's not a fashionable model among SOMA startups, though.

Which is to say that there are some impediments to feeling much sympathy about the unfairness of it all when people in the SOMA startup orbit talk about how they don't have the luxury to get home for dinner with their kids, because they're metaphorically trying to keep both feet on the gas pedal. Well, they chose to do that; not only that, but statistically, they're probably going to fail like the rest of new businesses. There's no valid imperative that demands that they make that choice.

Mark Cuban's BROADCAST.COM seems like a great example of the "speculatively ambitious" model.


From context I can guess SOMA but what is it more precisely please?


SOMA (South of Market Area of San Francisco -- the South/East of Market Street, formerly a lot of warehouses) underwent a lot of renovation over the last 5 years as many of the new social/mobile tech companies moved in from Silicon Valley proper, in order to attract younger professionals who wanted a more urban setting for their work/personal lives.

It's something that was enabled by the current generation of software/internet/mobile startups that don't require much capital equipment or on premise IT infrastructure. It's difficult to do this running a chip startup, since you need all sorts of prototyping/testing equipment even if you are fabless.


The South of Market area in San Francisco.


Oh ! I was thinking Sell Off, Merger, Acquisition or some other "up or out" ancronym

Thanks


Having been at two SoMa companies (Splunk and PagerDuty), I think you're generalizing a bit here.


That's the risk of using geography as a stand-in for demography. Let's just acknowledge that it's a very leaky equivalence between two classes of companies that both exist.


Not mentioned: Dave Goldberg's wife is Sheryrl Sandberg, who is also known for being home by 5:30.


Not mentioned: Survey Monkey was founded in 1999. Dave Goldberg was hired in 2009.


Definitely relevant, but if she didn't work, it would be easier for him to work late. That they keep this schedule both with jobs that are challenging is really awesome.


Wow...did not know that. That's awesome that they both seem to put family first - in their professional lives.

What's interesting is that FB isn't listed as an investor in their $800M round. I wonder if that would have been a conflict - I can imagine it musta been.

But I wonder how awkward it was for Google to be an investor and not FB.


Do they send all their employees home at 5:30?

Or are they hypocritical?


I'm sure if their employees are told that if they work hard and do good work that the possibility exists.


I'd say 90% of us are out of there by 5:30.


Not sure how I feel about this.

>"It becomes tougher when it’s necessary to fire someone who’s performed well at their job, but isn’t able to grow with the company. For a startup to scale to a successful larger company, the people need to scale, too."

In some cases, such employees might not take seeing a senior employee hired above them well. They might dislike being passed up for a promotion, but lack the maturity to understand why.

Versus...

>'The ancient Greek aphorism “Know thyself” remains good advice for CEOs. Every manager has weaknesses. Identify them, and hire people who can compensate for them.'

Sounds like people who are admittedly good at their job could be fired for taking issue with the hiring of a manager who they're expected to compensate for.

Perhaps I'm reading too much into this, but I'm truly sick of the notion that workers serve their manager, not the other way around.


Perhaps I'm reading too much into this, but I'm truly sick of the notion that workers serve their manager, not the other way around.

In the vast majority of companies in the US, workers generally serve the owner of the business they work for, and the managers are expected to carry out the will of the owner (directly or indirectly).

There are a few counterexamples proving that businesses don't have to follow this model in order to scale, e.g. Valve. But Valve is (a) fanatical about hiring, and (b) rolling in so much money that they won't have to make any tough decisions in the near future, e.g. laying off part of the staff to keep their company afloat (which can destroy the sort of culture necessary to sustain the model you're describing).

In the US, the incentive structure for a modern business penalizes letting average employees make major company decisions. One reason is because average employees often lack the motivation to carry out their vision through completion, or have unrealistic expectations. In other words, most mid-to-large businesses are penalized for trusting employees to do things other than what they're told to do (or received approval to do). It's hard to define that as anything other than servitude.

One way around this state of affairs is to work for a startup. When a company is small, such political scaffolding is unncessary.


> But Valve is (a) fanatical about hiring, and (b) rolling in so much money that they won't have to make any tough decisions in the near future, e.g. laying off part of the staff to keep their company afloat (which can destroy the sort of culture necessary to sustain the model you're describing).

Several out of work as Valve makes 'large decisions' about its future (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5215891)



> When a company is small, such political scaffolding is unncessary.

Politics requires only three people.


It doesn't sound like they care much for their workers. if someone's upset about something that happens within the company, aren't there better ways to resolve it than to just fire them?

There seems to be a bit of a contradiction in this article between the 'hire people who will grow into your culture' and the 'fire anyone who falls out of line with your culture' points being made.


What?! Dave Goldberg did not build SurveyMonkey. He bought it with help from a VC fund. At that time it was grossing something like $28 million with $23 million in profit. They paid about 10x profits. It would take a monkey to fuck that up.


This quote is great: "There are the people who don’t have any experience but are just really smart, talented, and motivated. When you get those people right, they’re your ‘homegrown talent’, if you will. These people are your farm team. These people are, for the most part, the best people who will stay long term at your company. They’re the carriers of the culture. They grew up there. You took a chance on them. They’ve learned how to be in the business."


"There are the people who don’t have any experience but are just really smart, talented, and motivated"

Would like to point out that people like that work well in the current environment with startups and the reward system (and age group as well). In more traditional business, particularly small business, someone who is "smart, talented, and motivated" tends to leave if not given an ownership opportunity in the venture or a path upwards (which may not even exist.). In other words in a traditional small wholesaler or even a small retail chain or manufacturer it can actually be problematic to hire people who have those qualities if you have no place to put them or aren't growing in a way that they can take advantage. Actually better (from my experience) to go with the b players who may be smart, have experience and have less motivation and ambitions.


Maybe it's the inner cynic inside of me, but is it just me or does this article only focus on the fact that CEO Dave Goldberg gets to go home at 5.30pm? This line here kind of gives me the impression that Dave gets to leave at 5.30, but his employees don't: "creating a culture that enables the company's CEO, Dave Goldberg, to leave the office by 5:30 PM" — unless my reading has failed me here, not once does the article mention everyone gets to go home on time.

What is this culture that Dave has created? Is it a culture of everyone else does the work and Dave sits back, or is it a culture of everyone gets to go home at 5.30 regardless of looming deadlines or workload? It's a lot easier to go home at 5.30 when everyone else is doing the work.


he gets home at 5:30 because he gets back online after 8:00

"Goldberg leaves work at 5:30 PM every day to spend time with his family. While he does get back online after he puts his children to bed after 8:00 PM, he sets an example that makes it easier for the company to build and maintain its workforce."


Even if he gets back online after 8:00, his leaving the office premises at 5:30 makes it much much easier for others in the company to leave around the 5:30 time frame as well.

If he didn't do this, many employees would implicitly feel compelled (even if the CEO "says" that everyone should leave at 5:30) to stay much later than 8:00pm.

His behavior is definitely something we can learn from.


the link title implies one can generate a company with a billion dollar valuation while working an 8-9 hour day.

the content of the linked article contradicts that implication directly.

it's a misleading link. that is a bad thing.


That's a good point. Fully agreed that the misdirection is in bad taste.

But I do contend that being able to work 4/12 hours at home versus all 12 hours at work is a substantial improvement for both yourself and for your family (especially if you have young children).


But I do contend that being able to work 4/12 hours at home versus all 12 hours at work is a substantial improvement for both yourself and for your family (especially if you have young children).

I agree. Completely. My employer gives me similar freedoms (assuming something isn't actively melting down at 5:00 PM), and I can say that it has contributed to the strength of my family and marriage.

Many nights I don't get back online at 9:00 PM, but knowing that I can be productive and be present for my family is an enormous perk.


surveymonkey's revenue is the only validation for mr. Goldberg's work schedule given in this article. (correct me if i missed something)

an opinion either way on the work schedule has so little evidence given this article that it would qualify as a value judgement.

this article is a successful individual expressing mostly value judgements about his work philosophy.

my first conjecture is that folks clicked on the link because of it's sensational headline.

my second conjecture is that folks upvoted it because the value judgements in the article aligned with the value judgements of the community at large.

i would love to discuss work from home policy with you. i don't believe this article contributes meaningfully to that discussion.


Which is perfectly fine. As a parent, 6-9pm is the most valuable time of my day, because it's when my wife is home and my baby is sleepy and cute and getting ready for bed.

The battle that a lot of people have to fight is that they have to stay till 8-9 for the sake of appearances, then they got home when the kids are asleep and they have nothing to do but veg out on the internet until bed time.

If the boss keeps strict 8-9 to 5:30 "face time" hours, that can greatly free up everyone else to allocate their evenings in a more suitable way.


How common is it really to work past 5:30 or 6:00 PM on a daily basis? I mean unless you are working in Investment Banking or Management Consulting at one of the big firms, for the typical software developer (outside of the Silicon Valley /startup crowd) is this even an issue?


In every software company there is a contingent of people who work late simply because there are too many distractions occurring during the day.


If I was consistently working late due to this reason, my employer would have a problem as working late is not in the company culture.

I can understand someone doing this out of personal preference, but is working late considered the norm and is expected by the employer?


Company norms and cultures aside, the software industry was built on working late. Whether or not the CEO goes home at 5pm, the software part of a software business needs to get built, and it's usually not done 9-5.


It obviously depends on your employer, but it's very common for managers to write off people who go home on time as not the right kind of material for promotions, etc.


I suspect that the slant to some of this could also be to make it seem that this type of behavior is applauded and encouraged by First Round as a way to get people to see First Round in a more friendly light.

Almost as if you were applying to a part of the armed forces and had heard horror stories about what was required and then found out that "members of the coast guard get generous leave time to spend with their families".


First Round's page design and high quality / useful articles have definitely made me think of it in a much more favorable light (e.g. the Stripe hiring article) even beyond this most recent "friendly and reasonable culture" article.

It's certainly an interesting positioning/differentiation move that they're doing vs the standard "top VC" pack.


Having worked at a company where the culture changed over time to the point where work began to completely drown out having a personal life, the attitude at SurveyMonkey is incredibly refreshing.

There's a lot to be said for a great work ethic and productive work culture, but it doesn't have to come at the expense of having a home life. I like that Dave Goldberg mentions family obligations - at my previous job I would basically not have seen my daughter during the week. That is no way to live.


I think it's immoral to burn through employees when they have employee-typical equity shares and your business model is still speculative.

Startups often get away with this because they're staffed by 20somethings who either don't have any better place to be on a Thursday night than in front of their giant monitor, or they value being able to get in at 1:00PM (or to randomly take a day off to go rock climbing) more than they value having a predictable schedule that permits a home life.

That's fine (except for the bit about startup employee equity upside) for young startup employees, but it's also easy to see how it creates an environment that (probably pointlessly) discriminates against people that have families.


IMO Culture starts at the top. What was the CEO like at said former employer of yours? Did he lead the charge in assuming a more Spartan work schedule?


Anyone from middle-management up escaped the changes, which didn't help morale.


Seems like the middle-managers were where the chian really broke and things were allowed to spiral out of control, and on conjunction, the top brass didn't step in to revert things to sanity. :(


OK, but what time do his employees leave?


Hopefully around the same time, but in any case having the guy at the top leave at 5:30 makes it much easier for the rest of the company to leave at a reasonable time (or even earlier than him)

Addendum: In Japanese corporate culture, subordinates can't leave before their bosses (this is the unwritten rule, which I broke all the time, but that's another story). Exacerbating this is the fact that many managers have strained home lives and don't want to go home early in the first place. But the few enlightened managers make it a point to leave early, because they know that unless they leave early, none of their team members can!


I remember reading somewhere about a Japanese CEO who worked from 11-2. You have to be in before your boss and out after him, so add on a few levels of management and this is what he has to do just so the workers can have decent hours at all.


And what time does he get in and his employees get in at?


5, 5:30 seems to be the norm.


Nitpick: The article both says he leaves work by 5:30 and he gets home by 5:30.

Short commute. :)


Yeah, noticed that. Title and 2 sentences into the intro!


“Bad Attitude” + “Good Work” = “You’re Fired.

well said.


hardly true in my experience


That's because it is a pipe dream for many (most?) companies, there's just not enough talent. And "good attitude + bad work" is the far shorter end of the stick. And isnt it part of a manager's job to handle the "bad attitude + good work" employee?


Sorry, but leaving at 5.30pm and then logging in again that night doesn't count.


"...scaling a company requires steadily increasing productivity, quarter by quarter and year by year."

I really admire this long term thinking. I am transitioning off of a project that for 5 years tried to 'make it big' as soon as possible never taking the time to think about continually getting better.

Five years later we have created a lot of code but our process and culture have gone now where.


... Gets Home By 5:30 PM ... leave the office by 5:30 PM

Which is it? Or does he live next door to his office?


When does he get started in the morning?


billion dollars in what?



oh, then it must be real. kind of like kevin rose 'making' $60MM in 18 months.

http://www.businessweek.com/stories/2006-08-13/cover-image-h...

unreal, do people still fall for this bullshit?


They apparently have over $100MM in revenue/year, so a $1BB valuation doesn't seem unreasonable.


It's a profitable private company which is a far cry from the normal BS on HN.


They have $350M in debt. Does $100M+ in revenue justify $650M worth of equity? Doesn't sound that crazy to me.


nice post




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