These are the values I put in place in my startup, Futurecam.

  1. Treat people as people: when someone is sick, discourage them from working. When they’re planning to visit their hometown but WFH, ask them if they really need to work. When a team member returned to work after being hospitalised, I planned the next milestone assuming he’s not available, and said that that way there won’t be pressure on him. Any work he does will help us reach the milestone earlier than planned.
  2. Don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep, can’t keep or which you intend to re-evaluate later.
  3. When someone spends their money for the company, even if it’s ₹10 for a Yulu, I reimburse them. Unlike another founder I know who has an attitude of “So what if the employee has to bring his own laptop? We’re a startup!” I’m clear that it’s the company’s responsibility to provide anything that’s needed for work, and that if the employee is bringing his own resources, the founder should be grateful, not entitled.
  4. Be transparent, whether with users or each other. For example, many startups say they use ML or AI even though they don’t. But we’ve said publicly we don’t use ML. Someone is always looking at you as an example of how to behave, both individually and as a company. Don’t let them down.
  5. Assume the best of others till proven otherwise, not the other way around. Be generous, and hold back only if someone takes advantage. Often, they reciprocate rather than taking advantage.
  6. Don’t limit people by their job title. Don’t say, “You’re an engineer, so you can’t do design.” Or you’re a designer, so you can’t understand how the eng stuff works.
  7. Work sustainably.
  8. Be collaborative, always be open to a dissenting opinion, even if it has some overhead in extra discussions. Employees should not be ticket-takers, whose job is just to work on the tickets filed by the boss. People contribute to the company’s plans and direction, too.
  9. Be humble and friendly, and create psychological safety: we all have areas we’re not strong at, and we should not feel the need to hide this and present a “know it all’ facade. Don’t make people feel inadequate, assume they’re dumb, smile at them condescendingly, laugh at them, etc. If you say that a peer didn’t do a good job at something, that’s good feedback to give, but that brings up the question: why didn’t you help out? It’s not good to sit back and then say it wasn’t done right.
  10. Make things happen: no one else will if we don’t do it ourselves. Try things you’re not qualified to do, like marketing. It’s fine if nothing comes out of it. Better to try and fail than to not try at all.

Startups are hard, but that’s no excuse to mis-treat people.

On-demand Leader. Earlier: IIT | Google | Solopreneur | Founder | CTO | Advisor