We Are Ometrians – 2020

by Ivan Mazour

The best part of a decade ago, I wrote an article about how your startup should be a cult. I had come across a blog post describing a cult as “a group of super high quality people who trust each other and have similar ways of thinking, learning, reacting, problem-solving and working together”. That sounded like a rather exciting and inspirational entity to be part of, and to create, so I took the concept to heart.

Over the years that have passed since then, I’ve learned so much about companies, about culture, about leadership, that the person who wrote that article is almost incomparable to the person sitting here today. And every year, I keep meaning to update the article and share my latest views. But when you have a startup and a toddler, neither the creativity nor the opportunity to write arises particularly often. And so here I finally am, on a flight back from holiday with my family – my son Atlas is asleep, and this is the best chance I’m likely to get.

We’re returning to a world that’s very different to the one that we left. When we left ten days ago London had 20 cases of COVID-19 and most people thought it was just a bad flu. We’re coming back to 500 cases, growing at 30% day on day. The gravity of the current situation and the importance of making the right decisions for the 120 or so Ometrians, not to mention our clients and investors, make this post even more meaningful.

When I started Ometria, I believed that if I were just able to gather smart, driven, hard-working people and put them together, then the energy that would be created just by doing that would make every single day exciting, fun and full of energy. I didn’t really consider at the time what we’d be doing, or why we’d be doing it. I just wanted to start a company with those kinds of people.

So, back in February 2013, that’s exactly what we did. Four of us – Al, Djalal, James and I – found a problem to solve, got together in a basement in Mayfair, and started to build some software. And every day was fantastic. Then we realised we had to start finding all those great people!

Through a stroke of luck I had recently discovered the Hubspot Culture Code and gone deep down the rabbit hole. I read Netflix’s culture code. I read the Valve handbook. I read Ray Dalio’s Principles (they were in an online PDF he published many years before the book came out and popularised them).

And then, having learned from these great organisations, I wrote our culture deck – We Are Ometrians.

Most people said “it’s 200 pages, are you joking?!” when they first saw it. And they read it and put in an application to join. Our culture deck helped voice what we stood for, and helped us build the team up to about 20. But it wasn’t quite enough. It was a narrative. It was written from the heart. It gave an indication for what we were looking for, and it helped people self-select, but it didn’t provide a comprehensive framework that would enable us to scale indefinitely.

For that we needed to get much more specific. So a few years in, when we had found product-market fit, and we had a clear vision for what the company was going to be come and what impact we were going to make in the world, we spent a few days putting together a sentence that defined our purpose, and five clear values which defined our culture.

Our purpose is the first thing anyone sees when they walk into our office. And our values underpin everything – interview questions, review processes, unprompted highlights and team mentions, and of course, most importantly, actual behaviours.

There’s easily a whole set of blog posts that would be needed just to cover our values and our purpose. But the point of this post isn’t to go into those. It’s to say that I was wrong. Your startup shouldn’t be a cult. It should have high quality people who trust each other, and who love problem-solving and working together – that much was right. But it should be a thoughtful, carefully constructed organisation. An entity with a clear purpose which provides direction and motivation, and clear values which form the foundations of the culture, and the bonds of alignment between the individuals within. Membership of a startup is a choice. Anyone who passes the bar at Ometria, just as in any VC-backed fast-growth startup, can easily walk into a corporate job anywhere they want. So it’s up to the startup to make sure that those individuals choose to join it.

Simon Sinek talks about life being an Infinite Game. There’s no winning and no losing. You just have to make sure that you get to keep playing. The same applies to a startup. If you want to build a genuinely long-lasting company, then you need to see it as an infinite game. You need to make sure that you get to keep playing. Hitting targets, growing revenues, taking market share – these are all necessary requirements in order to do that. But they’re not the foundation. The foundation is making joining your startup a no-brainer for the most exceptional people.

The other day in an interview, I asked one of our standard questions. “Why this job and why this company?” The person being interviewed paused, and then replied. “There’s a not so hidden secret at my company, and that secret is that Ometria is the best place to work in our industry.” That was one of the most impactful seconds of this year. It proved that the most important thing, we’d got right.

The main theme of Patrick Lencioni’s new book is that leadership is a privilege, not a reward. If you create a purposeful organisation, with clear values, and a culture which people want more than anything else to be part of it, then leadership is both. Being able to lead Ometria is without a doubt a privilege. Other than raising my son, there is no other greater privilege I can think of. It is also my reward. There will hopefully be a financial reward at the end, but life is a journey (or even better, a musical thing), and my reward for having created Ometria in the way that we’ve done, is that I get the privilege of leading it every day.

One of our five values is “Respect for the trust we’ve been given”. That applies to the 200 retailers who have trusted us with a vital must-have business function – their customer marketing. It applies to the 200 million individual people whose personal data now sits in the Ometria platform (with their permission). And it applies just as much to the 120 Ometrians who have trusted us with their careers, and so with a huge part of their lives. That trust is something I think about every single day. Yesterday, we proactively implemented a fully remote WFH policy across all 3 of Ometria’s global offices. I received this Slack message a few hours later. And that’s my reward.


Find out more on the about Ivan Mazour page.
And watch Ivan Mazour's TEDx Talk - "Why we shouldn't be scared of sharing our personal data".

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Greg Nance March 14, 2020 - 8:08 pm

Ivan — totally admire your focused drive and so stoked to see it paying off massively!

All love from Seattle!

Ivan Mazour March 15, 2020 - 6:48 am

Thanks Greg – you’re always an inspiration! 7 Marathons in 7 Days on 7 Continents! Just wow. Hope all is well.


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