Over the last 5 years, Motius evolved from being a TUM-student-startup to one of the 50 fastest growing startups in Germany (according to Gründerszene [https://www.gruenderszene.de/gs-ranking]) and to a reliable R&D partner for companies like BMW, Carl Zeiss or KPMG, which collaborate with us since a couple of years.
People regularly ask us:
- How is your company/business model different from regular service providers?
- How do you attract tech talents these days? Everybody’s fighting for them, how can you catch’em?
The answer is our culture and our attitude. And it’s this culture and attitude that customers feel when they enter our (mostly a little bit crowded) Offices. It amazes them and convinces them that we’re the right people for their challenges (We often hear a likable and a little bit jealous “our innovation department also works like a startup!”).
So, our culture, what is it like? How could our “way of working” be described? Here’s a first try:
Before I start, a comment on how our culture and attitude became what they are today:
The key to a well-founded culture at Motius probably was not explicitly defining it from the beginning. It was a conscious decision to first start working together and make decisions that align with what we think how our company should be like. (Being a group of 5 founders, that obviously led to one or another discussion on some topics). After hiring a few more fulltime and longterm employees, they were included in these decisions and shaped Motius with the way they are. As Motius grew fast, but not investor-backed-scaling-fast, we had the time and dedication to keep the squad together. This way, Motius developed a strong fundament of implicit values over the years that we follow every day. The following parts describe our culture and are things I found out talking to employees and my Co-founders and therefore try to make existing stuff explicit. (This is maybe similar to what Tony Hsieh describes in “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose)
This is probably an obvious one for a young R&D company. Motius was founded by five curious guys trying to build a new kind of organization for Techies. We didn’t know sh** about a lot of stuff but we were curious to just start.
Being an organization whose goal it is to be specialized on the new technologies at every time, we empowered us and our team to be and to stay curious even during busy times. But in operational mode, staying curious is difficult. We knew that every hour that we’d put into working on projects (and acquiring and staffing and managing them) would lead to a better revenue. As a self-financed startup, looking after money on the bank account to pay the office and the employees is a big focus, so, in busy times, it wasn’t obvious to always dedicate time for keeping and strengthening a curious mindset.
In order to stay curious, we started a 4h weekly slot called ELU. It’s a slot, currently each Friday morning, dedicated to exploring (E), learning (L) and implementing (U, German “umsetzen”) new technologies and frameworks. We decide on what to learn and to explore, this is purely hype- and curiousity-driven. During this slot, we don’t take customer calls, we don’t close tickets, and we don’t speak about operational challenges. This enables everyone of us to have a free mindset and to play around with new tools. As this slot is also blocked for HR, Finance, Sales, etc, our non-tech departments get more tech week by week and experiment with automation tools, React Native, or scripts for KPI dashboards. ELU is not only great for internal team building and personal growth, but also helps us to try out new technologies before we later suggest them to customers. A great example: We played around with an HTC Vive and, four months later, started our first AR/VR project with BMW.
Motius’ business model empowers young Techies to have a significant influence on new products and on the innovation cycles of our customers.
But the passion for new ideas, technical innovations, tech ethics and tech gadgets does not only attract developers and engineers. In all non-tech departments, we see that people either have or developed a huge interest in the tech scene. It enables all of them to make their job better and to be happier with what they’re doing. Besides ELU (mentioned above) we foster the interest in technology by curating a “food-for-thought” channel in Slack (active members receive prizes and non-tech employees get dedicated time to read through the articles posted there). Also, employees at Motius get a personal development budget, that most of the people use for conferences and meetups, Hardware, or courses in the Makerspace (Makerspace is a prototyping workshop at TUM campus). The result is an active tech community, that shares knowledge and insights e.g. via Slack, has serious discussions on the Star Trek interpretation, and that orders Pizza and beer to have a bullshit bingo during the latest Apple Keynote in 2017.
Personal Development / Growth Mindset
This is a value that probably every Motee implicitly shares. We strongly believe that the abilities of ourselves are not fixed but rather can and should be developed over time. Combining this believe, the curiosity, and the passion for tech is pretty much what describes the founders and the employees at its best. And of course it perfectly fits together. Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck describes the power of this mindset in “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” – good read!
Work Heart, Play Heart
Work Heart: We love what we do here and love to see the company, each of us, and the other team mates grow day by day. Most of us are young, a lot of us are not finished with their studies, but still we put a lot of thoughts into creating a productive work environment that suits to everybody’s needs. Being professional and surprising people with that is a good feeling – we feel comfortable in the underdog role. There are weekly JF with Project Owners to check time trackings for the devs for the tasks, there are strict sprint plannings and reviews, and there are Surprise Code Reviews for each team. Most of our meetings only allow to be 5-min late (otherwise you count as not being there), and, in order to cut down non-professional mistakes, we introduced a public Not-So-Pro list. People can report and add these mistakes there and make everyone aware of how it should better be done. Making it explicit directly helps to avoid awkwardness and we’re happy to see that the list is not growing fast. Comparing this to what I’ve seen in other companies and to what new employees tell me, this culture of failure is apparently not self-evident.
Play Heart: Our company is a highly diverse and international crew and we invest time into making it a good squad. Every month, one core team member organizes the company team building. So far, we’ve been on a rubber-boat tour, had delicious Indian, Greek, and Middle East dinner nights (prepared by team mates), had a LAN party, or went bouldering together. Every Friday, we have breakfast together and then someone of us has a 5 min talk about an interesting topic he/she heard or read about (see the curiosity again). So far, the highlights have been: a yearly company weekend trip (this time this was planned secretly, we went to Stockholm for 4 days), and a f***ing bouncy castle at the summer party.
By this, the loose group of international developers, engineers, designers etc. constantly grows to become a Motee family.
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If you managed to end up down here, thanks for reading my insights about the culture at Motius. If you’re also trying to establish a culture in your company and have some further questions, feel free to reach out to me. If you like what you read and want to be part of it, please see our open positions at www.motius.de/jobs or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.