From Code to Culture

You've probably heard there's two types of founders--those who want to be rich, and those who want to be royalty. For technical experts who transform themselves into team builders, from the founders I know in Atlanta, there's a way to be both.

Why do some entrepreneurs make the leap from technician to team builder, and others don’t?

This week, talking with several of Atlanta’s top entrepreneurs, I was listening to a thread that ran through most of their stories. It was a thread of moving from a skill–coding–to another skill: culture building.

One entrepreneur told me that “all my co-founder and I did was set the temperature, and then folks that could live at that temperature stuck around.” Another entrepreneur–just as successful, different industry–said the same thing in different words: “You can’t engineer culture. People feel the fakeness. But you can set the tone.” In fact, founders can’t help but set culture.

Some entrepreneurs set culture consciously.

Here’s how that sounds: “I went door to door selling door hangers until I sold at least 10, because I was the team leader, and I had to show the daily quota could be done before I could quit.”

Some set culture unconsciously.

Here’s an example of how that sounds, “My wife left me after the house got foreclosed on, but I just had to keep going.” And sure, you’ve heard of bad cultures–our news is full of those types of stories right now.

One thing that’s clear, with the gift of so many strong founder stories and deep dives in a short time  thanks to all the holiday connecting this week, is the fact that good or bad cultures don’t really make much difference in the exit. The individual circumstances of the technology and market influence color the outcome financially quite a bit…

But for the culture builders, their conscious attention made an exit that also has an impact on the ecosystem.

For the founders who learned to go from code builder to culture builder, or from technical to team, they’ve launched teams, dreams and startups in their wake that are also making waves. Their job creation didn’t stop with the sale of their company. Their legends only grow as their legions spread their wings. Their significance only grows over time as the community embraces the lessons learned and also learns how to thrive in the team’s stories–stories many people took part in, and feel ownership of.Atlanta is gaining wealth in these kinds of living legends that put the fire in our Phoenix.

You’ve probably heard there’s two types of founders–those who want to be rich, and those who want to be royalty. For technical experts who transform themselves into team builders, from the founders I know in Atlanta, there’s a way to be both.

What kind of founder are you?