Keeping Your Startup DNA When You Grow Your Business

This article is written by Milambo Kabeleka, a Contributor Author at Startup Turkey.

Claus Werner, one of the speakers at Startup Istanbul 2017 event has worked with Amazon for five years, in all those years, he has worked with startups from all over the world, helping them scale their companies from their city, out of their country, out of Europe, and onto the global market.

Most startups will have an idea of the problem they are solving but will not know who exactly their customer is or how they will respond to the product. This is a cycle that t goes around while they try to validate their business.

When you have reached the stage where your idea is slowly morphing into a product, for any entrepreneur, this is a very exciting stage. You are finally at a stage where people can see a physical representation of your idea.

After you have created your Minimum Viable Product (the smallest version of your product), the next stage is to start your customer discovery process. Find out who your customer will be. If you cannot find the customer, pivot and then start again.

Customer Discovery Process

The discovery process involves validating your product, to see who is willing to pay. Some startups spend a lot of time in these two stages and create their MVP, and once they get some validation, they end there. The recommended route would be to pivot and start again.

Company Building

Company building involves instilling in the team, the culture that is brought in by the founders. The work ethic that the Founders followed to form the business. There have been companies that started in garage stalls and have grown with the same ethic and work culture; they have grown to be billion dollar companies. Such as; Airbnb, Dropbox, Microsoft, Amazon. They have proved that you can scale out of a garage if you maintain a healthy work culture.


Almost everyone has heard of Airbnb. In a society with a rising sharing culture, the Founders of this company managed to grow their business based on sharing.

Airbnb is about sharing in an open community, creating friendships, sharing personal tips like where to get the best coffee, opening something as intimate as your home to strangers. They grew from their first rented out air mattress on the floor of their apartment in San Francisco to a global phenomenon.

Their spirit of sharing has been carried throughout the growth of the company. In 2013, they grew from 4million to 9million, with servers increasing from 432, to 1000 servers.  

The single most important piece of advice for startups is; Don’t mess up the culture.  The culture is what creates the foundation of all future innovation for the company. If you break the culture, you break the machine that increases your products.  As is is very evident in the case of Airbnb, their first product came from their culture.

How do you keep the Startup DNA and How  do you build it into your culture as you scale your business?

While the biggest challenge for most startups is getting money, Founders tend to put a lot of focus on the Investor pitch deck, the customer pitch deck and forget the employee pitch deck. 

Getting employees and knowing what kind of employee are you looking for, is what will help you maintain your culture and DNA.

The founder being the person that brought in the culture should interview the first employees that are hired and make sure that they are a cultural fit. The same happened for the next group of employees. The key is not to outsource the hiring to Recruitment Company. To make sure they fit the culture.

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