We’re looking for a friendly, energetic person to take over the marketing function at GrantTree. We have products that are first on the market, and we have an fairly unique culture that is worth talking about, but we’re struggling to give all these things the proper marketing attention that they deserve.

Founded in 2010 by Daniel Tenner and Paulina Sygulska, GrantTree helps tech companies to get government funding, mostly in the form of tax credits, and also has released an innovative new funding product called the Power-Up Fund.

We’re looking for someone with some experience of marketing already, and with a clear interest in the startup scene and in helping startups (both GrantTree and our customers) thrive. You’ll be joining our team of 15 women and men, most of them based in London, to take over the marketing function and help us double down on the efforts we’ve been making to get our brand out there.

GrantTree is a different place to work. We believe in openness and transparency. All our financial data is open to all employees, and we fight secrets wherever we find them. We believe in trust and responsibility rather than command and control. We believe in treating people like adults rather than infantilising them. To succeed in this environment, you must be genuinely self-motivated and able to work independently, while at the same time be team-minded and helpful and generous with your time. More of that on our website - have a read before you apply!

Here are the kinds of things we’d expect you to get involved in (but this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Keep track of competitors, do some competitor analysis
  • Design and implement our PR and marketing strategy
  • Figure out ways to measure (and then ensure) the ROI of your role
  • Book team members, some of whom are already successful public speakers, into (many) more speaking opportunities
  • Seek out opportunities and further GrantTree’s press coverage for its unique products (e.g. Power-Up Fund) and culture
  • Find events to host in GrantTree and organise/record/release videos
  • Help create promotional materials
  • Get the Blog/Social Media to be updated more frequently (i.e. come up with a more tangible plan/strategy for how we do this and get it implemented)
  • Be in charge of the weekly newsletter
  • Go to networking events
  • Come up with clever new ways to market GrantTree

However, the role is fairly open-ended. We want much, much more energy to be put into marketing activity, to make much, much better use of the advantages that we have, like our culture and our product and market differentiations, and to get a much better idea of the return on investment of those activities. Our main market is tech startups. We believe we can dominate this space if we get our marketing right, and your job will be to help that vision come true.

Skills-wise, we are looking for people who already have developed theirs in a marketing role, hopefully in the startup world or marketing to startups. One of your responsibilities will be to get us some press coverage, so this shouldn’t be something new and scary to you. A lot of startup marketing also happens in person - you’ll be better suited to this role if you love going to networking events and meeting people and talking to them about their cool startups.

The salary for this role is £28k per annum, plus a share of the bonus pool once out of the 6-month probation period.

To apply, simply email jobs@granttree.co.uk with a description of why you think you’d be a good fit for the role (rough target 300 words, but can be longer), and also include a link to a brief video of yourself telling us what you think we should do differently, marketing-wise (uploaded to youtube or a similar site - please make sure the link is accessible!).

Please don’t forget the video!

Note: No recruitment agencies or other third parties, please!

 
Since we’ve just deployed a new design, which you can see now, I thought this was a good time to post a screenshot of the old design and say good bye to it.

Good bye, old design, you served us well!

Since we’ve just deployed a new design, which you can see now, I thought this was a good time to post a screenshot of the old design and say good bye to it.

Good bye, old design, you served us well!

 

This article, well worth a read, mentions how startups like Buffer and SumAll avoid salary negotiations entirely by having a culture of open salaries:

"The negotiating process is very alien to us at Buffer—because there is no negotiating," CEO Joel Gascoigne previously told Quartz. "We have a really high focus on cultural fit to the point that if they didn’t know about the formula before they applied, they probably wouldn’t be a good fit."

There is something slightly misleading in this. In a transparent culture, it’s true that there are no traditional salary negotiations, by which I mean the closed-doors, one-on-one, “I deserve to earn more and I’ve got better offers, so give me a raise” types of conversations, because it is simply impossible to act on them - secret pay packets are just not possible. If someone gets a pay raise, there needs to be a viable justification for that.

However, our experience is that there are, and in fact must be salary negotiations, but they happen in a group, in the open.

Much like with hierarchy, however, it is misleading to say that the “new model” of building companies has no salary negotiations - they just adopt a radically different, much more open and transparent and fair format. If they never happen at all, though, you’ll have a lot of problems with staff retention.

 

What better way to kick off the carnival season on the startup scene than by rocking up to a great meet-up followed by a game of pool?

We have partnered with folks at British Computing Society to bring you How to Innovate - a series of three events, focusing on different aspects of innovation in the startup world. The first one is coming up very soon, on Wednesday 12.02 at our office in 16 Hewett St (2 min from Shoreditch High Street overground, 5 min from Liverpool St tube).

We will have Laurie Young, Head of Ops at the hot ruby shop New Bamboo (@wildfalcon) and our own Pow as speakers, followed by an open debate, drinks and… pool (register for spanking new, first in history Startup Pool Championships on events.granttree.co.uk).

  • Dr Laurie Young, Head of Operations, New Bamboo

Laurie’s talk will take you through a whistlestop history of how people in organisations have approached getting things done. From Henry Ford’s factories, through to Fayol’s and Gantt’s methodologies, the ideas behind effective leadership & management have changed significantly over time. Today’s innovators like to refer to themselves as “agile” but are rarely clear on what they mean by that. As an experienced leader of technical teams, Laurie will shed some light on different aspects of agile methodology, also in the context of much talked about Lean Startup techniques.

  • Paulina Sygulska, Director, GrantTree Ltd

As one of the founders of GrantTree, now in its fourth year, Paulina has been at the forefront of the company’s cultural evolution. Starting from a traditional mindset of fostering hierarchical structure, clear reporting lines and obedience, GrantTree came a long way towards a much more democratic - or participative - culture. Today GrantTree’s team members help shape the company, share in its profits and are trusted with all financial information, including company accounts and salaries. Through this hands-on presentation you will learn how to implement a revenue sharing scheme, open allocation, peer reviews etc within your startup team, and what pitfalls to avoid.

Spaces are free but limited, register on bcs.org.uk or simply rock up on the day!

 

Paul Arnold of AppDirect on creating an organisational structure that people can work within:

When you’re growing beyond 10 or 20 people, there’s a truth you’re probably reluctant to accept: You need organizational structure. New faces keep showing up wondering where they fit in. And people need to be empowered to lead. At AppDirect, we had to reinvent our approach several times before it worked.

Paul goes on to provide a very helpful and thorough overview of what they did at his company to put in an org chart (and then review it many times).

It’s worth pointing out (as you will know if you read this blog) that this is not the only approach to organisation. For example, companies like Valve and Github have an organisational structure based on open allocation. But to think that this means they have “no organisational structure” is as mistaken as declaring that “agile” means “no project management”.

Open allocation means the org chart can change, shift, reassemble, without a formal “re-org” like the ones that AppDirect went through multiple times. If anything, this requires more thought about structure than the regular way. After all, hierarchy is essential and inevitable, and open allocation (or holacracy, or other systems) don’t change that.

 

Bob Sutton writing on LinkedIn (a source I rarely quote):

Organizations that are celebrated for their lack of hierarchy may downplay and reduce status differences, but they always have some people with greater formal and informal power than others — and associated pecking orders. And eliminating titles such as “manager” or “supervisor” doesn’t make the hierarchy disappear. For example, there has been a lot of talk lately about Zappos’ ongoing reorganization into something they call a “holacracy.” Some headlines suggest that the company is getting rid of bosses – that isn’t quite right. While more power is being pushed down the hierarchy, it persists under the new structure. More responsibility is being placed as people are moved into “circles” (which sound much like self-managing teams). Yet even though they have stopped using the word “manager” for many roles, there are still be people who perform what sound like middle management roles to me: They are responsible for staffing teams and dealing with employee performance issues. And, while Zappos is getting rid of a lot of titles, note that Tony Hsieh is still called the CEO.

Great point. I think one of the misunderstandings of “flat” structures is the idea that there is no hierarchy. As Bob points out, there is always hierarchy, whether formal or informal.

A friend of mine who worked at a company with no hierarchy (and open allocation) commented that the problem with “no hierarchy allowed at all”, is that a hierarchy still forms, around who’s loudest and most pushy about their ideas. The huge problem with that is that this hierarchy is static - because it’s not even official, and it’s based around intrinsic properties of its people, it can’t be changed.

The problem with hierarchy is not with the mere existence of hierarchy, but with that hierarchy remaining static. A good organisational structure recognises that there is always a hierarchy, formal or informal, but more importantly recognises that this hierarchy will have to change at some point, and that it should never become a barrier to company adaptation to new external circumstances.

At GrantTree, we have only two levels of formal hierarchy: directors and everyone else. However, there are plenty of informal hierarchies that form and break down depending on the work that’s being done, and as the company expands its product offerings, we are geared up towards letting the informal hierarchies change and reshape around new commercial realities.

Why do we have directors at all? Because by default purely democratic organisations tend to resist change. Directors are there to be agents of change, explicitly tasked with making positive change happen within the company before it’s a burning need - not because they’re there to give orders to their subordinates (a word we would never use within GrantTree).

 

Tom Tunguz talks about the importance of both creating process to create order out of chaos, and then also continually improving those processes once they’re in place:

Once in place, these processes can’t remain static. Processes must stay relevant and productive through persistent improvement. This means using software to instrument processes, charging team leaders with the responsibilities to create new ways of doing things and pushing the company towards rapid improvement.

This is a good point, but bear in mind that command and control (“here, team leader, you’re in charge of getting everyone to follow this new process”) is not the only way - and is in fact a way that’s proven to create enormous amounts of inertia as the company grows.

Once upon a time, the way companies evolved their processes was via a “thaw - change - refreeze” model where a need for change was defined and then led to a clearly delineated transition phase. In today’s world, though, things change faster, and companies have to adapt faster. Nowadays, to be successful in the long run, a company needs to learn to adapt and change continually, and never freeze.

You might think this is only a problem for large companies, but actually it’s just as much of a problem for smaller ones. Change-averse culture can set in even at relatively small sizes of 10 or so, if no one is taking care to keep things moving in the right direction. Large companies can afford to waste billions on change programmes (sort of), but small companies are often against the ropes. Our main advantage as smaller companies is often adaptability - but just being a small company doesn’t mean you’ve remained adaptable.

 

Mark Suster:

Many startups these days are started by young, technical or product founders who are in the idealistic phase of their lives and careers.

Thus I hear many talk about “radical transparency” when virtually every experienced operator in my inner circle talks knowingly about that naiveté. It’s not that I don’t love idealism – I was young once, too! – it’s just that the more experience you get in your career the more you come to realize certain truths.

Ouch.

With all due respect to Mr Suster, however, I must disagree, quite strenuously - and not because I’m young and idealistic. I’m young(ish… 33), but deeply pragmatic. I’m building my company in a “radically transparent” company for very practical reasons:

1) I don’t want to work in a traditional company based on the “command and control” model.

2) I am aware that businesses today operate under market conditions that change ever faster, so adaptability is a premium quality for any business.

3) I can see for myself the obvious benefits of radical transparency in terms of the sort of people it attracts and how it motivates them.

This is not just my experience. I had a long chat with Joel, as well as with others in the industry, and they are seeing the same things. People like Ricardo Semler (whose revenue was $212m in 2003) have been preaching and applying ideas like these since the 80’s. Companies like Valve ($4b) and Github are running with open allocation. Zappos (acquired by Amazon for $1b) recently adopted Holacracy.

Those are all models that require radical transparency. Are Tony Hsieh, Gabe Newell and Tom Preston-Werner all starry-eyed “young and idealistic” product founders?

I don’t think so. And you shouldn’t either.

Here’s the reality: both models work. One way to refer to them is to call them Theory X and Theory Y style companies, after the ground-breaking research by renowned psychologist Douglas MacGregor in the 50s. But the key finding that most people usually miss is the discovery that: whatever your starting assumptions (X or Y), when you set out to gather data to prove them, you will find data that supports them.

In other words, if you believe that Theory X (Command and Control) is the one that works, when you set out to find out whether Theory Y makes any sense, the answer will be “no”. But the reverse is true too.

This calls for a bit more maturity than declaring that the other side is “young and idealistic”.

Both models work, they have different strengths and weaknesses. Use the model that makes sense for your context (which includes your beliefs) and don’t waste time belittling the other side.

 

Steve Blank:

Short answer — almost all the Unicorns pivoted. The authors of the article didn’t understand what a pivot was.

(…)

What was lacking in the article was a clear definition of a pivot. A pivot is not just changing the product. A pivot can change any of nine different things in your business model. A pivot may mean you changed your customer segment, your channel, revenue model/pricing, resources, activities, costs, partners, customer acquisition — lots of other things than just the product.

The 9 different things, in this case, are the 9 boxes in the business model canvas.

However, I’d push this a bit further. Once upon a time, source code control with solid tools like Subversion meant branching was difficult and required agreement between multiple people, etc. Then Git and Mercurial came along, and now branching is free, something that happens constantly, smoothly, without overhead. Best development practice has evolved accordingly to encourage frequent branching and merging.

Once upon a time, making changes to the business model was poorly understood, something you did by gut feeling, which had a high risk overhead because there were no measurements to prove that a change was beneficial. With Lean Startup and the Business Model Canvas, or other, proper mapping of your assumptions (such as Hypothesis Driven Development, making changes is something that can happen smoothly, quickly, and on a daily basis (at least pre-market-fit). Until you get to product-market fit, your main advantage is your speed of adaptation.

Like continuous deployment, which involves deploying the codebase to production many times a day, each time a new change is made (and tested), continuous pivoting means making tweaks to (often small aspects of) the business model several times a day. Most of those “pivots” are in fact micro-pivots, but in aggregate they can add up to very significant changes. This makes obvious sense from a pre-fit perspective, but what about post-fit?

I would suggest there is no fundamental difference between a pre-fit business model tweak and a post-fit one. And as the environment that the company evolves, the company must adapt - through continually pivoting. It might be called something else, but that’s what it is.

These changes necessarily become slower as the company grows and develops more cultural inertia, and as the risk of uncontrolled changes grows, but when they stop, or become too slow to adapt to a changing market, the company stops growing and starts dying.

Which leads to another interesting insight: once your startup grows, if you want it to live on for a longer time, one of your primary concerns as a founder must be to build a human organisation that has the nimbleness necessary to keep pivoting, quickly, forever.

 

OKR stands for “Objective / Key Results”, and is a management method that’s somewhat related to MBO - aka Management By Objectives.

We haven’t played with this in GrantTree yet, but we’re about to start experimenting with it for some people. This could be interesting as a self-management tool in companies, like ours, that have a self-managing culture.

The linked article, by Swipely CEO Angus Davis, is a thorough introduction to the topic, with examples.

 
 

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