Last year, I founded a new startup, Review Trackers, an online review monitoring and management tool for business owners. (We track data from Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, and other online review websites.) Since then, our organization has grown to include team members, interns, consultants, and investors working in several parts of the world: Chicago, San Diego, Pittsburgh, NYC, Shanghai, Santiago (Chile), Hyderabad (India), and Manila (Philippines).
We’re not consciously trying to become the United Nations. This is just how it happened — and how it continues to happen.
Call it the accidental result of being able to travel, call it a stroke of serendipity, call it the magical way the Internet brings all kinds of people together. Call it whatever. All I know, and I really do believe this, is that the diversity of our team has made us a stronger, better startup — in ways that more traditionally structured organizations and business ventures don’t often benefit from.
Because talent is everywhere. The global tech startup community is more vibrant than ever. It’s also more competitive than ever. But the pool of talent isn’t concentrated exclusively in Silicon Valley. I’ve been able to hire smart, talented people wherever they can be found: a lead designer in NYC, a developer from Russia, a couple of engineers in Hyberabad, and a writer in Manila. Doing so has enabled me to become more resource-efficient and, more importantly, gain a better understanding of cultural and professional environments in different parts of the world.
Also: diversity encourages independence. Our headquarters is in Chicago; it’s a busy office with what you can probably describe as the trappings of the typical startup lifestyle.
But because there are other team members not in Chicago, our organization is able to foster a unique environment where people work independently and perform in results-driven ways. I’m never tempted to micro-manage. We share a common vision of what we’re trying to build, and every single day work gets done. Nope, our space isn’t furnished with ping-pong tables, bean bags, and branded hoodies, but I realize that independence is just as tangible a perk — and just as effective a motivator — as any.
It helps extend your network. If we didn’t have such a geographically diverse team, I probably wouldn’t have been able to make the many serendipitous connections that now help extend Review Trackers’ reach as well as expand my own network.
You can say that diversity is a business asset. Meeting and working with people from different parts of the world, I have, in many ways, been able to create my own luck. The most exciting part is the certainty that someday, somehow, even more dots on my canvas will be connected, and that over time a bigger, clearer picture will reveal itself. As Tony Hsieh said: “If you’re always running into the same people, the chances of one of those collisions being meaningful is maybe 1 in 1,000.” Diversity multiplies those odds.
Diversity makes me a better entrepreneur. Understanding, acknowledging, and celebrating differences in age, gender, language and culture, and personal histories is a great way to sharpen your entrepreneurial instinct. It’s pretty easy to succumb to stereotypes, and to make business decisions based on these stereotypes. This will sound a little clichéd, but team diversity does help freshen your perspective on how to solve a certain problem, which is what the foundation of every business is all about.