Company culture is a feeling in the air, the social norms of a group, the manifestation of collective goals and beliefs, and the one intangible thing that can make or break a growth stage company. For some, culture becomes a priority too late in the business. It starts to become an issue instead of a benefit when a company either realizes that they have focused solely on the product and forgotten to check in with their team or when a company has assumed that culture is something that happens organically.
But at Roboflow, we didn’t want that to happen. We recently raised our Series A, we are rapidly growing the team, and we are prioritizing our company culture. We believe that culture happens organically after you have intentionally focused on the company’s values and continue to hire the right people that embody those values.
Until this post, we haven’t broadcasted externally how we are communicating the culture we’re building internally. We're taking the moment to share our culture and how we work together externally because we're proud of the team we've assembled. And by sharing how we align ourselves internally, we'll attract other exceptional performers. And now that we have taken the time to be intentional about our culture, who we want to be, and what we want to build...we couldn’t wait to share. Our company culture has quickly become something the team cites as a delineating factor: "I never thought I'd feel this connected to a remote team."
So what is Roboflow’s culture like?
First, let me tell you about our values because all of our culture and benefits are grounded in our values.
Similar to individual character being a reflection of how one acts when no one is watching, team culture is how people collaborate to get work done without others’ prompt. Is it natural for team members to take time off as they need without question? Do team members provide positive feedback in public and helpful criticism in private? Does the team look to correct a mistake instead of focusing on who made it? People in your company make decisions on these things every day, and your culture determines how.
So when companies write out their values, they’re, frankly, hollow without having a culture to back them up. (I think it was Ben Horowitz that first pointed out that Enron had “Integrity” written in bold letters in their lobby.) Nonetheless, writing values to summarize culture is helpful. It provides a shorthand for reminding a team why they work together the way that they do. It also enables external candidates to self in – and out – of a given culture.
When we recently sat down as a team to discuss what we wanted to highlight as the parts of our culture that demonstrate how we work together, we were delighted to see how aligned we all are. In a collaborative exercise filled with Sticky Notes at a recent onsite, we identified a few key values to share how we think about working together at Roboflow.
We are Visionaries
Being a visionary means that we think big, we act big, we solve big problems, and we challenge each other to think even bigger. It’s also a great play on words since we work with computer vision. Too easy?
We are Raccoons
It may sound silly to say we are raccoons, but truthfully raccoons aren’t just our team mascot...they also exhibit a lot of characteristics that we value in each other. For example, raccoons are curious (so are we!), they are crafty and love finding solutions to problems (we are willing to learn new things), they aren’t afraid of hard work (same), they are independent and autonomous (yep, us too), and they often run in groups (we are a united team).
(We’ve found the silly uniqueness of this one really resonates.)
We are Owners
Our team has strong diverse opinions and we encourage everyone to advocate for their solutions. We care deeply about the problems that we are solving, so we become owners of each situation. We think, “How can I improve this” instead of assuming it’s someone else’s job.
So now that you understand our values, let’s talk about our culture connects to how we work together.
One of the main things that makes Roboflow’s culture unique is how we understand and celebrate that each team member works differently, has individual needs, and is most productive in varying environments. And we support all of them! Some of our Roboflowers love to work fully from home while others take advantage of our Productivity Stipend to work at a coworking space in their area. To both of those, we say yes! Do what works best for you. Do what makes you most comfortable and successful. We invest in our team to make their working environment the best fit for them because we value big thinkers, and we don’t want to restrain those big ideas by mandating a one size fits all approach.
Roboflow is a remote-first company, which means that we are optimized to be fully remote and it allows us to hire the best person for the job, not just the best people in one city. But being remote doesn’t mean being distant. We host 2 all company on-sites per year and encourage employees to get together and work in person when they want. It’s important for us to still be able to have face time and build relationships with one another. One of our team’s favorite perks is a $2500 annual Travel Stipend that allows them to go work with other Roboflowers, whenever and wherever they want. Seriously, no questions asked. Want to travel to a team member’s hometown to work together for a few days on a project? Go for it. Want to fly to Vegas for a brainstorming session with your sales team? Go for it. We value autonomy and we really mean it.
We believe that culture happens organically after you have intentionally focused on the company’s values and continue to hire the right people that embody those values.
The entire company starts and ends every week together. It’s a tradition that is rooted in our value of being a united team (Raccoons often thrive in groups!). On Monday mornings, we join an all company “Weekly Warm Up” meeting where we discuss our goals for the week, metrics, and operational items. And then we finish the week together during our Friday team lunch on Zoom where everyone orders a similar type of food so it feels like we are all together (last week was comfort food themed).
We have active Slack channels that discuss everything from the sales pipeline to hiring to memes. We instituted “No Meeting Wednesday” that team members appreciate for Deep Work. We challenge each other frequently and with respect. We offer a flexible schedule for all our employees because we understand that life doesn’t just happen outside the hours of 9am-5pm. Each one of these activities is grounded in the value of ownership and none of them would work without it. But that is the beauty of our culture: We aren’t just saying we value owners, we actually are owners! Owners of our own schedule. Owners of finding solutions. Owners of hard work. Owners of creative problem solving.
But culture isn’t just the things that we do because of our values. It’s also the energy and feeling amongst the team. Our team has a deep understanding and respect for how impactful Roboflow can be for the world. We don’t take it lightly that computer vision could possibly help detect cancer faster, or help clean up the bottom of our oceans, or make a self-driving car safer. Computer vision is meaningful to all of us and it unites us in a shared vision to help merge the physical and digital worlds for the greater good. I can’t guarantee that we will always get it right when it comes to building our culture, but I can guarantee that we will always care and try our best to build a company where people can thrive.
Want to join us? See our open listings here!