Startups, Change the Conversation With Your Engineering Team


It’s an all too familiar startup sight.

Your technical co-founder and dev team have their eyes glued to screens of scrolling code as their fingers fly across keyboards and music blasts through their earbuds.

They are driving hard toward the launch date, losing themselves in their work and consuming Red Bull like there’s no tomorrow.

Time for a breath of fresh air.

Writing on Quora, Nikos Moraitakis, Founder & CEO of, sets the following as one of ten helpful tasks non-technical co-founders should undertake:

“Nurture good spirit, keep everyone intellectually stimulated. Your technical co-founder may spend long stretches of time focused on some particular technical detail or problem. This focus is good from a development standpoint, but takes his mind off the big picture for a while. You need to engage him, and let him participate in the intellectual conversation about what it is we’re building as a whole – not burden him with the work of execution on “everything else”, but enriching his big picture with knowledge and contemplation about it. There is a joyful and highly motivating emotion that comes from the sense that your vision is coming all together, customer development is progressing, investors are interested, numbers can be achieved, feedback is positive, market is missing what you’re building, etc.”

We agree wholeheartedly. A time out from the day-to-day pressures can remind hardworking team members of why they are doing what they do, renew their energies around doing the work needed to complete the product, and focus their attention on creating a quality product.

Toward a product that matters.

At the same time, as a non-technical partner, you need not only the energy and endurance of your technical co-founder and team, but also the ability to keep them focused in ways that push them to create a product that matters right out of the gate.

That is, a product that not only works, but helps people lead better lives in some way (e.g. more productive, healthier, more enriching, etc.).

Mattering is the great differentiator today. People who are looking to create more meaning in their lives are being more discerning about the products they buy, whom they buy from, and the places they work. When you strike a chord of meaning, your product and business earns the admiration, respect, and support of people looking to do things that matter.

Three ideas to change the conversation

1.  Going beyond the vision.

Just as the dev team is knee-deep in coding, you are busy keeping on top of everything else that is needed to ensure a successful launch.

Most think the driving force of a startup is its vision. However, many startup “visions” are technology-centric, emotionally neutral, and lacking in meaning. They tend to be very internally focused and bereft of perspective. They are often generic in intent, written in corporate-speak, and hard to relate to on a human level.

So, step one in creating meaningfully refreshing conversations with startup dev teams is to go beyond your vision and to adopt a Purpose Beyond Profit. This is a statement that elevates your startup’s reason for being – its “why”- and the way it will matter to people both rationally and emotionally.

Going one step further, when using this statement as a platform, consider how your startup should make its employees, customers, and partners feel when they deal with your company and its product, your advertising and promotion, your website, your sales and investor presentations, your customer support team, etc.

2.  Now it’s time for a workplace conversation that matters.

With a solid Purpose Beyond Profit and a set of feelings to focus upon, you are able to construct a break for your dev team that brings these two factors to life.

Start by leading a conversation on what it means to matter in today’s world – the value of getting people (including themselves) to have specific feelings – and what all this means vis-à-vis the product you have in development. Then, follow up with whatever “good news” you can share about the market opportunity, the investor interest, the team’s progress, any feedback you’ve gotten, etc.

By letting your team feel the “joyful and highly motivating emotion” that comes from doing work that truly matters to themselves, to the company, and to the world, you help them deliver a product that matters right out of the gate. As Nikos put it, “Nurture good spirit, keep everyone intellectually stimulated.”

3.  Matter inside and out.

Finally, use your new Purpose Beyond Profit and set of feelings to guide how you bring your product to investors, partners, and customers. Help people outside the firm see your product as one that comes from a company that aims to do well by doing good through an emotionally meaningful Purpose Beyond Profit. Strive to be a company that stands out not only for what its products do, but also for the way the company makes people feel. Be a company that people are proud to be associated with and support because it does stuff that truly matters.

Learn more on how to thrive by making your brand matter.

We have 3 helpful papers for you to view and download. “The Age of Meaning” explains what drives people today. “The Meaning Gap” illustrates what this means to business. “The Meaningful Workplace” explains how this change effects the dynamic between businesses and employees.

Emotive Brand is a San Francisco branding agency.

Comments (2)

  1. Your viewpoint in our life most often changes our viewpoint. Sometimes this alteration is good and sometimes this change is bad but it is our viewpoint that controls the way we feel.
    Jaqueline Friedberg

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