ears ago, when Simon Dao helped develop award-winning laptops at Texas Instruments, he reveled in the rush of beating out the competition even as he chaffed at the bureaucracy of a large corporation. These days, his environment has fewer layers but the thrill and the pressure are even greater.
Dao and his cofounders have spent the last 18 months birthing, nurturing and nudging FireSpout to its scheduled launch later this summer.
Of course, there have been challenges. The biggest one for Dao has been finding the right people to create an environment in which the sense of expectation and quality define the culture. He calls it "individual leveraging" and it goes hand-in-hand with the company's mantra—own it, drive it, get it done.
"Everyone here knows who owns what," he explains. "For every task, we can look to one person and know that whatever happens, that person will own the task, drive it and get it done. There is a high sense of security in that."
This philosophy is so fundamental to the business that it manifests in the hiring process. Senior management candidates go through a two-hour performance interview with Dao and another senior manager in which they are presented with hypothetical business problems. Essentially, they are asked to come up with a business plan while Dao and the manager pick it apart. The candidate's sense of ownership of the task and analysis of how to hire and leverage the appropriate people to get the job done give Dao a good understanding of how well the person will fit the organization.
"There are candidates who look great on their resumes, but who, in fact, are very passive, and to 'own it, drive it, get it done' requires action," he says.
Dao believes that ownership and individual leverage sets the company apart. "I'm an advisor for two other companies, and when you walk into their offices, things are disorganized, there are no processes in place and no expectation that if something is wrong, somebody owns it and will fix it immediately," he says. "We're different, and I think it shows. There's no sense of complacency here."