Photo Courtesy Wakefield Media
You’ve heard about startup companies, but how much do you really know about the phenomena that’s trending across almost every industry? Sparked by the 2008 recession, a whole new crop of companies have sprung up in recent years—some born to fill an unsatisfied niche, others to share a special interest or hobby, and many to create opportunities where there were none. Startups are now making waves in their respective arenas and creating serious competition for the long-established, veteran brands who once enjoyed a majority claim over the capital and attention of their consumers. That’s where Uncubed comes in. We spoke to Uncubed founder and startup expert Chris Johnson to gain more insight on startup culture—which your fave fashion and beauty site, StyleBlazer, once counted among—hiring trends (right on time for recent grads), the future of Yahoo Fashion and plenty more. Check out what we learned below!
For those that don’t know, what is Uncubed?
Uncubed is one of the largest startup conferences in the US, with events in 6 US cities, London and Berlin. Uncubed is a creative, high energy gathering featuring digital skills classes, inspirational talks, and the chance to meet up to 100 hiring startups. Each event draws up to 2,000 creative people.
Why do you think more companies don’t “uncube”?
They’re up against about a century of office work culture history, and it’s just easier to keep doing things that way rather than think a little differently about the problem of how to make people the most productive. Work culture became very structured, with a highly patterned way of doing things. You get a box to sit in, you wear a certain kind of clothing that you probably otherwise wouldn’t, and you generally feel uncomfortable. Over time, it became very normal to feel extremely different at work than you would outside of work (different clothes, cubes), and things originally created for efficiency ended up creating epidemic-level amounts of apathy towards work.
The good news is that companies are going to have to change. People entering the workforce for the first time now place a huge premium on atmosphere, how comfortable they are, how creative and engaging the culture is, and whether or not they feel like they’re a part of something. It’s hard to get high marks on any of those with the old model.
Is there more of a trend with unstructured work environments among startups? If so why?
Yes and no. There’s an undeniable trend towards more casual, more fun, more creative environments, and people often think this is a lack of structure. But, it many ways, that’s a major misconception. It’s just a fresh look at things like business hours: are people really the most productive if they have to all be there at 8 or 9 am? What if someone else simply functions better if the structure allows for a later start and a later finish? And what if there are no meetings? Or at least no meetings bigger than 4 people? (Shutterstock just designed their massive new office around this concept.) Most great work environments are highly structured, even if it doesn’t look like it.
What do you think older companies can learn from today’s startups?
I think speed and culture are probably the biggest things [older companies can learn from today’s startups].
On the speed front, modern startup culture has been engineering around doing things very, very fast. And I think if big companies could replicate that it would be almost impossible for startups to compete. The good news for startups, is that it’s really hard for big companies to do.
The other point is culture. Big companies that can borrow from startups’ abilities to create inspiring environments and get people to think they’re actually part of a common mission…end up being pretty dangerous in the end.