No platform in the world, including CoFoundersLab, offers a perfect solution to building a company; we only try to make it easier. Serious effort is still required to ensure you have the right team, strategy, and vision. For two co-founders of YCombinator-backed Pomello, that meant using CoFoundersLab to not only find a potential technical co-founder, but also rigorously test their fit as a team. It is no coincidence that their company focuses on helping companies hire based on cultural fit.
We got to speak with Catherine Spence and Xian Ke, two of the three co-founders, about how they matched up to execute on Pomello’s mission.
How did you find your co-founders through CoFoundersLab?
Catherine: Oliver and I had been looking for a technical co-founder for a long time. We had been reaching out to people through our networks, and finding other folks through various meet-up events. We are, as you can imagine, pretty picky about fit, and we really wanted to find someone who felt passionately about the problem we are working on. We had almost given up on finding someone, when I got a note from Xian on CoFoundersLab. I was immediately interested in meeting her, because it was clear she had read up on what we were working on and was interested in the idea. I also noticed that she had been slowly working her way from very large corporations to start-ups over the course the past few years, so I felt like she was more ready to join a scrappy, lean (very limited funding), founding team. As for fit, with a co-founder there really is no way to 'interview' someone in the traditional sense. So we decided to ask her to work with us a couple days a week. This gives everyone a chance to see how the team dynamics develop. I look for someone that wants to get stuff done, cares about her/his work, and who can laugh in tough situations. Xian has all of these qualities, so after a month or so I knew we should make her an offer to come on full-time.
Xian: I was browsing on CoFoundersLab for projects that could be interesting and could make a positive impact on the world. It helped that Catherine and Oliver are fun, honest, and thoughtful people who can get stuff done. Ultimately, I wanted to see what would happen if we worked together, and didn’t want to regret passing on the opportunity.
What is Pomello?
Pomello helps companies hire employees based on culture fit. This online service is based on 30 years of research. It quantifies company culture and uses data to help teams hire more successful people. Employees matched for culture perform better, are more engaged in their work, and quit less often.
Companies admired for their culture like Google know that evaluating potential new hires needs to include a rigorous assessment of fit. But Google found out a long time ago that evaluating fit is difficult, and people don’t often get it right. In fact, even at Google it was a “random mess” according to Laszlo Bock, head of People Ops . Not surprisingly, an entire field of science is dedicated to studying person-organization fit. Fit has a profound impact on job satisfaction, engagement, performance, and turnover. Pomello is based on more than 30 years of careful study. It enables companies of any size to access the best research in organizational behavior.
People often confuse culture with perks like free lunches and ping pong tables in the office. Unlike perks, which come and go with market swings, a strong culture will make your people more productive even when you are facing challenges.
Many managers assume that their employees are more motivated by pay than purpose, when in fact the opposite is true. Values and culture are what give employees a sense of purpose, will drive productivity whether you are able to offer employees a rich paycheck or not.
Who is it for
Any company or team that is hiring. Pomello is particularly well-suited for companies that have customer-facing employees (e.g. sales teams, retail associates, etc.). Pomello saves companies money, especially when performance is highly variable and turnover is a significant cost.
Any advice for founders on CoFoundersLab about finding the right cofounder?
Catherine: Being without a co-founder is better than having the wrong co-founder, so taking your time is important. Once you've established mutual interest you have to try working on something together. Pay attention to how you disagree with someone, is it functional or dysfunctional? Functional disagreement means you are able to act in spite of disagreement, and you trust and respect your co-founder even if you are vehemently disagreeing.
Xian: Go with what you’re interested in spending time on. Life is uncertain, so don’t expect 100% clarity. Be grateful to encounter first-world problems!