Culture Posts

We use very little email at AngelList. Most of our communication happens on Yammer, HipChat, Tracker and face-to-face. This probably gets us a 90% reduction in email.

If you’re running your company via email, you’re missing out on newer, more effective communications technologies.

Yammer is our company mailing list

Yammer has nested conversations, search, inline images and likes. It is also our company directory. And they have a mobile app.

We use it for asynchronous communication across the whole company. Most of all, it keeps our company “mailing list” out of email.

Yammer, HipChat and Tracker all have email, mobile and desktop notifications. You don’t need to check them every 5 minutes.

HipChat is for IM

HipChat is an IM app for desktop and mobile. It has inline images, presence, search and a company directory. The (buggy) iPhone app keeps you accessible when you’re out of the office.

It also supports multi-person rooms (we have a room for our engineers) and it has an API that we use to feed other rooms with exceptions, GitHub notifications and deploys.

We use HipChat for synchronous 1-on-1 and group communication.

If you’re using Skype for IM, try HipChat. Alternatives include Yammer, which has rudimentary IM. Or a Facebook group which has a wall and basic IM. But I recommend HipChat.

Tracker is for product specs

We use Tracker to spec out goals and tasks for new features. Each spec has its own todo list, image attachments, comments and status. It’s also easy to re-prioritize features and assign them to different people. Some people prefer Asana or Trello for specs.

Face-to-face is for everything else

The biggest companies weren’t built remotely. Families don’t live remotely. Sports teams don’t train remotely.

Face-to-face is for high bandwidth communication, sub-communication (body language and facial expressions), leaving an impression, new ideas, overhearing other people’s conversations, bonding with your co-workers, whiteboarding, throwing chairs, and everything else you need to say to build a big business.

When we use email

I discourage new team members from using email, but there are a few places where we use it.

First, when we need to communicate with people outside the company.

Second, when we need to have a conversation with an ad hoc group of people inside the company. HipChat is not great for ad hoc groups that only need to discuss a single task like, “how should we negotiate this deal.”

Third is laziness and stupidity (guilty).

Update: There’s an excellent discussion of alternative approaches on Quibb.


Here are screenshots of the mobile apps. They all have desktop apps as well.








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Every team member of AngelList is on a 6-year vesting schedule. Including the founders. Why?

Because it takes a long time to build something important. And we want everyone to stick around for a long time.

Because we want people who are here for the mission, not a payday.

Because it sells prospective hires: the team you’re joining isn’t going anywhere.

Does that mean I get more equity?

Everyone asks whether they get more equity to make up for the longer vesting schedule. A good way to think about that is whether we would give smaller grants if new team members were on a 4-year schedule. And the answer to that is ‘yes’.

There are a lot of benefits to getting additional equity now, instead of 4 years from now:

  1. The strike price is today’s strike price, not a higher strike price 4 years from now.
  2. The clock on long-term capital gains starts as soon as you exercise the grant.
  3. A new grant 4 years from now wouldn’t be as big.
  4. Any acceleration is likely to consider the entire grant, not a smaller 4-year grant.

If you’re interested in a 6-year vesting schedule, AngelList is hiring engineers and designers.

Related: 1-(wo)man startups and Ask forgiveness, not permission

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The AngelList team is roughly organized into 1-(wo)man startups. That means we expect you to treat your project like a startup.

You come up with the idea, do the design, write the code, release it, market it, support customers, collect external and internal feedback and then get to work on the next version. We also expect you to work directly with our business partners like SecondMarket, VC funds and incubators.

We don’t hire people who just want to code

We don’t hire anyone who just wants to be an engineer. Or a designer. Or a product manager. We hire people who want to start their own company—at AngelList and beyond. Many of our team members, including me, have started their own company and failed—others have done quite well.

I would put our engineers up against any startup in the world, but we’re not a good place for someone who wants just wants to code.

And we’re not a good place for people who want to be told what to do. If you sit and wait for instructions, you will fail.

Pull the help you need

Everyone on the team is exceptionally good at one or two things (code, design, product, marketing…). Some of them might be fine at another one. But it falls off quickly after that.

So we expect engineers to pull help from designers (and vice versa). We expect designers to push help on the engineers (and vice versa). We expect teammates to ask the founders for help getting press. To get advice on how to sequence the launch. To ask for a better idea. To ask what’s the most important thing you could be working on right now.

Pull help from whomever is best at X, but don’t let them be a bottleneck. And expect strong feedback from people who are better at X.

Coordination costs go way down

Each person on the team does a ridiculous amount of cross-functional work, so coordination costs go way down. It is pretty easy to coordinate with yourself.

There are less stakeholders on each project, so freedom and happiness go way up. So does responsibility.

Finally, we get the chance to improve the average quality of the team as we hire new people. Instead of hiring teams of decent people who are managed towards a good outcome, we can hire unicorns that actually increase the average quality of the team. And we can create our own unicorns through training.

The product gets messy

We don’t have a consistent design across the entire site. The design is embarrassing in many places. The product is embarrassing in places. The code is rough in places. The site isn’t fast.

We mitigate this by having very high standards–so our standard for embarrassing is another company’s standard for good. We mitigate this by solving very hard problems for our users, so they cut us lots of slack. We mitigate this by being fast instead of consistent or perfect. And we mitigate this with internal startups who serve our team members with design, engineering, refactoring, etc.

It’s a great way to recruit

Every candidate loves to hear that they will get the opportunity to be a 1-(wo)man startup. It lets us hire past and future entrepreneurs.

A new team member isn’t going to take over one of our top-line metrics on her first day. She will start small but nobody is going to stop excellence from shining through.


This won’t work if you don’t give the team freedom and responsibility. So read this: Ask forgiveness, not permission.

It won’t work if you don’t have a strong sense of mission. So read this: Startups are here to save the world.

And it might not work for your size or domain. We are only 13 people: 5 engineers, 2 designers, 2 “dealflow managers” and 4 G&A (including 2 founders).

If you’re interested in working with us, we’re always hiring.

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