I don’t write a lot about how we run things here at Backupify, but we recently made a decision to sign up for a service that might seem like a random expense to many startup CEOs. I thought it would be good to take a few minutes and explain my view on employee education, and why it is a great investment and “small dollars” (as the VCs like to say) in the big scheme of things.
Backupify recently signed up for Intelligently under their corporate plan that allows any company employee to take classes and then Intelligently will send us a single monthly consolidated bill. We estimate we will spend a couple hundred dollars a month, which is a lot for a startup. So the obvious question is why we would be willing to spend on something that may seem frivolous at first glance. Then answer is: corporate governance.
It sounds odd because most people equate corporate governance with boring stodgy stuff like board meetings and legal documents. But at its core, corporate governance is about establishing a framework to minimize conflicts of interest among various stakeholders (investors, management, employees, etc), and maximize the proper use of company assets. In tech companies, particularly fast growing startup tech companies, the primary assets of the company are the employees. This changes many notions of corporate governance and thus, I think the central issue for corporate governance in a venture-backed startup is how to provide the right incentives to human assets and make them as productive as possible.
Managing people is hard. Corporate governance language has historically talked about “assets” but when those assets are humans everything changes. A factory can’t walk out the door if it gets angry. An employee can. So startup corporate governance is largely about managing talent, setting the proper incentives, keeping employees motivated, and investing in them to make them smarter and more productive. And that last piece is where Intelligent.ly comes in.
There aren’t many opportunities to learn real-world skills from people who have done it, other than on-the-job training. And the problem with on-the-job training is that, for knowledge workers, it often happens in such a hectic environment that there is no time to put the knowledge in the proper context. When you learn something, it really helps to move between levels of understanding, first looking at an overarching framework, then visiting specific examples and applications, then re-visiting an overarching framework. Intelligent.ly provides exactly that. It provides real-world knowledge that an employee can turn around and use, but does it within a framework that puts the knowledge in the proper context.
I’m not sure the team at Intelligent.ly started with corporate governance in mind, but given their focus on venture-backed startups in Boston, I believe that they really promote better governance.
And by the way, the feedback from Backupify employees who have taken an Intelligent.ly class is all positive. So go check out Intelligent.ly, and become a better you.