Building a strong startup developer culture requires constant adjustment

Most tech startups are born from a few early engineers building the company’s initial product. As those first builders work together, they begin to establish a developer culture — sometimes deliberately, sometimes not.

At Web Summit in Lisbon in November, two founders discussed the importance of building a developer culture that’s distinct from a company’s overall culture.

According to Shensi Ding, co-founder and CEO at Merge, a unified API startup, early developer ethos is particularly important inside tech startups, where engineers ultimately control how the product gets built and what gets prioritized. She says her co-founder, CTO Gil Feig, worked to set a positive tone from the start that empowered the team.

“He really instilled in us early on that engineers can, from the very beginning, decide that we can do anything. It just depends on how much time you want to allocate to [a particular task]. And we really wanted to instill that in the developer culture early on,” she said.

Ludmila Pontremolez, CTO and co-founder at Zippi, a Brazilian fintech startup, spent time as an engineer at Square prior to launching Zippi. She wanted to build a team-focused atmosphere: Regardless of who wrote the code, everyone is responsible for it. “Every mistake everyone makes is everyone’s responsibility,” she said. “When there’s something broken in production, Sunday at 1 a.m., it’s probably not the person who wrote the code that’s going to fix it, but whoever is in charge of looking after the servers at the time.”


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