Why Going Home At 5:30 Brings In Top Talent

SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg has been in the startup hustle for almost 20 years. So he knows how to build a long-haul (read: grown-up) culture.

Selina Tobaccowala was talented: She founded eVite—which still sends more than 3 million invitations per month—while she was at Stanford. Then she went to Ticketmaster and ran product engineering. Dave Goldberg needed her to do the same for SurveyMonkey.

So how did SurveyMonkey—then a small startup—land Tobaccowala?

"I was able to get her because she was four months pregnant," he says, and so she didn't want to do the sleeping-in-conference-room startup thing. She needed a culture that would fit her (grown-up) life. As Goldberg tells First Round Capital, he made sure to build one.

"We've been able to hire people that like that startup feel and environment," he says, "but also like the stability of a successful, profitable company."

That happy medium makes for happy employees: Tobaccowala's now had two kids since she joined SurveyMonkey.

Talent is long-term

"The business was really successful with 12 people, so with 200 people, people shouldn't be killing themselves," Goldberg says. "It's a marathon, not a sprint."

But you don't sculpt a culture through a slogan: Going home on time is Goldberg's way of showing that the company is in it for the long haul. Like many super-successful execs, he goes home, has dinner with his wife and kids, and then works in the late evening.

Goldberg didn't always have a schedule like this: He tells of nonstop 14-hour days when he first started LAUNCH Media back in 1994. The balance, then, is part of the growing up.

Bottom Line: If you create a company that encourages people to lead full lives, you can land a full roster of talent.

Watch the original video here.

[Image: Flickr user Liam Moloney]

Add New Comment


  • GuillaumeBalaine

    The key question is : how many people would accept a lower salary for fewers hours of work so they can have a life while they still have the body to enjoy it. 
    Believe me, there will be a lot of positive answers. 

    And anyway, what you really want is not to go faster than competitors, but to do things differently, your own way. In order to achieve that you need people with the right brains and creativity. 
    The sleep at conference thing is only for publicly known and funded startups that need to release something before being copied entirely. 
    If your business is in private beta or your mvp already launched you have zero reason to do have people work 12 hours per day other than satisfying your insecurities as a CEO.

  • Lelala

    So, nice to see that he has managed to run the company this way - but, honestly, the important sentence, is: "he goes home, has dinner with his wife and then he is working in the evening" - there is the rub: "Going home at 17:30" implies that he is doing a 8h job - in fact, its not true when he is working after sending his kids to bed at 21:00, then doing some company-stuff from 21:00 til 01:00 - this is not about "having 8h and running a big companny", instead this is about "staying 8h at the office and doing the overtime-hours at home". And thats a *HUGE* difference.

  • Michael Dubakov

    We had 40-hrs work week rule from day 1 (well, nobody followed it in the beginning though). Now we have 50 people on board and it is really important to maintain a good balance to keep energy. So we have 4 working days and 1 day (Friday) dedicated to learning and personal projects.

  • Ralph Bagnall

    Scott Adams proposed this in his OA5 (out at 5pm) company several years ago. Art leads real life again!

  • bsolestis

    I didn't care a flip about building a startup after reading the name "Tobaccowala". I want to know the story behind that name.

  • Guesty

    In India we have chaiwallas who bring you tea or 'chai'(remember slumdog millionaire), so maybe her father was someone who brought people cigarettes and coffee?