In a startup world full of ball pits and kegerators, Dashlane’s office cannot compete: it doesn’t even have a sink. The workplace amenities (or lack thereof) in its New York SoHo office wouldn’t attract many prospective employees–at least not those looking for the storied Silicon Valley (and Alley) perks. The carpets have coffee stains, office security consists of a life-size Bruce Lee cutout, and employees have fashioned curtains out of cardboard boxes. Vacation is limited to three weeks, and nobody works from home. Cue the sad trombone.
But Dashlane CEO Emmanuel Schalit takes pride in the lack of offerings. “We’d rather spend our resources and money on things that are going to make us stronger as a team,” he told Fast Company. “More–maybe–than on things that would ‘look cool’ like a big slide, or a big whatever.”
Instead of investing in a personal chef or a ping-pong table, Schalit thinks he can attract employees with a mission, values, and a quality product that people care about. “Ideally, we are all super proud of what we’re trying to achieve and there’s no bigger perk.” In Dashlane’s case, that means selling his company to the talent pool based on its goal to create the perfect password manager–a small, but universally vexing, problem. (Imagine that: People applying to jobs for the job part.)
Of course, as Schalit even admits, perks lure the best talent and for some, solving the great “password problem,” as Dashlane refers to it, is never going to be enough. In a nod to employee retention, Dashlane has an espresso machine and the requisite Fresh Direct order, including both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
Being perk-resistant doesn’t necessarily mean being tech-averse. One fixture of the office is LifeSize, a video conference system that connects the Paris team to the New York team. (Schalit, a native Parisian, started Dashlane in France.) A large computer monitor affixed with a webcam sits at the head of the New York office. The Paris office has a corresponding setup. If a marketing manager needs to talk to an engineer across an ocean 5,000 miles away, he doesn’t email. He walks right up to the monitor and talks to that person via teleconference. For those who want to have a more private conversation, they can head to the “tiny, horrible room,” as Schalit describes it, that fits a LifeSize screen and a wooden slab some might call a desk. “It’s ugly. It’s tiny. It serves its purpose.”
If you’re not into walking, Dashlane might be the place for you. In addition to LifeSize, there’s Double: an iPad on wheels. Each office has one that can be controlled by the other office. If a Parisian engineer wants to get the attention of a New York staffer, she might, using an application, wheel the iPad over to that person’s desk. Much like virtually walking over to someone in the office, the two could then talk face-to-face via video chat.
Many wouldn’t consider high-tech communication tools perks. But Schalit hopes the work environment will draw people who share his interest in creating a more progressive office experience. “We decided that being a tech startup is not just about building tech products, it’s about using technology to work differently,” said Schalit.
The type of people who have landed at Dashlane share those values, or at least they have convinced themselves that puppy daycare isn’t a deal breaker. The newest addition, marketing and analysis manager Alex Cramer, called perks a distraction. “Part of the reason I joined the team here was I saw the physical space and to me, it was reminiscent of an atmosphere that would allow for a ton of work to get done that no ball pit could make happen,” he told Fast Company.
“We have everything we need,” added senior marketing manager Ryan Merchant, who used to work at so-cute-it-hurts Fab, a retail startup that, like many others, uses free lunches and beer as a form of employee manipulation.. Sure, Dashlane may not have a sink, but “we’re not going outside collecting rain on tarps,” Merchant says. A Poland Springs water cooler provides drinking water, although that’s setting the bar pretty low for office lifestyle.
Since his stint at Fab, Merchant has become somewhat of an anti-perk evangelist. “When you know you have all these crazy perks you get people who are just driven by: ‘I want that perk.’ It kind of becomes about that once you’re there and it’s like ‘let me tweet about all these great perks that are at my office.’ Then all your coworkers are there just for the perks. Whereas here, nobody is really here because we don’t have a play slide.”
Not all job seekers want to land a job where they do “a ton of work,” which makes offices with pool tables and booze so appealing to so many. Of course, companies invest in said perks not just to impress potential employees with a compensation package that includes free sodas, but to keep workers in the office. At least Dashlane does away with the illusion of the all-play, no-work atmosphere.
So far, the type of people drawn to the relatively perkless office don’t mind a bare-bones office life. In the three years of Dashlane’s existence, only one person has left. He went on to pursue a career working with animals.
Still, the office could use a sink.
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