The co-founder of a fast-growing conversational AI start-up attributes its ongoing success to the commitment to building a diverse and trusting company culture almost as much as to the quality of the technology it is offering.
Andrei Papancea is CEO of conversational AI specialist NLX, which has expanded from five to 25 staff in a little over a year. The small team is geographically spread across the world, from New York to Seattle to Queensland, and Berlin, and speaks 19 different languages, including Arabic, Mandarin, Korean and Spanish.
Andrei says that his mission is to combine the best of AI with the best of human support to create extraordinary, memorable self-service experiences for users by building the world’s go-to platform to create human conversational AI applications.
“In all the jobs I had throughout my career, I always disliked it when good people – my colleagues, my peers, and my friends – quit. They always left for one of three reasons: they weren’t paid well, they didn’t feel heard or respected, or they didn’t have interesting and engaging work to do. In building NLX, I’ve done the best I can to avoid losing good people because of these three reasons,” explains Andrei.
“A lot of our advisors and investors told me about the importance of culture, but nobody really articulated, or there was no cohesive approach to how you get there. And while what we did has resulted in a culture that is purposeful, we didn’t necessarily do it in the pursuit of a good culture or at least not knowingly. We did it because we’ve seen what didn’t work at other companies and didn’t want to make the same mistakes that those other companies made.”
Andrei says that you’ll hear a lot of business leaders say that culture is very important and the essence of it is simple – take care of your people.
Recently, employee intranet platform Jostle recently set out to find whether it was true that companies in the tech industry have the best company culture. Examining Glassdoor Company Reviews and MIT’s Culture 500.
Their analysis found that tech companies have a better company culture according to the Culture 500 sentiment analysis data and, based on nine cultural values identified by Glassdoor and MIT – including agility, diversity, and integrity – they found that tech companies received higher scores across most categories; that they excelled in the Innovation, Agility, and Executioncategories, but fell behind companies in other sectors when it comes to Integrity, Diversity, and Customer.
And whilst founders always have the best interests of their company at heart, Andrei says it can be hard to get everyone else on the exact same page.
“I guess this is one of the other positive ramifications of a good culture because then everyone else becomes a warrior on behalf of the company in the same direction. And it’s just super powerful to see because then I can focus more on other things, less so on the nitty-gritty day-to-day details, because I know I have an army of people who know exactly what we are fighting for and what we’re trying to achieve. I’m just plugging into that.”