Make your mark: 4 NYC tech companies where employees run with their ideas

by Liz Warren
August 8, 2018

With all of the responsibilities of an employee at a growing startup, it’s easy to only focus on crushing your to-do list. However, the best ideas are often born outside the confines of your daily assignments.

Employees at these startups know this all too well. They’re given the opportunity to present any ideas they have that could better the business or work culture, and have found that doing so not only benefits the company, but  also makes their jobs more fulfilling. See how their ideas were put into action.


image via squarespace

Squarespace helps people turn their ideas into action, so it’s only fitting that it would reserve time for employees to do the same. The team regularly works on new initiatives that provide value to employees and customers alike. We caught up with Software Engineer Kelsey Rose, who explained how she was able to turn an idea into a company feature that customers love.


How does Squarespace's culture encourage employees to act on their ideas?

One of my favorite ways that Squarespace enables employees to be creative and pursue their passions is through regularly scheduled hack weeks, which give employees across the company the time and space to build anything we want. It’s a great, consistent outlet to work on ideas and projects that we may not have had the time for in our day-to-day roles.


Can you share an example of a process, product or feature that came about from a grassroots initiative?

In May, Squarespace launched “Products on Instagram,” which started as a hack week project that I worked on. This feature enables product syncing between Squarespace and Instagram, so our merchants can share photos of their products on Instagram while directing traffic to their Squarespace site for purchase.

A teammate and I had been itching to build this feature for a while, but it wasn’t in our short-term product roadmap — so we took it to Hack Week. When the time came, we formed a team, built the feature and demoed it. Thanks to our stellar demo, we were given the time after Hack Week to polish our work and ship the feature. So far, we’ve gotten great initial feedback from our customers on social media, and it was incredibly rewarding to own and launch a feature ourselves.


image via justworks

An HR-focused company that was born out of a refusal to accept an industry status quo, Justworks is dedicated to constantly improving both its product for customers and work environment for employees. Program Manager of Diversity and Inclusion Jess Harvie explained how improvements are constantly being made and put into action.


How does Justworks’s culture encourage employees to act on their ideas?

We have a coveted employee honor called “Two Ducks in a Bucket.” It’s given quarterly to the person who sees a problem, comes up with a solution and takes the necessary action regardless of whether or not it’s in their job description.

Our product and engineering team also hosts an annual hack day. People take a pause from their day-to-day and solve problems around the office, for our employees or for our customers.


Can you share an example of a process, product or feature that came about from a grassroots initiative?

After the events in Charlottesville, VA, we launched Justreal, an employee discussion group that covers current events. The first discussion got deep, but people found it helpful, and they asked for more.

Now, Justreal is a tightly organized (and highly anticipated) monthly event. We explore the full spectrum of current topics impacting our team inside and outside of work. Our next session is on free speech in comedy.


image via custora

At marketing tech startup Amperity, employee-driven initiatives come in all shapes and sizes. Everything from weekly lunch parties to new product features were born from a company hackathon. Director of Partnerships Asher Waxman told us how the team comes up with its ideas.


How does Amperity's culture encourage employees to act on their ideas?

We maintain a book of different values that are important to us: keep experimenting, default to action and take ownership.

When I think about action at Amperity, it's pretty ingrained in our day-to-day. If you have an idea, you're always encouraged to build it, try it out and learn from it. We’re a growing team with plenty to do, so there’s a strong sense of collective responsibility here.


Can you share an example of a process, product or feature that came about from a grassroots initiative?

The first that come to mind are some of the funny ones — WETIKI (our Wednesday lunch party) and our contentious trivia session during our all-hands meeting. Both were started by individuals looking to add to the culture at Amperity.

In terms of product, I'm always amazed after every hackathon. What starts off as a new feature idea chat with a group of people from different departments turns into a notable part of our product. It's so exciting to see these initiatives impact various teams and contribute to the growth of the company.


image via fundera

Employees are constantly coming up with ideas at fintech startup Fundera. VP of Content Meredith Wood explained how the team is able to work together to come up with an initiative they never knew they needed.


How does Fundera’s culture encourage employees to act on their ideas?

We've found it has to permeate the whole culture, and employees need to see that they’re truly being heard. From our engineering team's “20 percent time” to work on projects of their own choosing to a bi-annual employee engagement survey that provides an opportunity to suggest changes to our workplace, we're always encouraging new ideas. We host annual hackathons that have led to new product rollouts, and have even had a company-wide contest for employees to present a new business idea to our board.


Can you share an example of a process, product or feature that came about from a grassroots initiative?

When we wanted more of a focus on diversity and inclusion at our organization, two women pitched and were given a budget for a women's networking group. It's still going strong today!



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