The Inside Story of a Tech Startup

Table of Contents

    Startups have long been a hot topic of conversation. Discussions usually waste no time zooming in on the possibility of stakeholders gaining enough equity with the new company to eventually turn it into hard cash. But while many believe that the potential of a big payday is what draws people to work for a startup, there are many other motivators, many of them much deeper and more personal than the promise of financial fortune.

     “A company stops being a startup when people stop feeling that what they are doing is having an impact,” says Russell D’Souza, co-founder of the ticket search engine, SeatGeek.

     “I don’t think the tipping point has to do with [reaching] a certain number of people,” D’Souza explains, “but having an atmosphere that people individually and collectively can’t will the company to success.”

    Matt Salzberg, CEO and co-founder of meal kit service, Blue Apron, also describes the test of a startup. “Keeping a dynamic culture at a company gets much harder with every new employee and with every year that passes.”

    A Different Kind of Employee

    Startups attract a different kind of employee from those who want to work for large companies. Often characterized by flexible schedules, a focus on innovation, and a driven, energetic culture, startups offer a unique set of opportunities that typically can’t be found within larger enterprise organizations.


    If well-managed, work flexibility (or “life balance”) can be highly attractive to workers. But by virtue of their size, large companies are forced to deal with large HR groups, departments full of clock-punchers, bureaucracy, and the inevitable set of employees who are there primarily for their healthcare benefits. Wanting to attract the best employees, many employers over the last two decades even attempted to create a “startup feel,” opting to let some employees work from home. But they ran into a problem: most of the people who are attracted to large companies are not self-motivated or don’t self-manage well, so productivity inevitably suffered. Now they are reversing course. According to SHRM, many large companies are eliminating work-from-home positions, and more are expected to do so in 2020.

    Most startups, on the other hand, allow employees to enjoy flexible schedules and the ability to work from home. And the workers they attract like it that way.


    Startup founders are usually innovative and creative individuals who believe that the healthy exchange of ideas can contribute to the business’ success. Employees at startups are often encouraged to share their ideas and foster creativity and innovation. Those who work for big companies, on the other hand, aren’t usually offered opportunities to report directly to the president or CEO; their input is often stolen, diluted, or dismissed.

    Variety & Challenge

    Startups do not generally attract people who prefer predictability and repetition. The work required can vary from day to day, providing an exciting, challenging, and hopefully rewarding work environment. A startup’s workforce often wears many hats as each person is expected to be open to branching out from their area of expertise. They don’t shrug off variety; you won’t hear them say, “No, I won’t do that. That’s not my job.” Working over weekends and late nights is not perceived as a drudgery; it’s seen as an expression of a can-do culture, and the individual feels that they are a part of something that is fulfilling a vision.

    ClicData – A Startup & A Family

    We’d like to introduce you to five of the folks at ClicData who run and drive the growth and culture at our startup.

    Telmo: The Founder

    I didn’t start ClicData because I wanted to be my own boss, have my own work schedule, or even build something that I might be able to sell for “big bucks.” I started ClicData because I was convinced I could provide companies all over the world with a better data and reporting system—one that would not cost a fortune but one that would be powerful enough to smoothly handle complexities in connectivity, manipulation, transformation, visualization, and automation.

    As CEO, my key objective is to ensure that we continue to be happy working with our customers and team members and that we continue to evolve our platform. I look for new ways to sell, new features to add, a new technology that can make things easier, and new industries to support. I never stop learning.

    I am not sure if ClicData is a startup anymore—but we never lose the feel of being one. We are a dynamic group of engineers, analysts, marketers, administrative employees and others who like to be challenged, who want to solve problems, and who love to continue to learn about business and technology. We enjoy what we do. And as long as that is happening, I am doing my job.

    Axelle: an Under-30

    The world of startups is particularly attractive to people like me—young graduates just starting out on their careers. Startups hold the promise of freedom of initiative, a diversity of projects, and the possibility of rapid evolution—a promise I could not resist. Many people of my generation are looking for purpose, meaning, and responsibility in their jobs and startups often provide such an environment.

    A few years ago, my mom told me she was worried about my future. I was being very selective in the companies I was applying to work for, and she thought I wouldn’t be able to find a job that way. She thought I should have sent out thousands of standard resumes; she thought I was taking the lazy route. But I wasn’t lazy at all—I was being intentional. I wanted to be sure to align myself with the values and objectives of my future company.

    The Under-30s want to create, inspire, and have an impact.

    My life as a young marketer at ClicData

    I couldn’t think of a better company to start my career as a young French marketer than ClicData.

    • Global footprint. ClicData is an international organization with leadership in North America and I am grateful to have a great opportunity to learn from them. Their management style is what surprised me the most. They acknowledge my value, trust my opinion, and care enough to help me improve in my job. I’m not just a number that can be replaced overnight. The time and energy they invest in me reinforce my dedication to doing more for the company. It’s a “win-win.”
    • Speed. Things get done fast at ClicData. I don’t need validation from everyone to do my job. I submit ideas, we talk about them, and, if they prove worthy, we implement them right away. I’m able to test out new ideas and the process teaches me a lot.
    • A common set of values. Transparency, honesty, personal accountability and responsibility, dedication, fairness, fun. These values are at the heart of ClicData’s DNA—and mine.

    Rob: The Seasoned Executive

    I started my career in technology sales and sales management at a small company that was, in fact, a startup. The company was horribly managed and suffered from constant infighting, however, I was able to do whatever I wanted and sell to whomever I wanted. It was the Wild Wild West, literally and figuratively. I made deals with Cyrix, NextGen, AMD. I bought and sold grey-market drives, memory, and CPUs. I had a blast. Because of my hustle, my “can-do-now” attitude, and my conviction that my ideas were a gift to humanity, I talked my way into a Sales Manager role at a sales process outsourcing startup. We had three teams of eight and a fat marketing budget, so we went nuts with it. A few years in, I was promoted to V.P. of Sales, managing 800 salespeople.

    After seven years at that job, I was recruited by a $5 billion-a-year software company that gave me a sizable increase in salary and excellent benefits. I flew everywhere and wore terrific suits, but it wasn’t long before I realized my new normal wasn’t necessarily comfortable. I spent the next seven years sitting through meetings and surviving three CEO changes, eight new direct managers, and an E.V.P. who believed that working until 8 p.m. every night was the sign of a good performer.

    Finally, I had had enough.

    My life as a Seasoned Leader at ClicData

    Here’s what I appreciate most about ClicData:

    • The value of youth. I love what I do at ClicData, and I like being the “old guy.” I’m surrounded by youth, energy, and a bunch of brilliant, young people who are free to disagree and challenge me. What I love most about working at a startup is that we encourage ourselves to fail fast, be fearless, and expect honesty from everyone.
    • An email, a single slide, or a phone call. If I have an idea or a direction that I want to go in, I move forward with it. Most of the time, all it takes is a quick call to those who might be involved. There are no meetings, and there are no concerns about legacy bureaucracy. No one is protecting some useless fiefdom.
    • Bringing immediate value. I have been able to close some huge customers and attract some fantastic partners because I can pivot and be creative. We’ve won several valuable customers because I told them something unexpected: to stop settling for less and to knock the rust off their thinking. Being able to offer a customer custom code, unique data connectors, and an automated process makes life easy for a sales guy.

    Greg: The Smart Driver

    My career began as a professional archaeologist working at remote sites in Ontario, Canada, where I was a huge advocate for bringing technologies into the field of archeology. I searched for as many opportunities as possible to use mapping and 3D imagery to analyze cultural sites. My passion for technology pushed me to pursue more technically focused roles in data management and analysis and ultimately led to my current position as an analyst at ClicData. Now, I continue to explore how new technologies and techniques can be used to improve the way we do things. I’ve also discovered that I’m pretty good at creating unintended situations that really push our tools to the breaking point.

    My life as a smart driver at ClicData

    • No boundaries. ClicData is the first startup I’ve worked for, and it’s extremely refreshing to work in a role that doesn’t have hard and fast boundaries about responsibilities. My official position is an analyst, but that doesn’t stop me from dabbling in marketing, development, or customer support. We all have our core responsibilities, but we also get to try on many hats.
    • Everyone gets a say. Analysts are typically hired to provide answers to specific data-related questions like, “What caused that spike in revenue on Thursday last week?” If they have any ideas or thoughts beyond that, executives usually don’t want to hear them. It’s different at ClicData. Each employee’s opinions and experience are valued, and their input is taken into consideration personally by the CEO.
    • Seeing the difference. Not only does my feedback matter, but I can also see the changes that it makes and how it has affected the way we do things company-wide. At ClicData, I feel like I’m a partner—not just a cog in a machine.

    Damien: The Technical Director

    Being in my thirties, I literally grew up with the rise of the web. I’ve been through all the stages of its evolution—from the family computer with 56k connections to laptops and tablets to smartphones that can browse the internet at the speed of light without any usage limits whatsoever. I spent countless nights and days browsing personal blogs and websites until I decided to create one. It lit in me a passion for web development that quickly became the focus of my professional career.

    Since then, I’ve worked for a dozen companies, creating websites for businesses of all sizes, from small local butcher and baker shops to large conglomerates like French Home Depot or Walmart. But it wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be. I was given directives and I had to execute. Period. If I had three items to work on, that was all I was supposed to do—not less and certainly not more. If I wanted to spend more time to revamp some features, improve the code to make features more scalable, robust, or durable, I would be told, “No.”

    It took me a long time to realize that my good intentions didn’t fit into the companies’ goals and strategies. Making matters worse, their management styles were based on a strong 9-to-5 policy that didn’t allow for flexibility. It was also rare that I could work on the latest frameworks. I got frustrated, de-motivated, and, eventually, bored.

    Not surprisingly, when I started as an intern at ClicData, I thought it would be the same. They would tell me what to do and I’d have to shut up and do what I was asked. Thankfully, I was wrong. Within the first week there, I was asked what I thought about the platform and if I had ideas or suggestions to improve it. In fact, my ideas went straight to the growing list of incoming features. I had become part of a group that was building something strong, scalable and durable—together. I feel very lucky to be able to work with people I can learn from.

    At ClicData, we don’t just “go to the office,” we go to our work-family. Everyone gets along and cares for each other, and that connection is reflected in the quality of our work. Even the CEO is attentive to the expectations and personalities of the new recruits, which allows a rapid integration of our new family members. We are not distracted by disharmony.

    My role as the Technical Director at ClicData

    As Technical Director, my goal is to convey ClicData’s core values and philosophy. Work hard, play harder—literally. Don’t just fix an issue, build something strong that can evolve in the future.

    You might think that, as we grow, we’d naturally build in hierarchy little by little, ultimately switching to a more classical organization. You’d be wrong. My title gives me more responsibility, but not more influence in the decision-making than any member of the team. We’re building our dream-house and everyone’s contributing equally. Here’s what I like most:

    • We got the power. We have everything we need to create the best software. We can work with the most suitable technology, we get the best devices to do it, and we take the time to think through all the features and build them. Most importantly: we have the right people doing it.
    • An all-together thing. Everyone gets to participate in all stages, conception, creation, delivery.
    • A long-term thing. Eighty percent of us have been here for more than seven years. We are here to stay.

    Is ClicData Still a Startup?

    ClicData has been growing continuously, quarter after quarter, for several consecutive years—and it’s not going to stop anytime soon. Its success is due to its strong product, its ambitious commercial strategy, and its teams of people aligned on a clear vision.

    But ClicData intends to always be making an impact, and so, by D’Souza’s definition, it will always remain a startup—no matter how big it becomes.

    As such, we try to be as agile as possible in all departments—product development, sales, and marketing. All of us are aligned with the same goal: building a robust and viable platform and providing all of our customers the best experience and service possible.

    Being part of the ClicData team means many things: you put your heart into the work, you contribute to the overall effort, you are eager to learn and test new things.

    Want to join the team? We’d love to hear—and learn—from you.