BuddiesHR releases its Startup Culture Report [2024 edition]

A comprehensive report on trends in startup culture by BuddiesHR

What do high-performing companies have in common? It’s clear that they owe their success to their people. However, in order to attract and retain the best talent, they must cultivate a world-class culture. This is this conclusion that drove this study about the startup cultures. Here is what we found in this Startup Culture Report 2024.

Key takeaways

  • 35% of companies don’t share their values publicly
  • The standard number of values typically falls between 3 and 6
  • Top 5 company values are Customer centric – 41%, Ownership – 32%, Bias for action – 25%, Growth mindset – 19%, Team cohesion – 15%
  • Top 5 value categories are:Customer centric – 41% (Customer centric)
  • Bias for action – 40% (Bias for action, Focus, Impactful, Iteration, Urgency)
  • Integrity & Trust – 37% (Disagree and commit, Humility, Integrity, Low ego, Trust)
  • Growth mindset – 37% (Continuous learning, Curiosity, Dive deep, Growth mindset, Problem first, Truth-seeking)
  • Ownership – 32% (Ownership)
  • Values versus principles – values as fundamental pillars of your culture, principles describe how they translate in everyday operations.
  • Values are ordered by importance except if you can find a good acronym.

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Where the Data comes from and description of the methodology

This study is built upon data collected from startups that have passed through the prestigious startup incubator known as Y Combinator (YC). We started by taking the list of all “Top Private” and “Public” companies, totalling 305 companies. According to YC, “Top Private” companies are those that have achieved a valuation exceeding $150 million in their most recent funding round.

Afterward, we searched for the values of these companies online and found them for 197 of them, which makes up 65% of the total. It’s interesting to note that 35% of these companies (which is more than a third) don’t share their values publicly. (yet?)

If you want to see the complete list of companies that were used for this report, you can find it here and you can navigate through the dataset and the company values directory.

1. How Many Values Should You Have?

When you’re in the process of (re)designing your company values, you might find yourself asking: “Is having X number of values a good choice? Is it too many or too few?” Don’t worry; we’ve got the answers for you!

As you can see from this graph , the standard number of values typically falls between 3 and 6. What’s not mentioned in the graph is that many companies with 7 or more values are actually dealing with principles (but we’ll discuss this in more detail later).

2. Top 15 Company Values

Here we go, the moment you’ve been waiting for: what are the most popular company values right now?

  • Customer centric – 41%
  • Ownership – 32%
  • Bias for action – 25%
  • Growth mindset – 19%
  • Team cohesion – 15%
  • Excellence – 15%
  • Integrity – 13%
  • Humility – 12%
  • Empathy – 12%
  • Innovation – 10%
  • Trust – 9%
  • Care – 9%
  • Honesty – 9%
  • Ambition – 8%
  • Collaboration – 8%

Check out the complete ranking of 78 values here.

3. Top Categories for Company Values

As you might have noticed in the previous ranking, some company values can be grouped into categories, and we’ve done that work for you!

Here is the list of the 22 main categories of company values and the values they include:

  • Customer centric – 41% (Customer centric)
  • Bias for action – 40% (Bias for action, Focus, Impactful, Iteration, Urgency)
  • Integrity & Trust – 37% (Disagree and commit, Humility, Integrity, Low ego, Trust)
  • Growth mindset – 37% (Continuous learning, Curiosity, Dive deep, Growth mindset, Problem first, Truth-seeking)
  • Ownership – 32% (Ownership)
  • Care & Empathy – 31% (Care, Compassion, Empathy, Humanity, Kindness, People first, Work-life balance)
  • Honesty – 22% (Candor, Honesty, Respect, Transparency)
  • Excellence – 22% (Above and beyond, Excellence, Quality, Raise the bar)
  • Team bonding – 22% (Help others succeed, Team cohesion, Fun)
  • Collaboration – 19% (Collaboration, Constructive feedback, Team first, Team player, Teamwork)
  • Diversity – 18% (Authenticity, Diversity, Inclusivity, Openness)
  • Efficiency – 15% (Efficiency, Frugality, Simplicity, Consistency)
  • Innovation – 15% (Creativity, Innovation, Problem solver)
  • Ambition – 14% (Ambition, Think big)
  • Grit – 14% (Grit, Hungry, Relentlessness, Resilience, Tenacity)
  • Courage – 14% (Boldness, Confidence, Courage, Risk taking)
  • Purpose – 12% (Mission driven, Passion, Purpose)
  • Speed – 7% (Speed, Velocity)
  • Accountability – 6% (Accountability, Responsibility)
  • Rigor – 6% (Data-driven, Discipline, Rigor, Thoughtfulness)
  • Think long term – 6% (Pragmatic, Think long term)
  • Performance – 5% (Performance, Results Oriented)

These categories provide a clear picture, 6 categories standout from the others as they are used by more than 30% of companies. If you’re currently (re)designing your company values, these categories are definitely worth considering!

In the company directory available on BuddiesHR, you’ll find companies that are similar to one another based on the values they have. For example, Stripe and Webflow have 60% values matching.

4. Values vs. Principles

We’ve recently observed a growing trend in companies referring to their values as “principles.” Many of them argue that values alone may not be actionable enough. They may have a point, especially when values are not clearly explained in terms of how they manifest in day-to-day operations. In our view, values should not be open to interpretation.

Ideally, a combination of both should be used: values as fundamental pillars of your culture, and principles within each of them to provide employees with a clear understanding of how they translate into the company’s daily activities. Now, let’s take a look at the data:

Principles currently represent 12.2% of companies, which is not a significant portion. We will continue to monitor this KPI in future reports to gauge the evolution of this trend!

5. The Order of Values

Have you ever wondered if the order of values matters? Well, it depends!

If you can construct an acronym using your values, then by all means, go for it. It makes it much easier for all your employees to remember your values! Examples of this approach can be seen with CREDIT at Gitlab, EPIC at Nomba, and CREAMY at Eclipse Foods.

However, if creating an acronym isn’t feasible, then arranging them from the most important to the least important may be your best choice.

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