Jun 15, 20184m read
Spot.IM Culture: Why Our Interns Chose Us
If you ask Roman Milioti what matters at a start-up, he’ll say culture. The 23-year-old Duke graduate boasts an impressive resume: he’s worked in sales and trading at two major investment banks, received a certificate in innovation and entrepreneurship, and even competed with a national champion sailing team. Now, as Spot.IM’s Senior Strategy and Operations Manager, he’s directing the company’s newly spawned internship program—a role where culture matters more than anything. “Everyone at Spot.IM has a unique story,” Roman tells me, as he begins to sketch a few vaguely recognizable shapes on the whiteboard. “We’re excited to bring on a group of extremely intelligent and driven students, and most importantly, to learn about their stories. Here everyone is poised to make a contribution and move the company forward.” As the shapes on the whiteboard become clearer, I begin to understand that what he’s making is a graph—a year after receiving a B.A. in Economics, Roman still shows an impressive knack for metrical ways of thinking. Finding inspiration in a model developed by company CEO Nadav Shoval, he plots two axes, time and output. “For students, learning is natural, which means that even after just a few weeks on the job, their output grows exponentially.” Roman explains that the slope of the line measuring employee output over time equates to learning ability—which, for students, is remarkably high. “Students have an enormous ability to learn. We believe that if you bring in the smartest people, natural synergies evolve.”
Among the interns Roman oversees are two students from his alma mater, Michael and Adam, and two from the University of Pennsylvania, including myself. Our academic interests range from Public Policy to Engineering, English Literature to Computer Science—with everyone finding a niche in the larger intellectual and cultural fabric of Spot.IM. After we grabbed lunch yesterday, Michael told me about the vision he has for the coming weeks of his internship with the Sales and Account Management team. “I want to learn how to sell and brand a product that I’m passionate about, and ultimately help grow and expand its consumer base,” Michael conveys, as he sits across from me at a nearby SoHo eatery. Meanwhile, Adam communicates a long-held desire to improve his marketing and sales acumen, while Ethan, another intern from Penn, tells me that he came to Spot.IM to become an even more versatile computer programmer. With an ever-growing array of skill sets and potentials, Spot.IM is guaranteed to see its brainpower explode.
Still, Roman emphasizes, the internship program has plenty of room for more talent. In addition to the current four, eleven new interns are slated to begin before July, as the company prepares for a major hiring spree. Over the next six months, says director of People Operations Jeremy Hay, Spot.IM plans to add more than fifteen to twenty new employees in sales, marketing, and executive leadership as they expand their SoHo headquarters. After three weeks with the company, Jeremy is convinced that the expansion effort will be a huge success. More importantly, he’s sure that after getting to know Nadav and Roee, he’s pretty much figured out what kind of hires make successful players on the Spot.IM team: “Hire smart, passionate, curious people and they’ll figure out what needs to be done. You don’t come here to be a cog, you come here to build stuff. You have no option other than to become the expert. Autonomy, tools, trust, and support they need to do well. The most important asset of any brilliant, agile company.”
As I ask him more about the new hires, Jeremy insists that Spot.IM’s culture is horizontal, meaning that interns who show promise are bound to attract the attention of company management, and in turn, take on progressively influential roles. He cites Max Weiss as a case in point, who, upon spending just a month and a half interning for the company, has become one of the Spot.IM team’s most indispensable assets. After going above and beyond on a few key reports, Max was almost immediately asked by Nadav not only to join the team full-time, but to work directly under him. Though he was still in college at Stanford, Max figured the experience he would get working in a start-up was worth delaying graduation a bit. He was right. “Spot.IM is one of the best places I’ve seen where anyone can do anything if they have the drive and skill,” he tells me. “Since everyone needs to do everything, barriers are low and professional experimentation is encouraged. I love that all-hands-on-deck culture and the way it forces you to grow your skill base so quickly.”
After spending just a few days south of Houston Street, I can say that for the people of Spot.IM, there aren’t all that many things that matter. But the ones that do matter a lot. For Nadav, Spot.IM will continue to grow by bringing in interns who are passionate about both the company and its culture. “We care about building a world class team of interns whose hard work and commitment to quality will move Spot.IM forward and bring us even closer to our partners. If you’re smart, creative and passionate, we need you.” “Intelligence, creativity and curiosity” are what Jeremy and Nadav articulate as the core values of Spot.IM. If you asked anyone else in the company, they’d probably say the same thing. Because that’s what it means to have culture.