Are you an animal?

While reading Paul Graham’s excellent article “How to start a startup” I came across a few paragraphs where it just “clicked”, where I thought: That’s the type of people I want working with me. When I tell people that I had worked until 4 in the morning again, they look at me as if I just arrived on a spaceship. Colored in pink. While dancing on electric rollerblades. But I just don’t see what I do as work. I see it as trying to make a product more awesome. And thus I might forget the time. Just like other people who are a bit obsessed about what they do. That’s the type of people I want to work with / for me. Here are the paragraphs from the article in question:

What do I mean by good people? One of the best tricks I learned during our startup was a rule for deciding who to hire. Could you describe the person as an animal? It might be hard to translate that into another language, but I think everyone in the US knows what it means. It means someone who takes their work a little too seriously; someone who does what they do so well that they pass right through professional and cross over into obsessive.

What it means specifically depends on the job: a salesperson who just won’t take no for an answer; a hacker who will stay up till 4:00 AM rather than go to bed leaving code with a bug in it; a PR person who will cold-call New York Times reporters on their cell phones; a graphic designer who feels physical pain when something is two millimeters out of place.

Almost everyone who worked for us was an animal at what they did. The woman in charge of sales was so tenacious that I used to feel sorry for potential customers on the phone with her. You could sense them squirming on the hook, but you knew there would be no rest for them till they’d signed up.

If you think about people you know, you’ll find the animal test is easy to apply. Call the person’s image to mind and imagine the sentence “so-and-so is an animal.” If you laugh, they’re not. You don’t need or perhaps even want this quality in big companies, but you need it in a startup.

I have often found myself hacking away on the website until 2 or 3 or 5 in the morning. It’s because I want this thing I’m working on to be awesome. I want it to help other people. That’s why I need people who think similarly. Who want an awesome product. Who are a bit obsessed about what they do. Animals.

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