4 Tips for Crafting Your Startup’s Values


It was a wild spring at ConductorOne. We announced our seed funding, we rolled out our new website, and we’re making great progress on our platform to deliver the world’s best access request experience.

Every step of the way, I’ve been happy that Paul, myself, and the early team spent the time we did to hash out our values. We’re focused on building a company with integrity and intention, a company we’re proud of, and that starts with values.

ConductorOne’s Company Values

  • Be deliberate
  • Show kindness
  • Earn the customer’s trust
  • Trust & empower your people
  • Embrace change

We talk about our values in depth here, but I thought it would be interesting to share what we learned in the process of forming these values. It’s very easy to get caught up in the Silicon Valley values du jour cycle only to produce a rehashed and wordsmithed version of what ten other tech companies produced. I hope these tips will help other seed-stage founders come up with values that can be lived every day as they build successful companies.

#1: Don’t conflate outcomes with values

We wanted our team to work hard creating innovative products that delighted our customers. But if you say “Innovation” is a value, will that really make you innovative? How do you ensure you hire innovative people? How do you drive “innovative” thinking and behavior?

Ultimately, we realized that innovation, strong execution, diversity, and customer centricity—the patterns that we believe great companies are built on—are outcomes, not values. They didn’t define the way you wanted people to act, they defined the way we wanted to be. They are a goal post, not a guard rail. To drive to our desired outcomes, we focused on writing values that define how we are going to behave on a day to day basis.

#2: Values are your culture, and your culture is your team

Day 1, the team was Paul and myself, so we were the values of ConductorOne. When our team grew, the new team was the values. Paul and I started with an initial cut of values, and we hired the team around them. We then revisited the values with the new team and came up with an updated set that incorporated our updated thinking.

At the end of the day, values are a derivative of culture which is a derivative of your team. You can guide the development of values, but ultimately the people in the company will do most of the shaping. Hire wisely early on because those people define the trajectory of your company and what you will stand for!

#3: Values should be deeply personal

What do you believe will make your company successful? What values did you like and not like from previous companies you’ve worked at? Contemplate these questions and don’t be afraid to incorporate that thinking into your own company values. Starting a company is a long journey, make sure you’re building towards a vision of a company that you’ll be excited to be at years down the road.

#4: Values are a journey

Values should be a bar that everyone strives to attain. No one will execute perfectly against values every day or with every decision. That’s not the goal. What’s important is that we have this shared framework from which we operate and we recognize that reaching these values is a constant journey. It requires frequent calibration and contemplation of one’s behavior and a commitment to constantly improving.

With that, we know that our values will change over time as more people join the team and bring their own unique perspectives. We embrace and look forward to that.

Let’s talk

On the topic of journeys, I couldn’t be happier with the small but mighty team we’ve assembled to come on this journey as we build the first identity automation and orchestration platform. If these values resonate with you, and if you’ve ever been annoyed at how long it took for you to get access or updated permissions to a critical app at work, we should talk. Just reach out and tell us what resonated most with you and why.