3 Ways to Improve Your Company Culture Today: A Chat with the Co-Founder of 15Five

3 Ways to Improve Your Company Culture Today: A Chat with the Co-Founder of 15Five

Today startups are synonymous with perks like ping pong, beer, and free lunches. In the race to attract the best talent startups have resorted, for better or worse, to a generic set of perks that go hand-in-hand with the culture.

15Five, a successful SF based startup does things a bit differently. Beyond the perks of fridges stocked with organic food and kombucha, 15Five’s core values are centered around creating a culture to always be learning and growing. On your birthday you even receive a $500 stipend to use towards something you’ve always wanted to learn about (you’re not allowed to use it for a professional skill), finally you have no excuse to not take those surfing lessons you’ve always wanted to try!

15Five is a performance management software that allows businesses to maximize their talent by creating a culture of feedback. They deliver a full suite of integrated tools – including continuous employee feedback (giving virtual high-fives), objective tracking (OKRs), pulse surveys, and peer recognition. They are headquartered in SF.

We caught up with David Hassell, CEO and co-founder of 15Five to dive into the the importance of creating culture, and setting rituals in place to build foundations of trust.


What is the problem that 15Five is solving, and what would you like 15Five to be known as?

We are in the midst of the greatest technology revolution of humanity’s history. Its creating a very different business environment year over year month over month. In order for companies to not become obsolete and attract millennial talent with generation Z following close behind they need to continue to add value for their employees and create a culture and environment that employees are excited to be apart of that drives and supports their creativity, passion, and commitment.

15Five builds software that allows companies to unlock the potential of their team and to see the work place as a place for peoples personal growth and development. By creating win-win environments where employees are flourishing and companies are thriving as a result.

We want to be known for being pioneers and creating the shift from companies believing they exist to extract value and instead to create a culture of providing value and support to their employees.


Tell us a bit about the culture at 15Five and how you came to create the “rituals” i.e. Gratitude Monday, Wednesday Meditation, Question Friday, to help employees celebrate each other.

The foundation of our culture starts with why, 15Fives “Why” is to create the space for people to be their greatest selves and to ultimately unlock the potential of every member of the global workforce.

As human beings once we can get out of this persistent fight or flight mode then we can then access our greatest creativity.

We host 3 All-hands a week Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. They exist to provide a cultural and a hard business purpose and this is where we practice the following rituals:

Gratitude Monday:

It’s an opportunity for someone in the company (a new person is chosen every month) to share something that often we would otherwise just take for granted. The goal is to reflect on this gratitude for a moment as a company. It could be anything from appreciating our red blood cells to “I’m grateful to have indoor plumbing and hot water in my home.” Our lives are filled with abundant magic and most of us just take it all for granted. It’s taking a small moment to reconnect with the magic of the world we live in.

Wednesday Meditation:

Anyone can join for 5 minutes of mindful meditation led by a different employee each month. After meditation, we invite a department head to share updates or new features to help get everyone aligned on what’s happening in the business.

Question Friday:

One person is assigned to be the Question Master, their role is to ask an interesting, personal, or even funny questions for everyone to answer. It’s a fun opportunity to get to know each other on a more personal level. The questions encourage everyone to share, practice vulnerability, and provide an opportunity to learn more about each other which ultimately helps to create deeper levels of trust.

“Trust is the foundation and currency in which all great things have happened.”


What advice do you have for founders trying to create culture and put the right values in place for their growing teams?

“You can never start creating culture too early.” It’s easier than you think. Don’t wait till you’re 50 people in to start creating your culture.

Tony Hsieh sold his first company for 100M because he woke up one day and realized that he hated going to work and the only answer was to sell the company and start over. Zappos is known for their culture and their infamous “delivering happiness” motto inside and outside the organization.

As a founder your early values, and own purpose as a person will be strongly connected and tied into the foundation of the company culture.

Think about the kind of company would you want to go work for. The point is not that there is one way or another, but that it is authentic to you.

Key Takeaways:

  • Create clear values ~ By doing so  you’ll also attract the people who are also aligned with the values and culture you have in place and are working towards.
  • Add value for employees by creating a culture and environment that employees are excited to be apart of that drives and supports their creativity, passion, and commitment.
  • Create rituals around your company’s core values that everyone can actively participate in and share ideas/feedback around.
  • And remember it’s never too early to start building company culture!


Roya Sabeti creates content for the Galvanize Community and shares stories on startup lessons, founders, tech resources and tools to help founders learn and grow their companies. When she’s not writing you can find her practicing circus arts or creating unique experiences for teams. You can find more of her writing here.