Callum Negus-Fancey, a 28-year-old British entrepreneur, started his company in the basement of his parents’ West London flat. Founded in 2013, Verve is a software platform that lets brands recruit fans to sell tickets to their events, in exchange for rewards like free entry and VIP badges.
Today, Verve has raised $35 million in venture funding and grown from about five employees to 160 across offices in London, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Austin, as well as some cities in Europe.
Despite its exponential growth, Verve’s company culture has remained pretty much the same since its humble beginnings below ground, Negus-Fancey told Business Insider. Since the beginning, Verve employees have had the freedom to choose their hours, where they work, and the meetings they attend.
Whether or not his employees came to the office or stayed nine hours, “that just wasn’t what I cared about,” Negus-Fancey said. “I cared about the value they created for our customers.”
Millennials in general work more hours, forfeit more vacation days, and retire much later than previous generations. They also make less money than their parents did at the same age.
These conditions can result in burnout, a lack of engagement at work, or quitting, which is why millennials have earned a reputation as the “job-hopping” generation. In 2016, a Gallup poll revealed that 21 percent of millennials said they changed jobs within the past year (more than three times the number of non-millennials who reported the same), and 60 percent are open to new opportunities.
As a result, companies are hatching creative solutions to keep their millennial-aged workers on the company’s payroll longer, from providing paid time off for travel to on-demand career coaching.
Here’s what it’s really like to work at Verve
At Verve, nearly all 160 employees work out of offices scattered around the world. According to Negus-Fancey, a high percentage of employees — who are mostly in their 30s — work from coffee shops or home at least one day a week. Verve does not have set hours or vacation days.
“Philosophically, I like people to see [the office] as a tool rather than a place to go,” he said.
If an employee has to take off early for a dentist appointment, Negus-Fancey said they’re free to do so without telling their teammates. He explained that a worker who shares where they are at all times is “clearly projecting anxiety,” which may be a symptom of their last job. A manager might sit them down and explain “why they don’t need to do that here,” Negus-Fancey said.
The company’s culture is inspired, in part, by its cofounder’s unusual path to startups.
Negus-Fancey dropped out of high school at age 17 because he said he didn’t fit the mold of a “cookie-cutter” education. He didn’t enjoy learning or feel motivated to succeed.
He started a company, Let’s Go Crazy, that threw alcohol- and drug-free dance parties for teens ages 16 to 18. He had almost no capital but instead used ticket sales to cover the cost of renting clubs. (Negus-Fancey joked of ticking off London’s club owners for “trying to get so many underaged kids in.” But the company also received some negative press around teens using drugs at his events.)
Negus-Fancey set out to build Verve after seeing how well teens sold other teens on attending Let’s Go Crazy events. Verge leverages “word of mouth” to sell tickets to events, mostly music festivals; users sell tickets to their friends in order to unlock cool rewards like backstage access.
As an entrepreneur, Negus-Fancy said he learned to love the hustle and felt a new sense of purpose. He imagined a company culture that gave people the freedom to work the way they work best.
The flexibility around the office and hours has been a huge draw for millennial job applicants and gives existing employees more reason to stick around, according to Negus-Fancey.
In a 2017 employee satisfaction survey, 24 percent of Verve employees said they completely agree that they “don’t feel judged” for taking vacation days. One-third of employees said they agree 100 percent that they “have freedom over where, when, and how [they] deliver work.”
Negus-Fancey said the company has had few issues with employees abusing these perks. But when a worker misses their goals, a manager steps in to figure out why that is.
Employees still work a lot, according to Negus-Fancey. He said Verve is growing quickly, and people who join the company should understand that flexible hours doesn’t necessarily mean fewer hours. Still, he stresses the importance of quality work over quantity of hours worked. He tries to communicate this message in weekly town hall meetings and company newsletters.
“In a startup environment, you’ve got a huge amount of uncertainty and high growth,” Negus-Fancey said. “The one thing that gives people a sense of certainty is your culture.”