How to create happy startups that build value not stuff

Blue/red sign saying "let's make things better".

When we created Spook Studio, we wanted to create a different kind of web agency. Our company is born out of friendship and from day one we’ve built our culture around a set of 4 guiding principles that reflect this:

  • Put people first
  • Keep it simple
  • Make it fun
  • Optimise for happiness, not profit

Without these, we’d be just another company. We believe that if we follow our instinct and do things the right way, good things will happen (and the bottom line will take care of itself).

Creating value not stuff

We passionately believe in the power of the web to improve ways of working, bring people together and make a difference. We do this through helping both new and experienced entrepreneurs realise their digital dreams – for online websites, services and apps.

Unusually in our industry, rather than just accepting a client’s brief and running with it, we are selective about the projects we take on. We also won’t progress a project until the idea has been challenged and tested, to see if it’s something customers actually want. We want to create products that we’re proud of, that create new value for both the business and its customers – after all, life’s too short to build something nobody wants. We’ve always used technology merely as a way to solve real-world problems that matter, not as a means to an end in itself.

This approach may seem counterintuitive as we might talk ourselves out of a project, but we know that entrepreneurs tend to have more than one idea, and this approach builds trust early on.

Too often there’s a lack of clarity of vision and purpose behind a product, so we help to shape this and lay some foundations for a happy, thriving business. In the tech startup world, there’s also too much focus on the shiny solution early on rather than the value it will bring. This is why we break down a product idea in a way that helps our clients find a viable business model that supports it.

We also apply the same rigorous testing to our own ideas. We recently launched The Happy Startup School, an online community supporting budding entrepreneurs who want to do something more fulfilling, but also make money. We’ve been experimenting over the last few months which has resulted in us writing a free e-book, planning a summer camp and developing an online platform (in progress) – all with the aim of kickstarting a global movement while at the same time creating a viable business opportunity. It’s early days, but we’re excited by what lies ahead. We’re in a privileged position of being able to can create our own startups while helping others at the same time. A win-win all round.

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