Nine years ago, we were anxiously awaiting the finale of Lost, without fearing spoilers on our iPhone 3Gs. Adam Levine’s “Moves like Jagger” was everywhere, Uber didn’t exist in New York City, and when we started MAZ in 2010 and needed a small office space, WeWork had only 20 desks worldwide.
Things were, well, a little different back then.
Today, we celebrate our 9th anniversary. Wow. We toast our founders and our team sprinkled around the globe. Wow, again. We’ve built, we’ve grown, we’ve sold, we’ve suffered, and we’ve learned a hell of a lot since we decided to give it a go. While our mission to Empower Content Creator’s to be Amazing has never wavered, our technology, interfaces, market and methods have changed as fast and as often as the conditions from the beginning of this decade to the end.
In the spirit of learning from the journey, we compiled our 9 greatest lessons from our first 9 years in business:
1. Change is the only constant
Spoken by Heraclitus circa Ancient Greece, or tweeted by Benedict Evans of Andreessen Horowitz, this statement couldn’t be more true. We started with a product to get magazines onto iPads, and we succeeded for a while until the iPhone exploded into what it is today. From the iPhone came Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Alexa. As soon as we got comfortable delivering one type of content to one type of device, a new need took over. What we’re working on today is not what we’ll be working on in 6 months. Your first logo will not be your last logo. You’ll make your ten millionth dollar very differently than you make your first. Being comfortable with change is the only way to stay in the game.
2. The path to success is a hot mess
In 9 years we’ve tried just about everything. Our bread and butter enterprise publishing software allowed us to incubate a few projects within MAZ that we thought would propel us from one revenue stream to a larger one. We spent 2 years creating a mobile web browser, Stream Web, and an article discovery and sharing app, Lynx, with a shoestring marketing budget and full time employees juggling multiple products. It didn’t take off, and it sucked. But, more often than not, things have succeeded, like focusing on video content and TV streaming devices for the last 3 years. Failure is normal. Set backs are necessary. There’s no small company that gets big without hitting road blocks, awkward growing pains, and navigating the squiggly road from start-up to established operation.
3. Build a company, not a product
Hiring smart people and not hearing their ideas makes no sense.
We continually strive to build a company culture where good ideas can come from anyone in any department, and in doing so tease out passion and motivation that seeps through the organization: development, design, business development, marketing, and customer success into our product and roster of awesome customers. We sincerely want anyone who works with us to advocate for us, and we’re proud to know that some of our biggest deals closed not only on the merits of our product but also the trust that we are committed to being better than we were yesterday.
4. Buy the domain name you want…now
Otherwise it will cost $100,000 in ten years. We wish we had you, www.maz.com.
5. Be honest with your team
Whispering behind closed doors is a good way to crush a culture of innovation. It’s incredibly important to us to be open and honest with our entire team. We share financials, quarterly and annual reports, and all the good and bad news with our team. The victories and pitfalls of our business are tied to every person at MAZ. It’s essential to put everyone’s dedicated work into perspective and be able to pinpoint the direct correlation between the development of a product, the nurturing of a customer relationship, and how that has impacted our business.
6. All dogs allowed
For us, it’s not about unlimited beer or snacks. Our open dog policy isn’t even about helping dog owners, nope, we just love dogs and they make everyone’s day better, every day.
7. Don’t close doors
In 9 years, dozens of talented, awesome people have joined and left MAZ. A handful of the team has been with us for over 7 years, and individuals have left and chose to return to work with us. We take the position that it’s better for our company to give more than it takes from our team – we value career goals, balance, and setting our team members on the right path, be it with us or somewhere else.
8. Know who’s responsible for what
As we grew in size, we lost a lot of organization around who’s doing what. When we had 7 people, only one person could do a specific task. Now that we’re past 40, we’ve started setting DRIs (directly responsible individuals). It makes a difference to put a name to every part of a project. And it’s really fun to receive all those Asana emails…
9. Set goals you’ll never achieve
In the same vein of change is constant and success is a mess, we advocate for setting impossible-to-reach goals. When we get comfortable, we know it’s time to think about our future and what needs to change. Year over year, we dream bigger.
What will content look like in the next 9 years? Where will people be reading, watching and listening, and from what type of device? We look forward to finding out.
To the next 9 years and all the things we don’t even know we don’t know!