Monday, March 2, 2015

Chris Taylor talks about Square Root

Chris Taylor talks about Square Root

Chris Taylor grew up in Pinch, West Virginia. And yes, it’s as rural as is sounds. He attended Carnegie Mellon University, both because it had one of the top Computer Science programs in the country, and more importantly, it had a diverse student base with excellent schools for art, design and architecture as well.

That broad base of knowledge made him interesting to Trilogy, which recruited him down to Austin in 1995. When he finally left in 2005 he had 10 years of experience in enterprise software and a little money in the bank, the perfect time to start a company!

All he was lacking as the killer idea. By performing analytics and strategy projects with large customers, he as able try and test various ideas, finally coming up with CoEFFICIENT, performance engagement software for large enterprises, in 2009. Almost immediately knew that it was the big idea that he had set out to find four years earlier.

From Trilogy Chris adopted the paradigm that data is a tool that should be leveraged to make better business decisions every day. Square Root’s platform, CoEFFICIENT, analyzes large amounts of data to help retail organizations reduce operational complexity and find opportunities to maximize performance.

As he was building the software Chris was also building his company. He realized that “Company culture can make or break a startup. Think about what kind of culture you would like your company to have, then start building it immediately. By the time you've hit 10 people, it's too late.”

Square Root is built around four core values; Thrive, Think Big, Do Bigger, Be Customer Inspired, and Partner.  Says Chris, “Of the four, I think my favorite would have to be Thrive. It’s important to me that the team feel empowered to find the work-life balance that suits them best. We believe it is everyone’s responsibility to make their work environment motivating and fulfilling.”

“This takes communication from the C-level all the way down to our interns. Every Friday we get together for a company lunch, this alone has helped us build a strong report. We have announcements where everyone hears from the executives talk on the progress toward business, and one employee gives a presentation on something he or she is currently working on. It's a great way to make sure everyone is on the same page about our goals as a company, and it makes for a strong team.” says Chris.

Chris says that his goal at Square Root is to have “a positive work environment where ideas can flourish. I want to be excited to come to work every day, I want that for everyone at Square Root.” One way Square Root encourages this is their office environment. Occupying three neighboring houses, and soon to be four, the offices at Square Root could be confused with someone’s home, except in place of couches and chairs there are stand-up desks.

To date Square Root has been completely bootstrapped. But that hasn’t slowed its growth. Finishing 2013 at 20 employees, it’s currently at 40 and plans to be at 70 by the end of 2015. Says Chris, “Bootstrapping a software company is not easy. I’m glad I had to work hard to get where I am today. My upbringing gave me the grounding to truly appreciate the ups and downs of being a CEO, genuinely value the team at Square Root, and be thankful to be raising my family in Austin.”

And Austin has infused the culture of Square Root. They hire UT graduates, sponsor HI-B Visas, and in the last year have tripled the training budget. Says Chris, “Right now Austin has the balance between being too laid back and having no life other than work. There is so much to look forward to at Square Root. We are doing something awesome and doing it with balance.”