Welcome to Startups Weekly, a new take on this week’s startup news and trends that put humans first. Subscribe here to receive this in your email. This week on Equity, we talked about the significance of the printed word. Given that we are three journalists who have staked our careers on ink, the resulting argument is bound to be prejudiced; but I swear there is more nuance here than how crucial a lede is. A recent deep dive on Automattic, the commercial media firm behind the WordPress publishing platform, was recently published. Automattic, which was founded in 2005, is one of the few companies that have been able to evolve and expand its way through a media graveyard. It has also persuaded investors of the financial promise of its mission, with a market capitalization of $7.5 billion.
The way text has shaped Automattic’s employment process impressed me the most: Potential new hires never have to disclose their face or voice to anyone during the recruitment process because the company uses a solely textual interview. It eliminates the inherent bias of a Zoom interview, which is essentially a digital counterpart of a face-to-face interview. Monica Ohara, WordPress.com’s chief marketing officer, elaborated on her thoughts:
- Normally, you believe you must speak with them or view them on video. With text-only communication, you can eliminate all bias and focus on the content of what they are saying, as well as test for a communication style that is critical in a distributed team.
- “Everyone in Silicon Valley is vying for the same folks who would add variety to your pool.” That is terrific for those people, but what about the rest of us do not have such possibilities due to where we were born or where we live? I was born in the Philippines and would have lived a different life if I hadn’t had the good fortune to move here.”
Rethinking the value of the text, much like rethinking how many synchronous meetings should be on our schedule, seems like a logical next step for firms trying to scale distributed work. Even in a world where short-form video seems to rule, words — and sound — appear to matter in a way that other formats never do. We will chat about PayPal’s rumored new pal, the Chinese venture capital industry, and not at all about Facebook’s expected new makeover in the rest of this newsletter.