Right now, Batalion says, the company’s goal is to be a multibillion-dollar-a-year business. “That’s global,” he adds. “It’s about the company, the products, the revenue, the staff, the systems necessary to achieve that.”
Says O’Shaughnessy: “At that level, you’ve made the leap to a transformative social brand.”
Building a company that can reach from DC’s Chinatown into every corner of the world begins for the founders with instilling their own hunger for success in every level of the organization. As Batalion says, “If we build a company, we’ll fail. We need to build a cult—instill values, energy, and enthusiasm. If we do that, our cult will win.”
All four cofounders have been with LivingSocial longer than they’ve worked in any other job. All believe it’s important that the company reward employees’ initiative, reinforce good behavior, and highlight opportunities for advancement. After all, Frederick says, they want to avoid the environment that led to the creation of Hungry Machine in 2007: “We’ve all done that in other organizations: f--- management and go do other things.”
Instilling that culture begins with the hiring. “If they don’t come off as hungry, they don’t make it in,” O’Shaughnessy says. “We’ve resisted the temptation to just throw smart people at things. When you hire someone, you should know exactly what they’re doing on day one.”
The culture is reinforced at Friday “all-hands” meetings—Webcast from Washington—where the founders discuss corporate strategy and values and take questions from staff. The meetings, once held in a small conference room, are now major productions, with the staff spread among three main offices and scores of individuals on two continents.
O’Shaughnessy keeps an ice-cream cooler in his office to encourage colleagues to visit and chat about what they’re working on.
The collegial atmosphere is critical to growth. “If people get political here, I will personally fire them,” O’Shaughnessy says. “That’s the death of an organization. I was really proud when one LivingSocial employee said, ‘This is the first place I’ve worked where everybody is focused on the outside world.’ ”
The LivingSocial culture values time off. O’Shaughnessy tries to avoid working or e-mailing colleagues on weekends. “From Monday morning to Friday evening is LivingSocial time,” he says, “but Friday evening to Monday morning should be your time.” He laughs that in his spare time—limited because he travels nearly two weeks a month—he uses a lot of his company’s coupons. As cofounder Batalion explains, “We haven’t really had time to celebrate any of our successes.”
With barely two years under its belt, LivingSocial seems poised for more strong moves. “You can’t have too much money or too many friends,” Rainey jokes.
O’Shaughnessy seems especially well positioned: He has married into a family, the Grahams, that’s the closest thing Washington has to royalty; he’s backed by one of the best-known and wealthiest men in the region, Steve Case; and he’s running one of the world’s fastest-growing tech start-ups.
But at the end of the day, he believes, the key to success is to gamble wisely—and stay hungry. “Some day,” Frederick says, “we’ll have all the deals we want and move on to something else.”
This article first appeared in the December 2010 issue of The Washingtonian.