In 2012 I left Google to join The Obvious Corporation, a small company with the mission of building systems that help people work together to make the world better.
One of the things that attracted me to Obvious was how much Ev and Biz were thinking about the company they wanted to build, not just the product. They were asking why companies got worse as they got bigger: why do people become less engaged, teams become less productive, and bureaucracy ends off feeling like a force of nature? Shouldn’t work be better?
“Why do network effects make internet products better but make internet companies worse?”
As I took over leadership of the engineering team and helped grow the company’s operations, working on how we work became a personal mission of my own.
In every minute of free time, I explored the nature of work and researched how the most progressive companies operate — from Netflix to Bridgewater, Patagonia to Spotify, Disney to Amazon — I started to see patterns and opportunities. Many perennial problems had been solved, but often within the confines of a single organization. Everyone seemed to be reinventing the wheel, and when best-practices did emerge, they seemed overdue.
To paraphrase Gibson, the future [of work] is here — it’s just not evenly distributed.
I realized that instead of solving these organizational challenges for the one company where I worked, there was an opportunity to build software that helps people solve these organizational challenges everywhere.
So, last April I partnered with Jennifer Dennard and Braden Kowitz to start a company — Range Labs Inc. — with the goal of helping people build healthier companies. To range is to explore — to search the world for what’s next. The world is changing and organizations need to adapt and evolve.
Jen’s career choices show she has a passion for helping people enjoy their work — and their lives — more. She’s worked with companies big and small to improve their workplace culture during times of pivoting and intense scaling. We met at Medium, where we collaborated on new people programs, and company-wide org design efforts as we changed operating structures. She’s an advocate for a new approach to human resources that focuses more on the person and their needs.
Braden was an early designer at Google and has built products used daily by millions. He co-led design on Gmail for several years, where we worked together on Gmail Chat, pushing against the capabilities of the early web. Then at Google Ventures he advised dozens of startups, teaching them how to listen to customers, scale design teams, and build processes that support innovation. He is the co-author of the New York Times Bestseller, Sprint, and has spoken at design conferences around the world.
At Range, we believe that healthy companies aren’t simply better places to work, but do better work and will ultimately be more successful. We know that software can’t solve all problems, but the fact that so much of our work-life is mediated through software means that there is a huge opportunity to rethink how our tools affect how we work with each other.
Over the last few months, I’ve joked that we’re not very good at being a “stealth startup.” We’re too excited about this space to keep our mouths shut.
We nerd out about meetings (not in meetings… about meetings), team structures, and work cadences. We love talking to people about people-centric leadership, learning organizations, and helping friends diagnose organizational issues. We believe in networks, in transparency, in individual empowerment, and in the need to bring more humanity to our work.
And we believe in working in the open and sharing knowledge, so follow this publication as we each share what we’re working on, what we’re excited about, and what we’re learning from folks we’re talking to.