TSS Company Culture: 5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Us

Taiwan_startup_stadium_rise_2017.jpg

When people visit TSS for the first time, it’s always clear that we are not what they were expecting. Whether it’s potential interns who show up in suits for interviews or members of the media worried that our office will be too boring on camera, the looks on their faces upon arrival are quite similar: surprised, curious, and perhaps a little confused. Here are some of the ways we tend to surprise people. 

1. We’re small, but super diverse

Staff breakdown by country of origin

Some quick facts about the TSS team:

  • we have just 10 program staff working full time with the Taiwan startup community
  • 60% of us were born outside Taiwan, including the US, Malaysia, and Hong Kong
  • we have 50/50 ratio of female to male staff (compare that to the rest of the startup industry!)
  • we range in age from 21 to mid-40s
  • we have backgrounds in startups, investment, law, education, PR, linguistics, politics, and more
  • we’re an “English first” environment, but everyone is bilingual in English and Mandarin

These might seem like just numbers, but our diversity at TSS is one of our greatest assets. A broad range of cultures, generations, and life experiences helps us to avoid groupthink. This also means we encourage healthy debate. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been with TSS or what your job title is — even if you’re an intern! — if you disagree with a decision or don’t understand something, you don’t have to be afraid to speak your mind or raise questions. 


2. We love the “F” word

Flexibility, that is. TSS works with more than 120 startups in our Starting Lineup program, as well as hundreds of investors, mentors, and partners, and we bring dozens to startups to overseas markets throughout the year. That’s a lot of work for a team of 10! However, our team members all have our own unique styles of working and living, and the best way for us to find balance is to provide a flexible working environment. That means:

Who needs a desk to get some work done?

Who needs a desk to get some work done?

  • Work whenever: Like to start work early so you can go home at 5pm? Rather come in at 10:30am after the morning rush hour? Have to leave early on Tuesdays for yoga class? Hey, whatever schedule works for you, as long as you’re managing your work.
  • Work wherever: Perhaps the office is feeling a bit noisy today. Just pop out to a cafe if you need time to focus. Better yet, work from home so you can get that big project done without distractions. (Just be reachable on Slack, okay?)
  • Don't work too much! Only a 10-minute snack at your desk yesterday? Take a leisurely lunch today. Stayed late for tonight’s CEO Day? Go ahead. Sleep in tomorrow. You need rest!

Okay, so if you work in startups, this probably doesn’t sound so crazy. In fact, it sounds just like a startup. But since TSS is a government-funded initiative, our flexibility can be surprising to folks expecting a more traditional or corporate work environment. That’s great, because we love showing our visitors from traditional business backgrounds that you can be flexible and still have a healthy, high-performance team.


3. We love to grow, baby!

We talk a great deal about the growth of our Starting Lineup members in our work at TSS, but our own team also needs room to grow. That is why we do our best to present every TSS team member with new challenges and opportunities for growth outside our comfort zones. In the past, that has led to some tough but rewarding growth opportunities, such as when a new staff member with no background in the VR industry was tasked with developing a new VR program. (Good work, Jen!) 

TSS interns Gary and Sky share their marketing analysis with senior staff

TSS interns Gary and Sky share their marketing analysis with senior staff

Our interns grow along with us, too, and even teach us new things along the way. For example, our Fall 2017 interns Gary and Sky, who just started learning about MailChimp and Twitter in August, sat down with us last week to share their insights on our current newsletter and social media performance, providing recommendations for how to expand our reach. (Oh, and they did it in English!) By giving full-timers and interns learning opportunities like these, we hope they can carry these skills into their careers, or (for interns) maybe even come back to us someday as full-time staff.


4. Wednesdays are optional

That’s right. These days, if you pop by the TSS office on a Wednesday afternoon, you might not find us there. Earlier in 2017, we began tossing about ideas for how to find blocks of focused time. The first thing we tried beginning in late summer tried was “Meetless Wednesdays.” (Meetless? Get it?) This meant that, unless it couldn't be avoided, no meetings should be scheduled on Wednesdays.

Hey, where is everybody?

Hey, where is everybody?

This worked okay, but starting in October, we took our experiment a step further with "Remote Wednesdays.” This means that no staff member is required to enter the office on Wednesdays — in fact, coming to the office is discouraged! On Tuesdays, each TSS teammate shares their top 3 to 5 objectives for the next day, and during Remote Wednesday, we keep in touch on Slack. (Wednesdays aren’t the only days people work from home — anyone is welcome to take a remote day on any day of the week as needed!)

We’re still early in our Remote Wednesdays experiment, but personally these are some of my most productive work days. That may not be true for everyone, though, so keep an eye out in early 2018 for an update on how it’s working out for our team.


5. We know how to chill

When you work hard, you also need to know when to relax, and what to let go of. Here are some of the ways our team keeps cool under pressure:

Our intern Gary helping us finish off the last Taiwan Beer 18天 before it expires. What a hero!

Our intern Gary helping us finish off the last Taiwan Beer 18天 before it expires. What a hero!

  • We have a relaxed dress code. Flip flops and baseball caps? Fine by us. Just make sure to shower, try to dress up a tad for special guests, and don’t wear anything you’d be embarrassed for your grandma to see!
  • Friday afternoon at 4:30pm is Happy Hour, TSS style. Every Friday, our awesome interns choose a snack or tea shop and the whole team indulges in something sweet or salty. Though we’ve got a small faction of low-carb fanatics (myself included), who can say no to bubble tea?
  • Any time is Taiwan Beer time. Since we work in the startup industry and have lots of networking activities that involve junk food and alcohol, that means our fridge is always well stocked. Stop by the TSS office on any day of the week, and you might spy us sharing a beer with a visiting mentor or just taking an afternoon break.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more blogs about the inner workings of TSS, and feel free to send us your questions and ideas for future blogs!