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  • 15-20 MIN READ

bushidō | the founder pledge

September 20, 2023

Updated October 18th, 2023

Purpose

“actions follow being” — Aristotle

We learned a few things while building oxio together. We messed up a lot. But we learned a lot, too. The single most important thing we learned is this: people are paramount. People are everything. People make or break a company. They make your life simpler. They can also make your life harder. Choose your people wisely.

People are so important that Marc (our ceo) pitched investors on this crazy idea: “Let’s allocate 50% of the company to our team. If we stick together for at least 6 years, we’ll deliver you, dear investors, a multi-billion dollar company!” As you can see, Marc is always down-to-earth and composed.

If you’re reading this - lucky you (and lucky us) - you’re part of gaiia’s founding team. So, what does it mean? It means a couple of things. Foremost, it means that if we lose ourselves entirely to the cooperative effort of the team as a whole, we will create a lot of value— for our customers, for the world, and for ourselves personally.

At first, you will think for a moment that money is the true value of what you were after…

Okayyy let me press pause here. And before I go deep into my aspirational ramble, I just want to acknowledge that, yes, we all work to pay our bills, first and foremost. Paying our bills is the work equivalent of the basic needs of the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs. We need to check that box before we move on to the next stage.

Usually, the commonly-agreed point beyond which money does not have a material impact on wellbeing is ~$75,000/year. This is based on Daniel Kahneman’s famous research article (it’s probably more in 2023). I’m fully aware that it can greatly vary from country to country and even city to city. Since we’re all above that threshold at gaiia, I wanted to use this pledge intro as a “cautionary tale” of chasing the money ladder; meaning always optimizing for more money instead of optimizing for other needs like achieving one’s full potential or investing in creative endeavours - which a big part of it seems to be derived, in a work environment, from solving a huge problem with quality people.

(Okay now back to the aspirational program)

At first, you will think for a moment that money is the true value of what you were after. You might even do something completely nuts, like buying an absurdly expensive camper van using your debit card. But, when the dust settles down, you will realize that the fruit of your labours are not what they seemed. You’ve been fooled all along.

You will realize that people are everything. People make you happier. People give meaning to your life. People bring out the best in you. The intangible bonds that you weave with people are the strongest. The most potent force in your fulfilling life.

And, what’s the coolest thing to do with people? Working on crazy ambitious goals, together. Bring your shared vision into reality. Rinse. Repeat.

So what’s our shared vision? According to the UN, 37 percent of the world’s population, or 2.9 billion people, have still never, ever used the internet. We’re here to change that. Our vision is to seamlessly connect every human and their things to the internet.

Concretely, we are becoming the connective tissue between the physical networks and the human world. We are the gateway for people, and their things, to be online. We are the backbone of communication service providers (CSPs) that roll up their sleeves and build those networks. We’re enabling them to do what they do best - building meaningful relationships with customers.

As we journey from being an Operating System (OS) to something even greater that we can’t even fathom yet; we will stay together. Just like we did in the past. We will remember our humble beginnings as Accès Télécom, a Wireless Internet Service Provider with a Total Addressable Market (TAM) of 333 homes deep in rural Quebec.

That being said, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. The world of our customers as they know it is under attack. Many looming threats are standing above their heads as swords of Damocles. CSPs could be dead 10 years from now.

The number of devices connected worldwide is forecast to almost double from 15.1 billion in 2020 to more than 29 billion IoT devices in 2030. That’s more than three times the number of humans living on Earth. Crazy stuff.

Today, internet services are a commodity. Mobile, commodity. Wifi, commodity. TV services, dying. Don’t get me started on landlines. New technologies are threatening their fiefdom. Low Earth Orbit satellites are invading our sky, decentralized wireless networks are gaining some traction, and Apple could be working on a plan to conquer the connectivity space right now.

Bottom line: the world as we know it won’t exist in 10 years, maybe less. CSPs could become fossils, and Apple, or Sam Altman, could be the new lords of telecom and build the first world network dot org.

As we’ve learned with Europe’s energy crisis, some commodities should be independently owned by their community. Like, let me think….yes, I got it: the internet. Or the wifi. The internet infrastructure should be locally owned. Decentralization in connectivity will foster creativity and innovation. Not monopolies. In a dystopian view of the future, oxio could have never existed. That is why we’re rooting, and always will, for the underdogs if we want to see the industry evolve into something better.

It is our duty to make sure that CSPs get to fight another day and don’t go extinct. We will build cutting-edge technologies that are not yet imagined. We will enable seamless internet services that our customers are uniquely positioned to offer. And then, and only then, we might have a shot at saving them and being at the forefront of that revolution.

Now, if you’ve been chosen, it goes without saying we believe you can play an important role in this endeavour. And that’s why we’re betting on you.

We expect nothing less than continuous commitment to doing your best work from everyone signing this pledge. If you don’t, we will have to void your shares. But if you do, boi oh boi, pure bliss is coming to you.

See this pledge as our code of conduct. If you’re a samurai fan, you can call it our Bushidō. Let it guide your interactions with peers, teammates, and customers, shaping our shared language and way of being. The way of the freaking samurai (ok Marc, chill the fuck out). Lezzzz goooooooooo!

Values

Sun giving off warmth and compassion to represent humility

Humility

“The first product of self-knowledge is humility” — Flannery O’Connor

The ability to evaluate one’s own ability is one of the most important skills. Humility helps us get to know ourselves, while ego does the opposite. We strive to be eternal students.

A true student is like a sponge. Absorbing what goes on around them, filtering it, latching on to what they can hold. A student is self-critical and self-motivated, always trying to improve their understanding in order to move on to new challenges. A real student is also their own critic, there is no room for ego there.

“As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.” — John Wheeler

Our ego gets in the way of improving because it blocks us from seeing ourselves and what’s going on around us as it truly is. Humility is the gateway to a true, honest connection to the world around us. One of the fastest ways to improve is to learn how to give & receive feedback, particularly hard, honest and constructive feedback. We need to take this hard feedback and actively solicit it, labour to seek out the constructive precisely when our teammates, friends, family, and brain tell us we're doing great. The ego avoids such feedback at all costs, however. Humility craves it.

We can’t recognize opportunities or create them if, instead of seeing what is in front of us, we live inside our own fantasies. Without an accurate account of our own abilities, what we have is not confidence but delusion. How are we supposed to help each other, and reach, motivate, or lead other people if we can’t relate to their needs—because we’ve lost touch with our own?

Historians say Genghis Khan was the world's greatest conqueror because he was more open to learning than any other conqueror.

Conquering ourselves mean conquering whatever we set our minds to.

To read more: Ego is The Enemy from Ryan Holiday

Bird soaring in sky to represent freedom

Freedom & Accountability

“The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able to truly care about others and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.” — David Foster Wallace

Bureaucracy, politics and rigid hierarchy have no place here. We’re a meritocracy that values results over titles. Come with an open mind. Be independent. Keep learning. “We’ve always done it that way” is a lame excuse. We want you to reach your full potential and we want you to choose how.

Accountability is the yang to the ying of freedom. If you’re new to gaiia, you’ll probably be amazed, maybe even a bit scared, at how much freedom you have in your day-to-day, to do whatever you wanna do. But, as Roosevelt said, word for word, with freedom comes great accountability 😉.

We want to work with people who aspire to be in the top 1% of what they do. Like Steve Jobs, we believe doers are the greatest thinkers. Hence why we’ll give you all the freedom you want to draw from that beautiful creative mind of yours. But, you will also be responsible to our customers and our team to deliver stellar results. We hire people not to tell them what to do, but the other way around.

If you’re the kind of person who thrives on mastering their craft, you’ll feel like you’ve landed straight in Pandora at gaiia.

Trees connecting with outstretched branches to represent listening and connecting with customers

Customer Obsession & Empathy

“We start with the customer experience and work backwards with the technology. First, We ask this question: what incredible benefits can we give the customer?” — Steve Jobs, at a conference

We put customers first in everything we do. We obsess over every detail of the customer experience. Our pursuit of excellence knows no bounds; we leap, twist, and soar sideways and beyond the ordinary to deliver unparalleled moments of delight. Because we are so critical to our customer's success, we must keep their dreams front and center in all we do.

Steve Jobs explains this very clearly: “Some people say, ‘Give the customers what they want.’ But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, ‘If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!’’ People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.

Even though Steve Jobs was the epitome of customer obsession, it is important for us to highlight that he was not always a shining example of empathy toward his people. We just want to make it crystal clear that this is where we wanna do better.

Empathy is our not-so-secret superpower. In any situation, we look for the shared point of humanity through which to connect. We’re also custodians of integrity, safeguarding the values that define us. It comes from the Greek word pathos, which roughly means “feeling” or something that appeals to the emotions (according to Aristotle’s use of the word). The em- in empathy means “to go into.” It’s the ability to go into the experiences or feelings of another person—but without losing our sense of self or our ability to control our responses and to act freely, out of our own core.

This blend of empathy and foresight allows us to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and learn from a fresh perspective while staying true to who we are.

Clouds/wind to represent thinking and iteration cycles

Long Now Mindset

“When I pronounce the word Future, the first syllable already belongs to the past” — Wislawa Szymborska

How long is now, usually? If a random stranger in the street would stop you and ask you what’s now, you’d probably think he had too many shrooms for breakfast. But, it’s somewhat of an interesting question, right? On the stock exchange, it’s today. In fashion, it’s a season. In demographic studies, a generation. In most companies, it’s the next quarter.

For most of us, our “conscious now” consists of this week, slightly haunted by the ghosts of last week and the anticipation of next week. This is the realm of immediate responsibility, one in which we feel we have volition, where the consequences of our actions are obvious and the surprises are limited. The weekend is a convenient boundary.

The sociologist Elise Boulding diagnosed the problem of our times as “temporal exhaustion”: ”If one is mentally out of breath all the time from dealing with the present, there is no energy left for imagining the future.” In a 1978 paper, Boulding proposed a simple solution: expand our idea of the present to two hundred years—a hundred years forward, a hundred years back. A personally experienceable, generations-based period of time, it reached from grand-parents to grandchildren—people to whom we feel responsible.

With a healthy respect for the fluidity of time, we play long-term games. We use time frames to our own advantage. Most companies think in quarters. We think in centuries. We build gaiia in a way that benefits our future unborn customers.

The first farmers were the first systemic futurists. They mastered the six-month lag between sowing and reaping, and they memorized enough crop patterns and matched it with enough astronomy to be able to use the sky as an accurate signal of when to plant. Agriculture-based civilizations replaced hunter-gatherers, and, in time, they were able to prevail over even the fiercest marauders.

Civilizations with long nows look after things better. In those places, you feel a very strong but flexible structure which is built to absorb shocks and, in fact, incorporate them. gaiia is one of those places. Nassim Taleb Antifragile style, baby.

It can seem paradoxical at first glance, but we’re also masters of the speed as a habit motto. We know that the best way to realize a big hairy vision is through fast, iterative actions. By putting one foot in front of the other, learning and growing, and putting in the reps, as fast as possible.

Having a long-term horizon is no excuse to not release stuff blazingly fast. It is always a debate between impact, ease of deployment, and our confidence in our assessments of those two.

To build a better future, we must output things in the universe and see how it reacts. If it’s not out there, it belongs to the realm of fantasies. It simply does not exist. Plain and simple. We know that we don’t know how the world will react, so we output as fast as possible, to self-correct and adapt accordingly. This is the way.

To read more: The Clock of the Long Now: Time and Responsibility from Stewart Brand

Optimism

Before we delve into the essence of a true leader, as defined by Dee Hock, it is imperative to explore the significance of Optimism, elevated to a paramount status. At gaiia, our pursuits are inherently infused with optimism, an indispensable life force akin to oxygen for humans.

Why, you ask? Well, all those huge leaps in history? Yeah, they were all thanks to a bunch of dreamers who were totally sold on their ideas, even when people thought they were nuts. And let’s be honest, the easy route often involves ridiculing novel concepts. New ideas, by design, lack full maturity, rendering them susceptible to critique.

But taking those ideas and turning them into reality? Now, that’s the real challenge. Yet, that’s what really benefits society in the long run.

Check the history books – they're jam-packed with those crazy folks to whom we owe our modern world. Shoutout to Samuel De Champlain for giving Quebec a shot, even when the Duke of Sully in Paris did everything he could to shut him down.

And big thanks to Stewart Brand for going out on a limb and suggesting we bring back extinct species (yep, like woolly mammoths) to shake up biodiversity. Sure, it sounds out there, and it’s the favorite pastime of pseudo-environmentalists to bash it. But guess what? This wild idea might just be the key to giving our planet’s ecosystem a reboot.

All those wild ideas nearly bit the dust thanks to the classic pessimists who doubted every step. The crowd tends to lean towards negativity, and it almost killed these ideas. Don’t let that darkness creep in and turn you into a pessimist. If you’re a bit scared, that’s a good sign. It probably means you’re onto something epic.

Commitments to Each Other

  • Our commitment to gaiia’s greater good will be harmonized with our personal pursuits.
  • No matter the success, we will stay humble throughout the journey. If not, we’ll get humbled by the journey itself.
  • We will always put customers first, even over our own personal interests. For example, if we have to build something for a customer that is painful, boring, or hard to do. We will still welcome the task at hand with open arms and see it with a positive eye.
  • We will be students of our craft and follow a positive trajectory of improvement.
  • When giving feedback, we will always go direct, meaning directly to whom the feedback is relevant, and we’ll do it with positive intent. Always.
  • If that doesn’t work, we will follow the conflict resolution method detailed in the Pledge.
  • We will always receive appropriate feedback graciously like it’s the most amazing holiday gift. We appreciate that someone is getting out of their way to give feedback that can help us improve.
  • As a company, being a bottleneck is a cardinal sin. There are already too many bottlenecks in this wild west of a world that we won’t become one ourselves. If we are, we will self-correct as fast as possible. If we realize that we have bottlenecks as individuals, we won’t let it happen ever again.
  • The problem of one is the problem of all. We won’t let artificial team boundaries prevent us from helping each other out.
  • If there is a critical task for the company that arises, we will do everything in our power to achieve it. Working nights, working weekends, and even rearranging personal engagements may be required to serve our collective interest.
  • As leaders, we won’t say that something is critical if it’s not.
  • When planning for a vacation, we’ll always plan accordingly not to be a bottleneck or negatively impact our priorities.
  • We will be on time for meetings.
  • If we are not on time for something outside our control, we will notify people we’ll be late ASAP.
  • We will document everything in Notion (or elsewhere) that can add value to the company.
  • We will write and dedicate ourselves to continuously improving our writing skills. Communication is the oxygen of a distributed company. And written communication is the bulk of it.
  • We will pour our heart and soul into the tasks we do.
  • We will give our full attention when talking to someone.
  • We will disagree and commit when needed.
  • We will do our homework before asking for help. We are hyper-aware that time is our most valuable asset, and we don’t want to steal the time of someone else if we haven’t earned it.
  • We will go out of our way to help our teammates.
  • We will act transparently and straightforwardly in everything we do.
  • Yes, we will make mistakes. But we won’t make the same mistake twice.
  • We will own our mistakes.
  • If we make a mistake, we will create a wisdom nugget and share it with the team to learn from it.
  • It shouldn't be a meeting if it doesn’t require our full attention. Our time is the most valuable thing. Hop out of it.
  • We don’t play games with one another based on personal interests. We are radically transparent and share information as objectively as possible.
  • There are no politics within gaiia’s walls.
  • When our team members encounter personal/family crises, we clear the way for them and remove any conflicts with work.
  • We will always talk positively about our customers.
  • We will always get out of our way to help our customers.
  • We will stay positive even when we don’t see the light (yet).
  • We will never assume that we’re better than someone else.
  • We will always learn from the people around us.
  • We will champion self-awareness and actively think about how our actions affect others. We are aware of our biases and don’t let them dictate our decisions.

True Leaders

True leaders are those who enable the unconscious values and beliefs of every member of the community to emerge, transmitted and consciously shared—who epitomize in their own behaviour the general sense of the community—who symbolize, legitimize, and strengthen behaviour in accordance with the sense of the community—who enable that which is trying to happen to come into being. True leadership is based on educated behaviour and has an affinity for good.

The first and most important responsibility of anyone who purports to manage, is to manage self—one's own integrity, character, ethics, knowledge, wisdom, temperament, words, and acts. Without exceptional management of self, no one is fit for authority no matter how much they acquire.

The second responsibility is to manage those who have authority over us: bosses, supervisors, directors, regulators, and so forth.

The third responsibility is to manage one's peers—those over whom we have no authority and who have no authority over us—associates, competitors, suppliers, customers. Without their respect and confidence, little can be accomplished.

The fourth responsibility is to manage those over whom we have authority. The instinctive response is that one's time will be consumed managing self, superiors, and peers. There will be little or no time left to manage subordinates. Exactly!

Select people of good character, introduce them to the concept, go before and show them how to practice it, and encourage them to deduce the process from their so-called subordinates. Management is not about making better people of others, it's about improving one’s self.

The obvious question that then always erupts “How can you manage bosses, peers, regulators, associates, customers?” has an equally obvious answer. You can’t. But can you understand them? Can you persuade them? Can you motivate them? Can you disturb, influence or forgive them? Can you set an example for them? Of course you can, provided only that you have properly managed yourself first.

To summarize, follow this order:

  1. Lead yourself
  2. Lead your superiors
  3. Lead your peers
  4. Employ good people, and free them to do the same

All else is trivial.

It is from failure that amazing growth and grace so often come, provided only that one can recognize it, admit it, learn from it, rise above it, and try again. True leadership presumes a standard quite beyond human perfectibility and that is quite alright, for joy and satisfaction are in the pursuit of an objective, not in its realization.

Diversity and Inclusion

As a company, we always championed transparency, so let’s be transparent right now: As far as diversity goes, we ain’t there yet. Although we have had some successes and have already taken steps to improve ourselves, we still have a long way to go.

The good news is that we are currently a very lean team, so any addition we make has the potential to make a huge difference. We also have the velocity and flexibility required to make quick and impactful changes to our culture and habits when we need to. This is a luxury not all have, let’s make the best of it.

Of course, it goes without saying that the People team will be the tip of the spear of any initiatives aiming to diversify our roster and spread awareness, but it is also everyone’s responsibility to understand why we do it, and how oneself can contribute to an inclusive environment. Going forward, we must all bear the responsibility of making sure we act as sponsors of inclusion.

Part of that responsibility is to acknowledge that as we grow, we must always scale our efforts and seek new avenues for spreading this sentiment in and out of gaiia.  It is also to understand that diversity and inclusion means little if it isn’t genuine, applied across the board and reflected in our day-to-day. It is not enough to hire diverse, we must celebrate that diversity and allow it to grow and be happy.

Furthermore, we must understand that everyone and everything has the potential to be diverse in some ways. It isn’t only about the colour of our skin, our sex or religion. Physical disabilities, neurodivergence, and everything that makes someone who they are can help us become more than the sum of our parts.

To help you put words on why diversity and inclusion needs to be part of who we are, consider the following:

  • By making sure we grow as diverse as we can, we enable people to be who they are, and we share our piece of the pie with as many sub-set of the population as possible.‍
  • By helping the world be a better and more inclusive place, we directly apply our purpose.‍
  • By understanding more point of views, we can better navigate unfamiliar situations with our customers, and we give life to one of our cardinal values, Customer Obsession & Empathy.

As we build a more diverse organization, we will seek to adapt our practices and challenge our biases to ensure that gaiia is a place where all team members feel welcome. True diversity requires a commitment to continuous change - and no part of our business is off limits when opening our doors to new ideas perspectives (including this document itself).

Our team should reflect the diversity & inclusivity we want to see in the world. It should mirror our customers and their reality.

Conflict Resolution With Positive Intent

Conflicts are inevitable in any situation where people must work together.

How we approach and resolve those conflicts is what can set us apart Below, you will find some guidelines on how we intend to do so at gaiia.

Give & Receive Feedback With Positive Intent

  1. Refer to the Feedback Guidelines method outlined in our internal Notion documentation and go direct asap. We will raise the issue as soon as possible. It’s better to raise the issue so early that it’s almost comical than waiting too long and it goes out of hand.
  2. Remember, you are resolving a problem and not fighting a person. Use the feedback guidelines method to be factual and manage your emotions towards the person.
  3. If that doesn’t work, ask the other party if you could involve a facilitator to resolve the conflict.
  4. Choose together a facilitator who will help you follow the Mochary Written Method (one of your leaders or someone neutral inside the company).
  5. The Mochary Written Method.

Prepare Before the Meeting

  1. Write down what is to be discussed. Refer to The Mochary Written Method for instructions. Write about what makes you angry first, but at the top of the page once you’ve deeply felt that anger, go back to the top of the page and write what excitement and joy you’ll feel once the situation is resolved.
  2. (Optional) If it’s an emotional issue, imagine you’re Seneca. Use a piece of paper and a pen and write a “hate letter” for your eyes only. Burn it afterwards. Use that private exercise for your own self-improvement and personal growth. Once you’re calm and composed, go back to number one.
  3. Share what you wrote with the other person.

During the Conflict Resolution Meeting

  1. You must prove to the other party that you understand their side. The simplest way to do so is to repeat what they said to you and ask to confirm if your interpretation is accurate. If you can’t, the mediator will do it for you.
  2. Acknowledge that you are part of the problem. There’s a good chance that you are not free of all blame. So admit it. It builds mutual trust and shows humbleness. Be the bigger person.
  3. Reach an agreement that both parties sign off on. It must be specific, with a responsible party and a deadline.
  4. If a facilitator is involved: facilitator shall document all the relevant information agreed upon with both parties and track action items if needed. Make sure there’s an agreed timeline on action items.

Follow-Up

  1. The facilitator, or both parties, will actively follow up to ensure they don’t hold any grudges against each other. It’s okay to feel differently a week later and book a meeting to clarify things. In fact, it’s highly encouraged.
  2. Both parties will ensure they follow up & respect the timeline on action items.

Tips

  • The next time you encounter a person who is repeating themselves, stop them and ask if you can state back what they’ve already said. They will say yes. You then summarize what they’ve said and ask if you got it right.
  • As a company leader/facilitator, to resolve conflict, you only need to get each person to state their deepest, darkest thoughts and then prove that each has heard what the other has said. This can be done verbally or in writing. Choose the written method over the verbal one, as it takes about a third of the time, requires almost no facilitation (i.e., it’s easy to stay on script), and the action items that come out of it are impeccable agreements.

Ethical and Legal Standards

We commit to conducting our business with the highest ethical standards, complying with all applicable laws and regulations, and maintaining the trust of our stakeholders.

Continual Growth and Learning

We will never stop learning. We won’t just work on things that are assigned to us. We know there’s no such thing as a status quo. We will build our business sustainably through passionate and loyal customers. We will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and we’ll remember the days before we knew everything.

We are more motivated by impact than money and will strive to make a dent in the universe. We will communicate as much as possible because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company. We are in an ultra-marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how far away the goal is, the only way to get there is by putting one foot in front of another every day.

Given time, there is no problem that’s insurmountable.

Responsibility to Stakeholders

We will always put our customers first over us and our investors. The beauty in all this is that if we do right by our customers, we will always do right by all in due time. That doesn’t work the other way around.

If we take care of our customers, we will be able to take care of ourselves. We are the value creators, not our investors. In this day and age, money is a commodity. Talent is not. If we take care of talent, you’ve guessed it; investors will be taken care of.

In the same way we conduct our business, we promise to treat our investors with the highest ethical standards and consideration. Money is a commodity but great investors are like talent. They’re far and few in between.

September 20, 2023

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