On the poster of values at Button’s New York headquarters, one stands out from the normal “have fun” and “live a healthy lifestyle” priorities of most companies.
“The easiest literal translation is the ability of the host to predict what his or her guest wants before he or she asks for it,” explains Button’s CEO Mike Jaconi.
“What it speaks to, though, is if given or demonstrated authentically, there’s an ability that you have as a person to give someone an experience that is predictive of where they are and what they want to do.”
But Button isn’t a startup in the hospitality industry.
The B2B startup powers deep-linking, or the connections between the apps you use. If you’re using Foursquare and find a restaurant you like, Button powers the option to book a reservation straight from OpenTable, or pulls up the Uber app with the address already selected.
The Japanese philosophy of wholehearted hospitality is core to startup’s business and its office culture. The 25-person team works in a Gramercy Park penthouse, and the company was just named the number one place to work in New York by Crain’s.
Predicting what people want
Their business model about linking intent with what comes next — like wanting to make a reservation after scouring a restaurant page — is reflective of omotenashi.
“If you think about what that ability is, it’s the ability to predict what somebody wants before they want it, that’s what the company is all about,” Jaconi says.
The same has to be true within the workplace culture, he explains, standing to grab me another cup of water once he notices I’m out.
Button tries to anticipate what each employee needs professionally, and is rigorous about only hiring team members that wholeheartedly embrace the philosophy.
Employees get 17 weeks’ paid maternity or paternity leave policy. They can spend up to $100 to test out on-demand services for the job, without having to get permission first. They also get stipends for professional development activities.
That’s on top of the traditional free lunches, fully-stocked kitchen, rooftop deck, and coffee on tap in the kitchen office.
This thoughtfulness has given Button a family-like feel. Throughout our conversation, Jaconi refers to his employees only as family members, and when anyone enters the kitchen, we pause the conversation to talk to them.
“The thing that I’ve learned is that startups make it and they don’t,” Jaconi said. “The one thing that’s indelible is what those people felt they grew with.”
He continues, “Every person is here and I’m going to commit to everyone. The thing that I can promise is that you as an individual as a professional will grow here,” he says.
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