Idea Blog

Mission Statements A to Z: Disruptive Companies (Part 1 of 2)

Claude Harrington 10.19.2015

A company’s mission is more than just words on a page. It’s a compass; something that can simultaneously orient both employees and outsiders, while providing them with directions to a goal-driven future. It’s the written declaration of a company’s raison d’être; often inspiring and aspiration while also providing a sense of scope and history.

As such, it can be difficult to craft one that perfectly captures your ethos. Especially for companies that have either significantly evolved or are currently in a state of transition. But there is value in finding the perfect corporate North Star, so let’s take an A to Z look at the mission statements of several disruptive companies. Let’s see what they can tell us about the companies themselves. And also see what they can teach us to better evaluate the trajectory of our own organizations.

But before we dive into our mission-based alphabet soup, let’s first look at our own mission statement and see what it can tell us…

IdeaRocket: To be the quality leader in the creation of animated videos for business purposes. We will create videos that communicate our clients’ messages with wit, interest, and elegance, enriching the cultural air we breathe.

This mission statement was created by our founder Will Gadea, and there are three things that I’ve always admired about it:

  • In an industry where there can often be a bottom-line pressure to prioritize quantity, quality leadership is the very first thing mentioned.
  • Although the statement is rather specific about what IdeaRocket does—create animated videos for business purposes—there is built-in room for growth and expansion as those business purposes and other corporate needs evolve.
  • The phrasing feels personal. By using words like “wit” and “elegance,” readers may immediately get a sense of what makes IdeaRocket different. Same too for the final phrase: “enriching the cultural air we breathe.”

In addition to a mission statement, IdeaRocket (like some of the companies below) is also guided by a list of core ideas/principals. These key concepts—our “Principal Principles”—are listed at the very end so they may be contrasted with those on our list.

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Mission Statements A to Z: Disruptive Company Edition

[Note: this list does not include several well-known, innovation-driven Fortune 500 companies (i.e. Apple, Intel, Microsoft) who will be included in a similar piece later this month]

Amazon: It’s our goal to be earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.

Comments: When Amazon first launched in 1995, the site exclusively sold books. But, even back that, founder Jeff Bezos had a vision for the company to grow through a customer-focused e-commerce approach. As such, it seems only fitting that the word “customer” would appear twice in Amazon’s single-sentence mission statement.

BrightSource Energy: BrightSource Energy designs, develops and deploys concentrating solar thermal technology to produce high-value electricity and steam for power, petroleum and industrial-process markets worldwide.

Comments: BrightSource Energy is a cutting-edge solar power company. In addition to the mission statement above, the company is also driven by an ambitious “Vision Statement”: BrightSource Energy will develop and advance the technology necessary to harness the sun’s limitless potential to meet the world’s clean energy needs.

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Credit Karma: At Credit Karma, our mission is to help Americans save time and money by simplifying the most daunting tasks in personal finance

Comments: Investment in team-building is a big part of Credit Karma’s growth trajectory. “From our first employees,” describes a recent press release, “to those who are just coming onboard, we take great pride in the personal touches and philosophies that help new team members understand our mission and culture. Case in point: founder and CEO Ken Lin sits down for lunch with all new employees and participates in every new hire orientation.”

Dropbox: One place for all your stuff, wherever you are.

Comments: To learn more about Dropbox’s corporate philosophy, and how an explainer video helped the company find success, check out our recent post.

eBay: Provide a global trading platform where practically anyone can trade practically anything.

Comments: This is an efficient and potentially expansive statement that gets right to the point. That said, I imagine it’d be hard to read this sentence—which includes the phrases “practically anyone” and “practically anything”—without wondering something very off-point: who, exactly, is excluded from eBay and what are the things that can’t be traded?

Facebook: Founded in 2004, Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.

Comments: Facebook’s mission statement seems pretty spot on, but what’s interesting to note here–for anybody who has seen The Social Network–is how much this current mission has evolved from its original inception. But to the credit of Zuckerberg (or, at least, Jesse Eisenberg’s depiction of the founder), he consistently reiterated early on that “we don’t know what this is yet.” Which should remind us all that as important as it is to hammer down a finite vision for our business, it’s equally as important to keep an open mind to all that lies ahead.

Google: Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Comments: Of all the companies on this list, Google has likely changed the most with regards to core operations. But even if we go back a few years, we can still detect some strand’s of Google’s unique DNA. Below is a list of Google’s 10 Things We Know To Be True, written early on in the company’s history:

  • Focus on the user and all else will follow.
  • It’s best to do one thing really, really well.
  • Fast is better than slow.
  • Democracy on the web works.
  • You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer.
  • You can make money without doing evil.
  • There’s always more information out there.
  • The need for information crosses all borders.
  • You can be serious without a suit.
  • Great just isn’t good enough.

Hubspot: To make the world Inbound. We want to transform how organizations attract, engage and delight their customers.

Comments: Like Google, Hubspot’s culture is also informed by ten key points:

  • We are as maniacal about our metrics as our mission.
  • We obsess over customers, not competitors.
  • We are radically and uncomfortably transparent.
  • We give ourselves the autonomy to be awesome.
  • We are unreasonably selective about our peers.
  • We invest in individual mastery and market value.
  • We defy conventional “wisdom” as it’s often unwise.
  • We speak the truth and face the facts.
  • We believe in work+life, not work vs. life.
  • We are a perpetual work in progress.

iRobot: Build Cool Stuff. Deliver Great Products. Make Money. Have Fun. Change the World.

Comments: iRobot was founded in 1990 by MIT roboticists with the vision of making practical robots a reality. Although the mission statement is a bit vague (and perhaps more playful than one would expect), it would seem to be intentionally so as iRobot is a pioneer in the ever-changing robotics industry.

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Jawbone: create beautiful products that work.

Comments: Jawbone is a privately held consumer technology and wearable products company headquartered in San Francisco, California. But importantly–and evident in the mission statement–Jawbone sees themselves as more than just a hardware company. To this point, and as a coda to the mission statement above, Jawbone highlights the following on the careers section of their website: “We have no limits, we define them. And we need you to make it happen.”

Kickstarter: Kickstarter’s mission is to help bring creative projects to life.

Comments: Short, sweet and remarkably to the point. And, in hindsight, it almost needs to remain succinct as it has come under fire recently as “famous” creators have begun to use the service to fund their projects. So much so, actually, that Kickstarter formally responded to these criticisms with an expansive explanation about its underlying mission.

LISNR: [no mission statement listed]

Despite not having a mission statement—or perhaps, actually, because of it—we still wanted to include LISNR on this list. LISNR is Cincinnati-based firm responsible for creating a new communication protocol that sends data over audio. The closest thing the company has to a mission statement is this mantra: “Power experiences. Inspire audiences.” So why don’t they have a mission statement? I can’t say for sure, but I’d suspect it’s because the company is still trying to perfect their tech while also perfecting their corporate identity. That being said, I’d also suspect that–after seeing a demo for the young company last week–they’re going to be around for a while…

Moderna Theraputics: To deliver on the promise of transformative messenger RNA (mRNA) science to bring new medicines to patients.

Comments: What does this really mean, the layman is likely to ask? To answer that, and dive a bit more into the corporate culture, Moderna Theraputics also provides a vision for the company directly below their mission statement. “Our Vision: To unlock the potential of mRNA Therapeutics™ by establishing an ecosystem of teams and partners that will work together to develop the broadest possible array of drugs, across diverse therapeutic areas and routes of administration, for serious diseases that are not treatable today.”

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