Growing a startup from $700 to $40M without loans or any other external funding by only focusing on innovating culture.

Vishen Lakhiani, founder of Mindvalley in the following talk, shares some of the unconventional tactics he has been applying to grow his startup into the company which is now valued over $40M with branches across the globe. Keep in mind that he started Mindvalley with $700 and no additional external funding or loans. The only thing he concentrated on was developing the workplace and culture.

After moving back from the US to Malaysia without a job, Vishen’s dream was to build a Silicon Valley style company in a developing country like Malaysia which has already been affected by brain drain.

The quote that helped him redirect his thoughts and move forward;

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Buckminister Fuller

How did he do it? By Culture Hacking (Definition of ‘Hack’: To cut to the core. To dismantle systems apart. To rebuild. To recode)

Vishen identified the five attributes which are important to employees and focused on building a culture which would enhance these,

  1. Growth
  2. Happiness
  3. Abundance
  4. Significance
  5. Meaning


“Leadership is recognizing that we are all one. That every person you lead is as brilliant as you, as talented as you, and has the same capacity for growth and accomplishment. They simply need to be reminded of this fact.”

Mindvalley Philosophy

Growth Hacks at Mindvalley

  • Creating a culture where managers are continuously helping other people grow
  • Giving total access to education
  • Employees at Mindvalley can order any book from amazon 
  • E-books are accessible to all employees
  • Weekly Training
  • Once a week learn and share session 
  • Learn Day
  • First Friday of every month the employees can learn or teach anything instead of working

Why is learning important? “If you were to give me 6 hours to chop down a tree, I would spend 4 hours sharpening my axe” – Abraham Lincoln


Happiness Hacks at Mindvalley

“The people we interviewed from good-to-great companies clearly loved what they did largely because they loved who they did it with.”

Jim Collins
  • Social Life
  • Having lots of parties
  • Assigning culture days celebrating different nationals and their culture
  • Creating beautiful environments to encourage socializing 
  • Start a Positivity Contagion
  • Positive people improve team members’ performance, group performance, reduce group conflict, and create more cooperation and greater overall performance for tasks at hand
  • Create a little weirdness
  • At Mindvalley, the undercover department called SPLASH (Secret society for platonic love, appreciation, smiles and Happiness) monitors the level of stress in the company and causes ‘weird’ events to disrupt the stress patterns 
  • Tache & Heels Day
  • Inject a little love
  • Mindvalley  taught their employees how to give the world’s greatest hug
  • MTO Goal Setting (Minimum, Target, Outrageous) 
  • Setting Goals in a way that boosts happiness – For example for a sales team, the MTO goals would be Minimum goal of 0.8M in sales, Target goal of 1M in sales and Outrageous goal of  1.4M in sales.
  • MTO goal setting enables each employee to reach the goals without being pressured into stretching too much. However, this method has resulted in achieving target and outrageous goals.


Abundance Hacks at Mindvalley

  • Make your employees feel abundant
  • Offering a competitive salary
  • Playful workspace
  • Flextime
  • Profit-sharing
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Investing in Ideas from employees (20% of the revenue of Mindvalley comes from employee-owned businesses)


Hacks used at Mindvalley to achieve significance

“Like flowers flourish on water, people flourish on praise”

Richard Branson
  • Creating software specifically for employees so that they could praise one another
  • Company Values – Code of awesomeness
  • Team Retreats (activities during the retreats include discussions on Hacking the respective departments, Hacking the business)
  • Monthly Ask sessions
  • Hacking Life – supporting individual personal development
  • Includes individual’s preferred experiences/growth opportunities and contribution to the world
  • Awesomeness reports instead of meetings to celebrate victories
  • Dealing with Negative (Complaints vs suggestions)


Hacks used at Mindvalley to achieve meaning

“If you want to build a ship, don`t drum up people to collect wood and don`t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

Antoine de Saint- Exupéry
  • Giving back to society
  • Project Renaissance ‘turning the city into one of the top 20 cities in the world to be an entrepreneur in 10 years
  • Open Sourcing

Results of Culture Hack at Mindvalley

  • Loyalty
  • Innovation
  • Hard Work
  • Fulfilment
  • Impact
  • Revenue Growth

The biggest impact? 

More than 19% of Mindvalley employees have either book deals, talk on various public stages or have their own business while working for Mindvalley.

Results clearly show that innovative culture hacks certainly helped this startup grow exponentially. Mindvalley continues to grow and make a tremendous impact on the employees and the world, it would be interesting to see what else they come up with next.

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