As I’ve been clicking around local companies to see who’s hiring for what, I’ve come up with a short list of criteria for the kind of company that I’d like to work at:

  • Inside the Seattle city limits. Sitting in my car in traffic is a colossal waste of time. I’ll most likely be taking the bus or riding my bike to work, and I’d like to keep my commute short. Also, working in an interesting neighborhood in Seattle would be nice, too.
  • Small. “Small” could mean anything from two to a hundred people. This rules out big players like Microsoft, Amazon, Adobe… The biggest reason I want a small company is that I want to feel like my contribution is important to the bottom line. I never got that feeling at Microsoft — no matter how hard I worked, Windows would still make the company a gazillion dollars. Furthermore, big companies tend to require extreme specialization, whereas I’ve got a breadth of talent that I’d like to see exercised. Finally, big companies tend towards big, proven ideas. I want to be somewhere that will be willing to give small ideas a shot.
  • Flexibility with my time. I’ve been working from home for 3 years now, and I’ve grown accustomed to setting my own hours. I would love to get back in an office and interact with real humans on a daily basis, but I also like taking my daughter to the grocery store every other day. I’m being realistic with this one, though — face time with my coworkers is important to me, personally, and to the company’s overall productivity.
  • A real salary and benefits. For the past three years I’ve worked for free, I’ve worked for equity, and I’ve worked for half-pay. Sadly, stock options don’t pay the bills.
  • A company I believe in. This is really two things: first, there’s got to be a realistic business model in place. Not just an idea for a popular product, but an idea for a money-making product. Secondly, I want to the product to be something I can really get excited about, and get excited about telling my friends and family about. My wife, parents, and in-laws use my current project (Feedwhip) on a regular basis, and that is really gratifying.
  • Good people. Despite being last on the list, this one may actually be the most important. I’ll sacrifice a lot of the other bullet points to be working with smart, creative people in a productive, supportive environment. However, since every company talks about how they only hire smart, creative people to work in their amazing workplace, this is just going to be a gut-feeling call. Either I click with the people, or I don’t.