What It's Like to Work at Net Startup Gloss.com

FRAMINGHAM (01/28/2000) - Interviewee: Steve Mays, co-founder and director of technologyCompany: Gloss.com, a pre-IPO beauty products e-commerce startup launched in JulyLocation: San FranciscoNumber of information technology employees: EightNumber of employees (end users): "We were five people in a living room in May, and now we are 100 and growing."

Site volume: 50,000 to 60,000 visits per day on average; about 5,000 products onlineDress code: "It depends on the day. If investors are coming, we dress differently than when they're not here. Typically, it's casual."

Infrastructure: "We have two application servers and two Web servers, so we can take one pair off-line, post new features and test them, then make them live and take the other pair off and do the same. We host the site off-site, but we are managing everything ourselves."

How do you manage with just eight IT people? "With only two systems administrators - and I'm one - we are pretty damn busy. We've had five major revisions of the site since we launched."

Staff breakdown: "We have two admins and two desktop people who support our internal users. And we're building our development staff. We had been using [e-commerce consultancy] Novo Interactive for our development work, and we just started bringing that in-house in December. We hired four people over six weeks, and we'll have 22 developers by the end of the year. We'll also add to the administration and support staff."

What's a typical day like? "‘Typical day' is a funny concept in a dot-com.

What's typical is that one day is not like any other day."

Hours per day: "We usually put in a 10-hour day, and it goes up from there."

Kind of offices: "We moved here in July and it seemed so big, but within two months, we were full. So it's a pretty crammed space, and we are taking extra leases in the building and connecting them together. We're in four different suites; half of IT is upstairs, and half is downstairs."

Who does what? "The way we operate, technology is at the top of the company.

One of our top execs is a technologist, so the model here is different. A lot of dot-coms start with businesspeople who get funding and then hire geeks.

Here, the geeks are at the top level of the company, and decision-making is based on what the geeks say."

Do new employees have to take pay cuts for the stock options? "The reality is you have to pay them what they were making before and give them stock. In this area, people are paying $1,500 a month rent and $20 every time they eat. So the financial realities are that you have to make a decent salary to support living here."

How do you dole out options? "There are set ranges with modifications. We want to be fair, but if someone has a hard-to-get specialty, then that changes things. I can't be more specific."

Last companywide/department perk: "We had launch parties in New York and San Francisco, and we have a belated Christmas party coming up."

Would employees feel comfortable e-mailing the CEO? Yes. "We aren't very hierarchical. We have some layers because no one person could handle the volume of stuff going on."

Quote: "Dot-coms are neither as bad nor as good as people say. It's not the situation most people are used to in corporations, where there's a certain comfort in the structure because you're not making up the rules every day. If you want to know your place in the universe, a dot-com is not the place for you. But, it's also not a slave-driving pit where there's no time for anything but work, work, work. The main thing is, do you like where you go to work every day? And I like it."

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