How to Build a Stable and Engaging Start-up Culture: Case Study SafeGear

Chiara Binello

Student thesis: Master thesis


Due to a number of positive organizational outcomes, organizational culture has attracted much attention among academics and practitioners in the past decades. Previous research has shown that a strong organizational culture has the ability to effect various desired outcomes such as employee commitment. Literature on the latter indicates that a high level of employee commitment leads to positive effects such as higher productivity and job performance as well as lower staff turnover. Such positive outcomes make the two topics particularly relevant for start-up companies where a strong organizational culture that positively influences staff commitment can be an important factor determining whether the start-up will succeed or fail. To date, no systematic investigation has considered the role that organizational culture and employee commitment play in start-up companies, which makes it relevant and interesting to investigate. This study addresses the following research question: "how does a start-up company manage to create a stable organizational culture that fosters employee commitment?". Hence, the purpose of this thesis is to identify relevant cultural practices that can be used by start-up founders to build a stable organizational culture, and to assess the impact that a specific culture has on employee commitment. To answer the research question, an in-depth case study of the e-commerce startup SafeGear has been conducted. Specifically, the thesis is a qualitative research employing multiple data collection methods such as observations, texts, and interviews. First, an in-depth interview with the founder is used to identify his role in fostering the company's cultural practices. Subsequently, interviews with a full time employee and two interns are conducted to understand their perspectives and to detect the impact of the retrieved cultural practices on their commitment to the start-up. The findings from the research show that the role of the founder is crucial in fostering cultural practices that positively influence the start-up's employee commitment. The analysis of SafeGear's cultural practices reveals that they are associated with significant improvements in employees’ organizational commitment. On the one hand, value-based hiring and orientation practices, feedback and celebration of achievements, teamwork, and physical arrangements are found to have a positive Chiara Binello VI impact on employee commitment. On the other hand, the results illustrate that routines and social activities are not increasing the organizational commitment because of their poor implementation. However, they could positively affect the staff's commitment when implemented correctly. This study advances our understanding of the influence of organizational culture on organizational commitment and, furthermore, highlights the importance for early stage start-ups to focus on building a stable organizational culture. Suggestions for future research are discussed.

EducationsCand.ling.merc Erhvervssprog og International Erhvervskommunikation (Multikulturel Kommunikation i Organisationer), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages103
SupervisorsAnna Linda Musacchio Adorisio