Jase Wilson is co-founder and CEO of Neighborly, the Community Investment Marketplace. Neighborly connects people with high-quality opportunities to invest directly in the places and civic projects they care about, and gives communities the tools needed for “crowd-first” financing of amenities and infrastructure. Before co-founding Neighborly, Wilson studied cities, technology and real estate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While there, he consulted for several domestic and international city governments on use of digital technology and authored a thesis on using Web-based technologies to deepen civic engagement. As an undergraduate, he founded Luminopolis, a civic software agency.
Why does the world need a work revolution? (In other words: the way we’re working isn’t working. Why not?)
Tech has forever transformed the nature of work. The present bears little resemblance to the past, and the future seems as though it’ll bear little resemblance to the present. So we have to be open-minded and think through all of the assumptions about the nature of work and life. Once driving forces in the shape of work, things like time and distance are very different now.
How are you or your organization reinventing work in some way (big or small)?
We fully embrace remote while having deep respect for the power of face to face. Our team is spread across San Francisco, Kansas City, and Brazil, but we have daily standups to ensure everyone is on the same page. We run weekly sprints so that we are always shipping new products/features. As mentioned above, we provide our employees with autonomy, responsibility, and freedom. This, combined with our remote work culture, is helping us reinvent the way people work. It wasn’t until recently that a company could work like this.
Why do you do what you do?
To help communities fund the future they want. Neighborly provides civic and financial empowerment, which is unimaginably rewarding. Think playgrounds instead of wall street bonuses.
What kind of art (any kind) do you like and why? Any recommendations we should know about?
Paintings – Surrealism for sure. de Chirico… there’s a haunting city-as-scene quality to it. Regionalism too, Thomas Hart Benton hails from KCMO just like Neighborly. He paints a very heroic, roll up the sleeves version of American Industry that still inspires decades later. And Hudson River School, those early views of the American wild… especially Cole’s Course of Empire. We view part of our job at Neighborly as ensuring that final frame doesn’t happen. We’re also huge fans of Ryan Haralson who is already a master of layering symbols to get plural meanings, we think he’ll be celebrated one day.
Also Cinema. There’s nothing like it. Novels, landscape design… you name it. And the new school of digitally augmented performance art, like the Quixotic troupe. Okay so really just about any art form.
What is one specific thing your company does that makes your culture unique and/or different?
Open and transparent. From salaries to equity, everyone in our company has full transparency to relatively everything. At first this was a big step and we weren’t sure how it would go over. But we have slowly learned that being open and transparent brings people closer.
The more we get in to it, the more we realize it’s all or none, and ultimately going all in with it is the smartest thing a company can do. It takes incredible amounts of trust and a willingness to be vulnerable, but the flattening out that it provides and the savings you get in communication overhead when everyone is on the same page, those are things we’re already seeing.
What is one discipline/industry totally different from your own that has inspired you? How does it impact your work?
Artists. While most of Neighborly is in SF, the KCMO office where it all began is based in an artist’s collective building. We share space with painters, sculptors… you name it. And if you want to learn to be resourceful, there is no better coach than true artists. They waste nothing, and always work on figuring out ways to make the most of what they have. They are master entrepreneurs in this respect.
What’s one tangible and concrete technique other organizations should use if they want to create a more human and/or meaningful place to work?
Value and promote education. We want our team to grow and learn together. When you give someone an education, they feel empowered to make decisions. Companies should always be looking for ways to provide continuing education for their team. We do it internally with lunch & learns. Bi-weekly town halls where a team member will share something new they learned. Online courses and in person events. We invest as much as we can in enriching team members.
What piece of technology (other than your laptop/smartphone/tablet) could you not live without and why?
Video conferencing… without it we could not run our team. Also, Slack is a huge bureaucracy killer and we love it.
What does your preferred work environment look like?
Combination of sitting desks & standing desks. Several hundred square feet of IDEApaint throughout the space. Outdoor roof decks with seating for relaxing or meeting. Lounge areas. Lots of blue in the active work areas, lots of calming warm tones in the relaxing areas. Always-turned-on-and-working coffee maker!
What do you do for fun?
When in SF, hike to the top of Twin Peaks each morning for the sunrise. When in KC, spend time with fiance, parents & cats.
How do you stay productive throughout your day?
Bite size breaks throughout the day… and humor! We laugh a lot here and everyone is friends. This helps us stay productive because we are motivated towards a single mission and keep things light in the office to ensure no one burns out. Also a wide range of seating & standing options, always switching it up. And getting outdoors as much as possible.
What time of the day do you do your best work?
Early mornings. Anne Whiston Spirn was my mentor in grad school, she taught me the most brilliant schedule hack: mornings are for me, afternoons are for everyone else. Guarding early mornings fiercely ensures massive productivity.
Where in the world are you?
San Francisco, CA, and Kansas City, MO
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