Life at a Silicon Valley Startup: PBwiki

Ramit Sethi

I write a lot about entrepreneurship on iwillteachyoutoberich, but I haven’t written much about my day job, a startup in Silicon Valley called PBwiki that I co-founded. Since we’re hiring, it’s a perfect time to write about life at a startup as a thinly veiled excuse to get you to apply to work here. Done and done!

Last time I wrote a job post for PBwiki here, we ended up hiring Paul Singh, who moved to the Bay Area from Virginia with his wife. He’s now our Director of Support and manages a staff of 6. So I’m hoping that there may be a couple of you who’ll be interested in PBwiki and send me your resumes.

What does PBwiki do?
Wikis are collaborative websites that lots of people can edit (Wikipedia is an example of a wiki-as-encyclopedia). You might use a wiki to plan a project or create an online classroom. Instead of sending 50 emails to coordinate something, you put files and pages in one secure place and let your team collaborate online. Try it out: You can create a PBwiki as easily as a peanut butter sandwich (yeah, I said it) at As for me, I’m the VP of Community Marketing, meaning I manage the messaging and parts of the product that our millions of users see.

Here’s a great demo of how wikis work:

And wikis are getting more popular: In 2007, “wiki” was searched for more than “blog.”

We started PBwiki in 2005 and have become the world’s largest host of business and educational wikis. The United Nations has used PBwiki. So do over 1/3 of the Fortune 500. Collaboration is a huge market where companies and regular people are willing to invest to solve their communication challenges. And we’ve tried to build a drop-dead simple approach to using it. Just like iwillteachyoutoberich, the most important part is getting started.

How are we doing?
Here are some key PBwiki stats:

  • 400% annualized revenue growth since inception
  • Over 350% growth in the # of wikis hosted since last year
  • We’ve doubled our staff (engineering, marketing, sales, admin) in the last 3 months. Between our Bay Area headquarters and New Hampshire sales office, we now have a small team of 18.
  • Raised just over $2 million in venture capital

And we’re looking for a few key people to join us. But first, what’s it like working here?

Working at PBwiki

Paintballing on our Colorado retreat. I am the one with a lot of paint on me:

A real-time display of millions of PBwiki users and how they’re using our service:

Realtime view of PBwiki usage
Dress is casual, we have free lunches/espresso, gym memberships, and stock options for each employee.

But more importantly, working here gives you the chance to make changes that millions of users will see that very same week. Whenever people ask me how they can get started doing something entrepreneurial, I always suggest working at a startup. You learn the ropes and get mentored by experienced people, and you get the freedom to experiment and try to make huge changes very quickly.

How we think about hiring
Straight from our official hiring page…

We value intelligence over workplace experience, and clever independent projects over GPA. We’d much rather talk to someone who started a non-profit in college or led a group of a Presidential campaign interns than someone who got a 1600 on their SATs and a 4.0 in college but never ventured off the beaten path. Tell us that crazy thing that kept you up all weekend.

Hmm…sounds suspiciously like an article I wrote a while back: Your college is not a technical school.

What can you learn here?
Here are some of the things I’ve learned…

  • How to raise venture capital and what happens in a board meeting
  • How to set up systems so that, if you get hit by a bus tomorrow, the company will still go on
  • What key-man insurance is
  • How to work with marketing and engineering teams to make quick changes to a product and not get bogged down by process
  • How to nurture a community of millions of users and grow a web service without spending any money on advertising

If you have any questions about working at a startup, post a comment here and I’ll respond in the comments.

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  1. Matt S

    Need in-house or outside counsel?

  2. Ramit Sethi

    Nope, we’ve got our own — but thanks.

  3. HollyH

    I’m looking to take a semester or more off college and go work, and I love the idea of working at a startup. I’m basically the kind of person you describe – more interested in trying to set up an online business or blog than getting a 4.0 every semester – except that I’m only halfway through college. I’m not sure if startups are right for me, or if I should just go apply at Starbucks. Where are the best places to look for startups that are hiring? Any other advice for my situation? I’m starting out completely clueless, but extremely motivated to not be on campus next fall.. thanks.

  4. Ramit Sethi

    Some of the best places to look for startups are TechCrunch, Venturebeat, YCombinator, VCs portfolios, and all of the startup/tech/VC blogs. After you spend a few days reading these and crawling through, you’ll get a good feel for how startups work.

    Check out some of my links at,, and

    The best book on startups is Founders at Work.

  5. Joel Casarez

    Hey Ramit, I’m about to graduate from Texas State University with a bachelors degree in Business Management with a concentration in Entrepreneurship. Its getting closer and closer to graduation (May 9th) and I’ve been looking for a “regular” job (mostly because thats what my parents expect of me) however I have also been looking for an opportunity of a lifetime (assisting a entrepreneur or working at a start-up.) If PBwiki needs a hardworking office manager or assistant that would be the opportunity I’ve been looking for!

  6. Caleb

    would love to apply for the job if not for the location!

  7. Niranjan

    HI Ramit,

    What technologies are you using?

    I am a C/C++ developer working as a contractor with H1B visa status and looking for a full time job for long term career prospects.

    Do let me know if you have position which matches my skillset. Or I will check back for the job postings which you have promised.

    Thanks and regards,

  8. Ramit Sethi

    Here’s a sneak peek at the open PBwiki jobs.

  9. Niranjan

    No luck for me.

    Your company does not like c++ geeks. 🙁

  10. kai chang

    RE: Key Man Insurance

    This touches on stuff I work with – was is something your VCs insisted on (pretty common), or something you and fellow founders acquired on your own to protect each others’ interests?

    Must be a surreal experience to run the whole gamut of blood tests and the like neh? 🙂

  11. Marshall

    Hi Ramit,

    I’d love to learn a little more about your company and the position you will be filling. Email me at my provided email address; I’ll send you my resume and a brief background.


  12. Mark

    Your job listed for a Project Manager sounds almost exactly like what I do right now. If I wasn’t so happy with the company I’m with now or with living in Seattle I’d definitely be sending a resume.

    Project Management for a small start-up is the most challenging job I’ve ever had, but it’s also the most rewarding. Good luck filling it!

  13. Moneymonk

    I love that you tube clip, very well explained!
    Kudos to Lee

  14. Kam

    This post came at the perfect time. I’m helping out a friend with his start-up and I was wondering how I could educate myself – everyone working on it thus far has a solid business background, unlike me, and I want to be prepared. Any good books/websites (other than yours, of course)?

  15. Ramit Sethi

    Check the above comments.

  16. Kat

    Thanks for the clip! It was very straight forward and made it look easy. So easy in fact, I am going to set one up to help aid in the planning of a Bridal shower.

  17. Kimmoy

    I too strongly believe in setting up systems so that the business is able to run without you! Could you elaborate more on how you gained millions of users without spending $$ on advertising? pretty please 😉

  18. imelda

    Ditto to the above comment– I’d love to read something from you about growing such a huge web community without any advertising! Unless it’s a trade secret, of course…!

  19. Ramakrishnan

    Hi Ramit,

    Have been reading your blogs for a while now. Really would like to work for a startup. But I am away in India.

    After all these years working for companies in various positions, I had a recent understanding about myself, what I want to be in. That’s why I subscribed to your blog. Thanks…

  20. Mike

    Hey Ramit-

    Are you guys actually hiring in Nashua or is that one of the fancy figure out your IP’s and say where you are sort of jobs for the sales position?


  21. Ramit Sethi

    Mike: Huh?

  22. Tillman

    I really like your wiki site. I have just created an account on your site so that I can co-ordinate two online projects. I am going to take your advise and look into working for a start-up.

    Thanks again.

  23. Jonathan

    Sounds like things are going well over there, Ramit. I’m glad to hear it.

    And yeah, Mike, what the heck did you just say?

  24. Suzie

    Hey Ramit. Great post, and PBwiki sounds like a great place to work.

    I have a question. I’m in the same boat as HollyH above. I am in college, but have lots of free time, so I can work fulltime at a startup plus add in a lot of extra hours (I know how startups are) on site or by telecommuting.

    I applied to a few, sent my resume, etc.. but the same thing always happens. They want a portfolio.. links to things I’ve worked on. I am a programmer, PHP/Rails/C/Ruby/etc.. but I don’t have a degree in anything related to CS, and no professional portfolio.

    I’m thinking the only option I have is to get a regular $8/hr job, while working on more and more projects in my free time. Enough projects to get a startup interested in me.

    Is this my only option? Your advice is appreciated!

  25. Ramit Sethi

    IYou’re a programmer, so why don’t you create a portfolio for yourself? Find interesting things that you wish software did — and build it for yourself.

    Maybe you want a new way to integrate your iPhone with Outlook, or you wish there was a way to scrape all the images off a web page with 1 click. Whatever. Then build it. There — you have a portfolio.

    Do you contribute to open-source projects?

    Have you started a blog?

    Or have you found someone who has an idea and helped them to build it?

    Without some/all of those things, you’re just another programmer. Ask yourself how you can stand out.

  26. Frugal Dad

    Just wanted to say that the description of wikis included in your post was excellent. Many people don’t have a good understanding of the collaborative power of a wiki. In fact, I didn’t either until watching the video which made things much clearer. Good luck as you move forward with PBWiki – looks like a great concept!

  27. Sripathi Ramadurai

    Hi Ramit, I have been doing all the good things in the established corporate world and am now looking to involve myself in technologies that will power the future. I would be more than happy and excited to volunteer my time and skills in this great cause, any chance?

  28. Ricky

    The video was cool, but why wasn’t he saying “We key” correctly?

  29. Ramit Sethi

    We say it “wiki” (rhymes with picky).

  30. H.G

    What is the difference between yours and Wetpaint?
    They wanted my husband but he was not interented. To be honest,I don’t use wiki’s at work, so I don’t see what makes one better than others.

  31. Atwater Village Newbie

    Funny, I enjoy your blog and had no idea I was using your product!

    (Actually, I stopped using PBwiki and switched to Clearwiki, but it’s still a funny coincidence.)

  32. I Will Teach You To Be Rich » 2 startup jobs (engineer and product manager) + $2,000 in referral bonuses

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  33. Mike


    Your Sales Specialist position says the following: Location: Nashua, NH or San Mateo, CA

    Just wondering if that is an actually position in Nashua or a fancy check your IP address and say we are hiring where your IP is sort of thing? I only ask because I in fact live in Nashua – although I currently travel every week for work.


  34. Ramit Sethi

    Um, we’re hiring in Nashua and San Mateo for that position, just as it says.

  35. Monevator

    Sweet… this is an advantage of running a blog you don’t often hear about… getting your own free human resources website! Good luck with the startup, I agree wikis are big news, and will only get more important if some of the ideas about standardising data take off.

  36. Heide

    Daer Ramit & team,
    I love this website. It just makes me want to apply for the job even though I did not graduate-yet. I have not used your product so far but since it seems to give may opportunities and improvements I’ll start it right away! We used sth similar at university, but that is slow and complicated. Ever tried to manage a group work among 5 people with all different schedules and only email- a nightmare!!! So your solution is so applicable for so many people. I like that… oh come on, don’t you have an internship to offer for an international business/ High-tech management student ??? 😉

  37. Igor

    have a buddy who’s one of the most intrested people who’l youl oprobobly ever run into, he’s known for inventing his own stuff and obove all he mainly fixes tons of electronic eq (hard and soft) – this guy’s a wiz who just isnt making the big bux like his gifts should allow him to, any way-he just might be suited for to your environment and and he just might fit in =).

    if your intrested drop me an email , il relay it to him and you guys can talk.
    P.S that old OK email thing is just to easy to its 2008 =P
    P.S.S im to lazy to reach the phone/

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  39. Scott H Young » You Don’t Need to Be an Expert

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  41. Joshua M. Andrews

    Suzie: I have an interesting and challenging project you could work on to build your portfolio. Please contact me at president [at] for more information. Thanks!