When Matthias Henze needed to let off some steam in the early days of his start-up, he would pop outside the farmhouse he shared with his two co-founders, Fridtjof Detzner and Christian Springub, and chop some wood. The three (pictured from left to right) were holed up in the countryside in Germany’s north, a place “in the middle of nowhere”, where they spent every waking minute together between Sunday night and Friday evening.
Fast forward to 2011 and their website-hosting service, Jimdo, had built more than 4m websites and expanded to nearly 70 staff (its mission is "pages to the people": everyone should be able to create websites without any technical knowledge). But the success came at a price: office life had become a lot more stuffy. In search of lost fun, a handful of staffers came up with a list of 15 points that defined the firm’s culture—which today marks it out not only from more established German businesses, which are typically formal and hierarchical places, but from hyper-competitive American online start-ups.