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THE BRAINY BUNCH

T&D editor-in-chief Pat Galagan interviewed dot.com CEO Kim Fisher, whose San Francisco-based startup, AudioBasket.com, employs mostly young, techno-savvy workers. Fisher's retention strategy: a solid business plan; a friendly, hardworking culture; and a nurturing leadership style. In the venture's first 10 months, the headcount has swelled from three to 40, and no one has jumped ship. Fisher calls her approach to building a talent pool "nerdworking." AudioBasket's founders tapped people they'd known in school, and those recruits widened the nerd net to friends and acquaintances in other high-tech companies. In fact, when AudioBasket employees bring in a prospect, they earn points in a lottery for a three-day getaway. If the prospect is hired, the person who did the recruiting gets 500 shares of stock. Galagan describes the environment in the warehouse office: Bikes propped everywhere, two computers to a desk, no dress code, unless it's headsets. "Our culture is down-to-earth," says Fisher. That doesn't mean that AudioBasket's employees don't work hard. There are long hours and short deadlines. And there's a lot of "matrixing"-employees must play multiple roles. For instance, every employee has been trained formally on how to make a pitch to venture capitalists-the VCs, as they're referred to. But despite all that (or perhaps because of it), the AudioBasket family is fired up about making the firm a success. "We've created jobs to build on," says Fisher. Says one employee, "New ideas are welcome and taken seriously."

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