Startup Talent
29 June 2015

How and When to Find the Best Talent for Your Startup?

One of the main challenges every startup faces, particularly during the early stages of development, is to form a talented team. This can be a very complex process for a venture that is just starting out.

For several reasons, it is usually more difficult for a startup to attract high-calibre employees. They do not possess the power or the money of larger companies, and they do not have the time to extensively search and make decisions on who will be part of their team.

Moreover, without the resources of a larger company, when looking for prospective team members, the underlying aim is completely different. Founders need all the talent they can get because every element of a startup’s process has to be unique. To a great extent, the vitality of the project depends on it.

As explained by Joy’s Law, “no matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else”. Thus you will have to assume that the best are not always going to be on your side. However, not everything is lost! For a startup, forming a team where talent is abundant can become a reality. You just have to know how to look in the right place at the right time.

During the early stages of a startup’s journey, the founders should devote between 30 and 40 per cent of their time recruiting their core team. Throughout this phase, the main tool they possess is networking.

  • Events may be the perfect place to meet future team members, although you will have to fight against large companies to lure them to your office. In the words of Aaron Harris, Co-Founder of WyzAnt, when attracting talent through this method “the key was to develop the profile of the person we wanted and build the perfect encouraging discourse.”
  • Networking can also result in profitable meetings in the medium term. Ask other entrepreneurs and acquaintances if there is anyone in their contact list that could be part of your team. A good place to start asking is in your own office. What if the ones that are part of the original staff are able to attract more talent?
  • Resort to knowledge sources. Universities are full of associations and working groups in which developers and other technological people build personal projects. Such forums can be the key to forming a young, proactive team. In addition, places such as Campus London or Madrid, as well as other big co-working centres, are full of talent.

During the final stages of a startup’s journey, the founding team has to take the next step of delegating the recruitment process. Accordingly, the amount of time devoted to this should be reduced. When the original team consists of around ten employees and is looking to expand, it is time to contact the human resources professionals.

This does not necessarily mean that founders distance themselves from the hiring process. Rather, it means that the recruiter — who shares their vision — has to filter candidates and manage the localisation of talent outside the company.

Hiring a suitable person to carry out this job is also complicated. According to Andrew Stoe, former Human Rights Manager at RockMelt  (a company that was later purchased by Yahoo!) when hiring a recruiter “the most important thing is to find someone with plenty of enthusiasm who is able to make people excited about the company.”

Regardless, whoever it is in charge of finding possible candidates, it is essential in the digital age to scour social networks. Beyond LinkedIn — which is no more than a set of unverified CVs — it is necessary to join experience with their activity on Twitter, blogs or in personal projects.

Key Business Culture

In order to overcome the clear handicaps that startups have when hiring, as compared with larger competitors, a particularly powerful tool is the creation of an attractive business culture that makes participating in the project a professional dream.

This is the underlying factor in Buffer’s success. In the words of its CEO, “people are just really excited about the culture and they apply based on that.” This strategy was also adopted by Tuenti, a Spanish startup, in order to gather an extraordinarily capable team in its first years. They managed to create a unique business atmosphere. “Sometimes, you work 18 hours, but on Saturday you leave and the company pays the party. They also invite you to activities. They invest on good vibes”, explains one of the company’s former developers.

Ultimately, it is not only about convincing professionals to become part of your startup by offering a competitive wage package. It is also about offering a great opportunity for development that transcends economic factors by incorporating a captivating project, colleagues that they can learn from, and a generally attractive business environment.

A study by consulting firm PwC outlines young people’s priorities: while 44% of respondents are understood to be motivated by their wages, 52% referred to the availability growth opportunities as their key motivation.

Do not take for granted that talented workers will refuse working for your project; go for it and make them dream of being part of your team. Make the experience of being part of your startup unique for every professional.