A co-founder of successful online graphic design marketplace 99designs is attempting to lure local developers and engineers to Silicon Valley, with the prospect of working at a major technology start-up.
Saying you’re going to do a startup or you want to be a ‘serial entrepreneur’ has about as much meaning as saying ‘I’m going to jump off a plane.’ ”
“Why would you undertake any activity where you get your ass kicked every day, don’t get paid enough, and suffer through years of misery only to maybe find a problem worth solving?” he says.
The only reason to do this is if you feel passionate about changing the world in a meaningful way. You have to start with a problem that really impacts people’s lives and then present a solution they actually want.
What an incredible year, that flew by in the blink of an eye. I wanted to take this blog post to reflect on some of the highlights of the year, both professionally & personally….
Raising $2.7m from an amazing group of investors for Hired
Growing the team from 6 to 30 in the span of just 12 months, and building a culture that focuses on hiring as a key priority
Introducing thousands of talented Engineers, Data Scientists, Designers and Product Managers to some truly amazing and innovative start-ups
Travel! It’s been another year of accumulating miles… Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong (for the Chinese New Year), South Beach, Aspen, Johannesburg, Botswana (Okavango Delta!), Qatar, Montreal, New York… 291,924 km, 33 cities in 14 countries in all, if you believe TripIt.
Great Meals! French Laundry, Acquarello, Gary Danko, Zuma, Del Posto, Michael Mina, Morimoto… it’s been a year of tasting menus and fine dining.
Turning the big 3-0
TV show of the year: West Wing (I realize I’m about 10 years late)
Documentaries: Eternal Enemies: Lions vs. Hyenas, Queen of Versailles, Samsara, U.N. Me, Fatal Assistance
Hired is upending human resources with its specialized curation of tech talent. With demand for engineers and designers on the up, Hired says it has become the largest professional matchmaker in Silicon Valley and is now finding employees for 720 companies including Twitter, Lyft and Pinterest.
I noticed your Ruby Engineer/Developer opening at DeveloperAuction and wanted to introduce myself.
My name is Kiley and I recruit nationally within the tech sector for a variety of companies, from VC-backed startups to Fortune 500s in helping them acquire top IT and engineering talent. I also have a candidate in mind whom I think you’d be interested in.
If you are interested in reviewing my candidate, I’ll make the process as easy as possible by letting my candidate know about the opportunity at DeveloperAuction and scheduling all interviews while managing the process for you. Just so you know, I work on a contingency basis, so I won’t earn my fee until you decide to hire someone.
I would be happy to work on any of your other positions as well; just email me your toughest to fill spots!
“When you’re a child, your parents tell you what you’re supposed to do. Then, you’re in school, and you’re part of this institution that tells you what to do. Then, you go work for some company, and the company tells you what to do. So people come in like baby birds in the nest and open their mouths, as if they’re expecting us to drop food in. We have to tell them, “We’re not your bosses. You’re in charge now.” Some of them are freaked out by that. Some people are meant to be employees. Other people discover they have wings and start flapping them. There’s nothing like being thrown off a cliff to make you discover that you have wings.”—Paul Graham, INC Magazine Interview.
1.) Transparency on financial interests & conflicts.
Very few candidates realize how much they are worth to a recruiter if they just happen to respond to that InMail. They also don’t realize that a contingency recruiter might get paid different rates by different clients - and thus be incentivized to not disclose all prospective opportunities upfront, or to sell one opportunity harder than the other.
2.) Transparency on clients & the opportunity.
A surprisingly large number of agency & contingency recruiters claim to work with companies that have never made a hire through them… Saying “I work with clients like AirBnB (or whatever)” usually means that they remove your contact information from your resume, and cold-email it to the Internal Recruiter or Hiring Manager there (see sample email here - Another Example Why Tech Recruiting is Broken.).
Likewise, a huge number of recruitment emails are unnecessarily vague on details about the company, the salary, the location, the team. It’s only after investing 30-minutes on a phone call that you learn that the “Senior iOS Engineer” position is actually a 6-month contract consulting for 3-person web design shop in Des Moines, Iowa…
The result? The good opportunities get tossed out with the bad, because the time cost of pursuing every lead is so massive.
3.) Intent filtering & centralization.
Most sourcers play a guess & check game.
- I guess that this person might be open to new opportunities. - I send them an inMail/Email/Private Message to check whether or not my guess is correct.
… 80% of the time you don’t even get a response, and when you do, most of the time the answer is “not interested right now”.
Thus, a massive amount of time, effort & manpower is spent simply uncovering people who might potentially have the skills for a particular position and are potentially interested in interviewing or at least learning more about an opportunity.
Even once all that hard work is done, the most common outcome that they don’t get hired (not a cultural fit, or didn’t pass our fizzbuzz programming challenge or they wanted too much money).
What if instead, the internal recruiters and hiring managers spent time contacting & talking to people who are actively interested vs. having to email 50-100 people to uncover a SINGLE prospect - who in all likelyhood is going to get rejected at the hiring stage anyway?
5 Stumbling Blocks to Hiring Engineers in Silicon Valley (and NYC)
These mistakes are frequently made by first-time founder/CEOs and seed stage companies….
1.) Seeking someone in their own image who is willing to work 18 hour days, including an unwillingness to look at candidates who have a different (or non-startup) background or are a missing a few buzzwords from their resume.
It might work for your first few engineering hires, but scaling it becomes incredibly difficult and brings with it huge lost opportunity costs. The faster you move out of your comfort zone, the better.
I know one well known start-up who has been trying to fill a role for over 4 months, and has gone through two dozen candidates, simply because of a strongly held philosophy by the founder who mandates 80-hour work weeks which effectively eliminates most people who are married or have kids.
2.) Using fizzbuzz technical coding challenges as a proxy for how effectively someone will contribute to the team & your company hitting its product roadmap goals. Check out how Stripe does interviews.
"Can this person meaningfully contribute to us hitting our product roadmap?" and "Can we work well together with this person?" are the two most important questions… not whether they’ve memorized an obscure algorithm from CS class 5 years ago.
3.) Accurately & honestly assessing where your company stands, and realizing that if you’re a 7, trying to hire a “10” can be a recipe for failure. This is especially true if you’re trying to pay below market rates.
4.) Moving with a sense of urgency and speed.
If hiring is really your #1 priority, being willing to skip your monthly lunch with mom in order to make time for a hot candidate.
In general, working under the assumption that anybody good is going to have multiple paper offers in hand, is a good philosophy. Start a countdown clock the first time you meet someone, you have 10 business days to present them with a paper offer or a rejection. The longer you wait, the more competing offers you will have…
If you’re trying to hire at the talent level that Amazon/Google/Facebook/Dropbox/Square compete for SPEED is best advantage - they have the brand recognition & deep pockets, you don’t.
5.) Decisiveness. “Making the offer when you’ve found the right house” vs. changing your mind because the color of the living room is wrong. Don’t hunt unicorns, because they don’t exist!
Long answer: Typically you should expect to talk to 7-10 candidates, make 2 paper offers, and have 1 accepted. Having a recruiting culture that’s focused on speed and efficiency makes a massive impact on your success.
If you’re able to go from meeting someone to presenting them with a firm offer within 7 business days, you’re going to be better than 90% of companies out there. Apple/Amazon/Google/Facebook/VMWare and SalesFORCE are able to pay higher salaries than you, but they can’t possibly compete against a 7-day end-to-end hiring cycle.
In my personal opinion, the first one or two engineers that you hire should probably be the most experienced (and probably HIGHEST PAID) people in your company. They will be making critical architectural decisions that will be incredibly complex and expensive to unravel in the future. You need to get it right, and being penny wise and pound foolish does not make sense.
7 trips to San Francisco, 4 trips to Vegas, 3 trips to New York.
Plus: Chicago (TechWeek), Miami (SOBE Fest), Napa Valley, Indianapolis (Superbowl), Park City (Sundance), Montreal, Belize, Hawaii, Dublin (F.ounders), Rome, Capri, Ravello, Positano, Florence, Tuscany, Portofino, Lake Como and Venice.
How to Get Startup Ideas by Paul Graham. Choice quote: “When you have an idea for a startup, ask yourself: who wants this right now? Who wants this so much that they’ll use it even when it’s a crappy version one made by a two-person startup they’ve never heard of? If you can’t answer that, the idea is probably bad.”
I’ve been sending Paul’s article to a lot of people recently who have been asking me for advice… too many people are building something that’s only 10% or 20% better than the status quo. That’s not good enough. See Peter Diamandis’s "10X Cheaper, 10X Faster, 1000X Better".
I just got this email on my DeveloperAuction.com email account…
Unsolicited, “blind” resume with the engineer’s contact details removed, typical example of resumes getting shopped around
For a person with skills that we don’t require (we don’t have any advertised job openings)
Sent to someone (me) with a huge database of tech talent who is trying to put clueless recruiters like these out of business
My name is Audrey Panzeri and I am a recruiter for high tech startups. I wanted to reach out and see if you have an interest in a candidate I’m working with out of Apple. He is a PM/PMM looking for a earlier stage company where he can make a larger impact. He has experience working on cross platform (OS10, iOS, and iCloud) applications and on both consumer and enterprise products. He also has a great education out of Princeton. I’m not sure where you are with your hiring needs or if he’s a fit but I would love the chance to chat. Thanks and I look forward to your feedback.
Amazing expedition story (spanning an 80+ page forum thread) about the first car to drive through the Democratic Republic of Congo in over 20 years.
I think the lessons in this tale apply to every entrepreneur - the persistence, problem solving, and patience displayed by these real-life adventurers are truly something to behold. This is a real page-turner.