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In the Startup Communities, I talk extensively about leaders and feeders. I assert than anyone in the startup community should be able to start / create / do anything that is helpful to the startup community. They don’t have to ask permission – there is no VP Activities in a startup community. I also talk about how the students are the precious and most valuable resource of a university.
This morning I got the following email from Fletcher Richman, a student at CU. It’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about and it is immediately actionable for every entrepreneur in Boulder and Denver.
Dear Founders and Friends,
As students at CU Boulder, we have noticed that there are many startups that would love hire more interns and full time employees from the university, and lots of students would love to work at a startup. However, there seems to be a disconnect between the two.
We would like to fix this issue. We have created a simple form to get a better idea of the positions available for students at startups that we would greatly appreciate if you could fill out:
The data from this form will be used for two things:
1) To help start an online startup jobs and internships board for students that we are currently building.
2) To build a contact list of companies for the Students2Startups fair early next year, which will be bigger and better than ever before!
Thank you so much for your help! Please let us know if you have any questions.
So – what are you waiting for. Go sign up to hire some CU Students!
This first appeared in the Wall Street Journal’s Accelerator series last week under the title Cultural Fit Trumps Competence. Also, I’m going to be doing online office hours with the WSJ on Friday 12/21 at 3pm ET – join and ask questions!
The first people you hire in your startup are critical to your company’s success. So it’s easy to say that you need to hire the “absolute best people you can find.” But what does this actually mean?
Take two different spectrums – (1) competence and (2) cultural fit. Imagine that you have a spectrum for each person – from low to high.
Now, you obviously will not hire someone who is low on both competence and cultural fit. And you obviously will hire someone who is high on both competence and culture fit. But what about the other two cases?
Many people default into choosing people who have high competence but a low cultural fit. This is a deadly mistake in a startup, as this is exactly the wrong person to hire. While they may have great skills for the role you are looking for, the overhead of managing and integrating this person into your young team will be extremely difficult. This is especially true if they are in a leadership position, as they will hire other people who have a cultural fit with them, rather than with the organization, creating even more polarization within your young company.
In contrast, people with low competence but a high culture fit are also not great hires. But if they are “medium” competence, or high competence on in a related role, or early in the career and ambitious about learning new skills, they may be worth taking a risk on.
While you always want to shoot for high competence, high cultural fit people when you are hiring early in your company’s life, it’s always better to chose cultural fit over competence when you have to make a choice.
If you are interested in working with a company that is an expert at figuring this out, go take a look at RoundPegg.
If you are looking for a cool job in the bay area, go take a look at the recruiting event happening on 10/5/12 organized by a bunch of our portfolio companies searching for amazing folks.
The neat thing to me about this is that my partners and I had nothing to do with this – it was completely self-organized by the CEOs of the companies in which we’ve invested in the bay area. We have a very active internal CEO list and I saw a thread about this that started a week ago and then generated a long thread as the CEOs decided to do it and figured it out. I’m sitting with Seth, Jason, and Ryan after a long (awesome) day together doing email and watching football and Jason said “hey – did you see the tweet about the bay area recruiting event!”
It’s another example of the power of the network that I believe is rapidly dominating the way we live and work. No one asked permission. No one had to get approval. It is a great idea – and it just got implemented fast.
If you are looking for a new gig, our friends at Datahero, Sifteo, Awe.sm, Singly, Mongolab, Authentic8, and Pantheon want to hang out with you. Go sign up for the event on 10/5/12 from 6pm – 8pm. It’s free and there will be food, drink, cool tech, and great people.
Once again we are in a zone where hiring software developers is incredibly challenging. The market is fully employed and while there is some movement between companies, great developers tend to be decided to what they are doing for a while, especially in an entrepreneurial context.
Last night I was at Angel Boot Camp in Boston. It was a dinner for about 50 angel investors – a mix of experienced ones and new ones – organized by Jon Pierce. A few of us (including me) gave short talks and there was a long, vibrant room wide group conversation.
Angus Davis followed me for the short talks. He had a bunch of great ideas, but one stood out. He said something like:
“If you want to recruit great software developers, show up at the computer science lab with a bunch of pizza the night before a major project is due.”
While he said this in the context of recruiting software developers, I think this is true of building relationships with anyone in college you are interested in working with. Just show up and bring pizza. Just show up and do something memorable that is helpful in the moment. Just show up and be generous with your time. Engage and go to where the people are, rather than wait for them to come to you, because they won’t.
This afternoon I’m teaching a class at Harvard with Jeff Bussgang and then tonight I’m teaching a class at MIT with Ken Zolot. I haven’t decided what version of pizza I’m bringing, but Angus’ line made me think about always showing up with something that everyone will remember, in addition to simply showing up in the first place, which is probably the most important point of all.
Chris Dixon had an excellent post yesterday titled Recruiting programmers to your startup. The post, and the comments, are full of super useful stuff that every entrepreneur should read carefully.
I sent the link for the post out to the Foundry Group CEO email list and it generated a great discussion thread, including one of the companies sharing their full day interview / evaluation process which includes a four hour coding exercise. Among the feedback was a great short list of four addition things that Niel Robertson, the CEO of Trada (and an amazing programmer in his own right) has learned over the years.
- Be careful who you pick to do the interviewing. You want to showcase your best engineers in the process balanced with those who are good interviewers (which can be wildly different)
- Have an awesome engineering process that you are pros at and can showcase in the interview. We lost a great candidate because our process was in flux and he sussed out our eng management wasn’t committed to the new way
- Program with the person live. You can do this on a whiteboard or on a computer. We’re going to move to the on a computer version. Over and over I’m hearing this is the best way to learn someone’s skills
- Reference check – oh man how many times do I have to learn this lesson.
Trada, like many of the companies we’ve invested in, had spectacular growth (both revenue, customers, and headcount) in 2011. They, and others, continue to aggressively search for great software developers to join their team – when I look at the Foundry Group Jobs page I see well over 100 open positions for developers across our portfolio and I know this list undercounts since not all of the companies we are investors in are listed there.
It’s an extremely tight hiring market for software developers right now. I expect this to continue for a while given the obvious supply / demand imbalance for great people. So – if you are hiring – read Chris’s post and be thoughtful about how you go about this. And, if you have comments for him, me, or Niel about how to do this even better, please offer them up!