Startup Hiring 101

Seven Savvy Suggestions for Successfully Staffing Startups

Max Shapiro’s PeopleConnect is more than just a Bay Srea recruiting firm. It is an institution and part of our history. They have been sponsoring PitchForce pitch events and practice pitch events regularly since the early days of Silicon Valley. I have been fortunate enough to occasionally have been a panelist at some of these events and am still in touch with founders I had first met there back in ancient times when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Many founders have recently been asking me about hiring. I brought their questions and concerns to Max, who was kind enough to share words of wisdom, and I carried out seven insights.

  1. With professional help, hiring for a startup position takes about three months, so start early. Without professional help, start even earlier.
  2. It’s crucial that candidates have real startup experience. Working for a small team inside large companies doesn’t count; doing all the parts of a task oneself isn’t learned there. Neither is flying coach.
  3. Check references. Really, don’t skip this—too many people do. Best practices include asking those references to suggest additional people for you to talk to.
  4. Get professional help both in recruiting and in managing (and leading) your people.
  5. Be sure that you have a shared understanding of the concrete near-term goals and priorities for your new hires. Thirty, sixty, and ninety days. It is very common for the first few weeks or even months to be lost because of a lack of clear direction.
  6. For a startup, you need to make sure there is a match on passion, not just skills. You can’t afford to have team members that don’t share your passion for the mission, no matter how skilled they may be.
  7. Hire slowly; fire quickly. The damage that a single bad hire can do to an early-stage company is immense.

To the detriment of my own companies, over the course of 30 years, I’ve failed in each of these respects. But for me, never again. And, I hope for you, simply never.

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Written by Russell Brand

Russell has started three successful companies, one of which helped agencies of the federal government become very early adopters of open source software, long before that term was coined. His first project saved The American taxpayer 250 million dollars. In his work within federal agency, he was often called, “the arbiter of truth,” facilitating historically hostile groups and factions to effectively work together towards common goals


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