The #1 request I hear when talking to founders in San Francisco is: “We are hiring engineers. Know any?” We all know this is a big issue that’s only getting worse, and so do most of the investors. But, I’m now starting to hear this so often, I’m beginning to worry that all the conventional tactics simply won’t work. Early-stage startups that don’t start experimenting with new ideas to source, recruit, and close engineers and other technical hires may end up running out of money or never achieving the product traction they need to get to the next level. I don’t have data to support this, but my intuition is that technical talent is so fragmented right now, all options need to be reexamined and placed on the table.
In that spirit of investigating all available options, here are 10 tactics your startup may consider given today’s conditions. And, while we often read high-level posts about how to hire people, the on-the-ground reality is that so many early-stage companies are being funded every day that when the founders close that first round, they often turn into (near) full-time recruiters, and many of them don’t succeed at it because they either don’t understand the weight of the issue before them and/or because they aren’t willing to consider these kind of options below, some of which require a serious change in thinking:
Naval Ravikant tweeted a great line last year: “It’s never been easier to start a company, but it’s never been harder to build one.” This fragmentation of talent is the other side of the coin in this bubble we are in — and yes, it is a bubble, but the bubble isn’t where you may think it is. Today, the asset that is overvalued is the amount of funds and shares of equity that founders are in control of and chose to hold on to — to recruit the right people, founders now have to work extra harder or be even more creative and daring to fill in their open slots. Put another way, in order to win in today’s game, many founders are going to have to make uncomfortable decisions, especially with respect to money for salaries and equity as incentives.
I am not an expert on all of this. And, I know it’s not cool to suggest these tactics because everyone says it’s all about “team” and because you want to protect your culture and because you don’t want to manage people remotely or hire contractors or spend time training a diamond in the rough, but for many early-stage companies in a flooded market like San Francisco, the harsh truth of 2013 is that everyone and their mom has a tech startup now, and everyone and their dad has a new seed fund, and you, as a founder, are caught right in the middle, forced to make suboptimal tradeoffs between quality and speed. It’s not a pretty choice, but in order to survive or succeed in this environment, I simply don’t see another way.