One of the things I picked up at Oasys, and has now continued with Privy, is the need to surround yourself with a team that challenges you and elevates your game, big time. In an early stage company, each hire needs to carry the weight of 3-4 full time hire responsibilities in order to move the company forward.
In both of these cases, we’re talking about incredibly talented, proven hires who had several other job offers from well funded companies, presumably with much higher salaries to offer.
So how did we compete?
Focus on your strengths and be different.
Team and Culture - In 2014, people are willing to choose less cash if they can picture themselves in an environment that makes them happy. That means they need to love the founders/management, and if early enough, they also need to love everyone else in the room. Aside from the normal interviews, make sure your sales process incorporates some sort of mingling socially amongst the entire team and the recruit.
Opportunity - As a founder it’s important for you to understand what a potential recruits goals are in life and career, especially over the two to four year period you’ll be working together. Did they just have a kid, do they want to buy a house, do they want to be a part of something huge? At a certain point, these decisions are made as a family, not just the individual. You need to understand that dynamic.
Be different - If you’re reaching up to recruit amazing talent, this hire will likely have or soon receive other offers. How can you win them over? We recently had a recruit who just had a baby, and after giving our offer and hearing that he had several others, we wanted to do something that would make him, and his wife, laugh. So we sent him a custom bib for his daughter that read:
Meals can be messy. Choosing the right job shouldn’t be.
Simple, yet incredibly effective.
A16Z has some great thoughts on hiring as well. It’s a great post for those that have not seen it.
Founding a startup is hard. Really friggin hard. Between fundraising, product development, sales, recruiting and managing a team, the odds are stacked against you. That’s why its incredibly important to focus your time on the most important tasks at hand, and delegate everything else.
In the earliest of stages, You need to identify the best vendors to offload the stuff that is not core to de-risking your idea. As a tech startup building marketing software for restaurants, our legal, accounting and benefits are super important, yet we don’t have the resources or needs to bring these things in-house full time. Working with folks that understand the full life cycle of startups from day one through VC financings and exits, are invaluable along the way.
We just moved into new office space, enrolled more members in a health plan, and are filing taxes, all of which reminded me how lucky I am to be working with my trusted providers. At this point, I worked with these folks twice, first as I was getting Oasys Water off the ground, and now again with Privy. Without these people, I wouldn’t be able to focus on what I need to be doing.
Thanks, team. Without further ado, here’s my list of providers:
Accounting: Scott Kaplowitch and Sue Baum - Edelstein and Company. So many founders tell me they’re picking up quickbooks on their own. Have fun going through your first audit after VC funding. Why bother spending any time on this right now? These guys know the ins and outs of financings, audits, tax, etc. Use them from day one.
Legal: Christopher Austin and Mike Jabbawy - Goodwin Procter. Founders agreements, vesting, seed rounds, SAAS contracts. These are complicated matters. Do not mess around. Document things early using a firm that takes companies from founders through IPO.
Employee Benefits: Bruce Crohn and team. Bruce knows how to speak in layman terms, and treats startups the same way he treats his big clients. He and his staff make health insurance enrollments are a breeze.
Real Estate: Greg Hoffmeister, Jon Frisch, Ashley Dilella - T3 Advisors. Finding an awesome space is crucial for recruiting and building good culture. These guys get it and have been an absolute pleasure to work with.
P.S Cort from Terrible Labs lists some of his trusted service providers here, in case you need more recommendations. I’ve heard great things about Smith Anderson and Dan Allred with SVB Banking, and will be transitioning to them soon, so I’ll have to do a follow up then.
These are just a few of my trusted vendors. Find yours early and stick with them. You’ll be glad you did.