Why should I even care about working at your startup?

Posted by on August 24th, 2017

It’s the point where you need to hire your first employees and guess what? Nobody gives a f**k about your startup! No one’s friend has worked there before and you cannot even find it on LinkedIn! Do these guys even have a customer?

As any organization of any size and type attracting the right people is key. People voluntarily join organizations for many reasons: money, status, mission, delusions of greatness, corporate car, fancy office.

The safe bet, a career in the corporate world is about money and status and money. In the early-stage startup world, the main reason to join a team of 3 is exactly that this is a team of 3, plus the new hire. Working at a company of 3 people is an irrational choice. The money is less, the chances of survival are thin, the office perks are limited at best, there is no HR to support, the only process is chaos and yet some people will jump fences and join you.

You need to understand that these people won’t join your startup for your ninja filled job posting, the WordPress theme you chose for your website or the name of your investors. This is pretty much all you have to display at this point. No, they will join your fragile company because they want to work with YOU!

Yes, you! The very reason people want to take the risk of working in a tiny startup is not (only) the promises of riches. It is simply the fact that your startup is not a soul crushing fucking corporation, which of course you aim to become one day.

We have a strong instinct to belong to small groups defined by clear purpose and understanding–“tribes.” This tribal connection has been largely lost in modern society, but regaining it may be the key to our psychological survival. The Tribe

In an era where opportunities for tech talent are innumerable what really makes your company stand out is you, the founders, your personalities, your dynamism, your mission and the product you are building.

Before, or while, you embark on an entrepreneurial journey you should take some time to study people. Why we think the way we think. Getting something big done is so much more than technical, marketing or sales skills. You need to align people and this is harder than what you imagine. I see a lot of founders looking for words of wisdom from successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Let me tell you something, most of us just repeat what we have heard from others and in understanding humans, your best resource is the art, philosophers, classics, sociologists, psychologists, elders and XKCD.

To put it in other words, working at an early stage startup should feel like a place where someone lives the dream of being important, making contributions, feel respected and valued. THIS IS YOUR JOB MR CEO!

Someone wiser than me, that being Alain de Botton, wrote the following:

However powerful our technology and complex our corporations, the most remarkable feature of the modern working world may in the end be internal, consisting in an aspect of our mentalities: in the widely held belief that our work should make us happy. All societies have had work at their centre; ours is the first to suggest that it could be something more than a punishment or a penance. Ours is the first to imply that we should seek to work even in the absence of a financial imperative.

That place is your startup. Getting people excited to work in a team that moves fast, makes contributions and has a spirit of camaraderie is your biggest ally in recruiting. And stock options!

Fortunately, not all people are the same, this is something you have to always remember. Usually, people tend to stick with their own kind, breeding a mono culture though will prove to be a major thorn. A recent research came with the following conclusions:

To understand how different personality types value the various attributes, researchers divided the hypothetical job seekers into three groups. They figured that “hedonistic” candidates would be highly influenced by things like office location (which turned out not to be true); that “self-directed” candidates would be greatly concerned with a start-up’s perceived innovativeness and with their own ability to have an impact (both true); and that people who are especially worried about job security would focus on the qualifications of the founders and the commitment of prominent investors (both true)

So what did you learn today? You need to focus on employer branding early on. Different people will be attracted by different attributes but it will all boil down to your funding team and mission. Make sure you properly communicate them! It might not seem like a priority when you have an infinite backlog in front of you but as a startup CEO your to-do list should have two open ended tasks:

  • Hire better people than me.
  • Ensure I have the resources needed.

Failure on the above can only result in the following.

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