As a founder or senior leader within your startup, have you asked yourself some of these questions and got answers you are happy with? If not, from my experience it is worth making the time to work through them, you could regret it later down the line especially when you do finally get investment.
Here are my ten top tips that you need to work through and be satisfied with before moving forward in your hiring process:
1. Are there staff available in the local area?
It might be obvious but it is amazing how many startups will go with the latest technology like Scala, paper.js, Clojure or Slate, Faust or Squirrel and build an amazing new product but then when they try to recruit the extra programmer they really struggle to hire. Spend some time thinking about where you can find the skills locally or will you have to cross-train or relocate talent. Even languages that are becoming more mainstream like Ruby can be difficult to obtain. Resources like IT jobswatch can give you an idea of demand, a quick search on Linkedin might give an indication of supply.
2. What are the rates for permanent/contract staff for your technology stack?
Assuming you are going with your favoured technology when you are preparing your cash flow and hiring plans, take a look at salaries/contract margins. Many startups are amazed at what they might have to pay to get that right skill set, especially outside of London where the assumption is to pay less, but competition is really hot for tech skills right now.
3. Where are the big technology companies that use your skill set?
One of the reasons that clusters grow especially around technologies is that there happens to be a large employer of that skill set locally. The reason there were so many startups in California was Xerox Parc, so many embedded software companies in Cambridge were because of Acorn and networking technologies in Scotland was NCR and 3Com. Have you looked at the local big tech employers and their tech stack to see if it's easy to get people from there?
4. Are you part of a community already?
Have you joined and are active in the local User Groups, Meetups? This will give you an idea of the quality and depth of local talent.
Have you made links with the local universities, especially the Computer Science courses? One reason for successful startups around York was the quality of their C Science course, especially around AI and Vision.
6. What happens when you get funded? Do you have a plan?
One of the key bottlenecks for startups is planning. From building and launching a product, creating great customer service and doing the investment rounds when you finally get that magic funding - typically a lot of it will go on hiring. If you have not pipelined and thought about how to do this it can create a major challenge.
7. It's OK, we will just bring in overseas candidates!
Think again, the average time to hire, process and gain a work permit is likely to be around 3-6 months especially if they are not in the country already. On top of which, Visa's are becoming much scarcer now under the new legislation. Yes, you can still hire from within the EU, but the competition is fierce and most candidates want to live in London as that is the area they know.
8. Beware the unicorn!
While research suggests that recruiting the top 5% of programmers will have a disproportionate effect on your productivity, the reality is they are few and far between for a reason and you have to pay disproportionate salaries and benefits to attract them and present them with the right challenges otherwise they will move on swiftly. A good solid team to start will pay good dividends and if you see one them make a decision then otherwise you could miss delivering whilst you wait for the unicorn!
9. Are you attractive compared to your peers?
Have you undertaken a review of your hiring competition? Not just the local startups but major employers too, to see how you stack up on benefits, culture and salaries? Also look at Startups within one-hour commutes, which if you are in Nottingham, Birmingham or Manchester could almost be London.
10. Do you actually tell people you are hiring?
A common issue for startups is to focus on their product and sales and not have their website telling people they are hiring or what they are looking for in the future. The key is to make sure that it's very visible on the front page of your website to attract the best talent from the get-go.
If you would like to get a review of hiring practices at your startup or just advice on where you might be able to improve, email me.