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Complexities of Talent Acquisition for Startups

Finding talent and onboarding them is a complex task best left to professionals but when it's your baby...

Global Influencer

Global Influencer
Global Influencer

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Well, I have written a lot about startups and my new book, “The Startup – From Early Stage to Exit” is going to hit Amazon in the Spring but I am constantly amazed when I fail to take my own advice.

I guess it is human nature not to take your own advice. A recent photo of Arnold Schwarzenegger driving a military tank-type vehicle while espousing environmental stewardship is a good example of “take my advice I’m not using it.”

My case, in point, is HR for a startup. I’m in the middle of raising capital for my new startup (Syphon Nanotech Inc.) with a physicist friend. We’ve developed a new form of alternative energy using nanotechnology and a great deal of quantum physics theory. We have our minimal viable product (the prototype) but now need to setup a company around it – hmmm!

Our financial gurus leading the charge want structure but for the past three years we have been bootstrapping our research and doing quite well without any outside assistance, thank you very much. But we are told that we need an infrastructure, meaning employees and the typical stuff like offices and overhead.

I’ve written about not hiring friends so I have that handled. My friends wouldn’t know a nano device from a toothbrush so no worries hurting anyone’s feelings.

I’ve heard of companies like game developer Zynga, Google and even Facebook buying startups then closing them down just to get the employees. It’s called acqui-hiring and sounds absolutely scary until I get my $1B valuation then I will probably do the same thing. This acqui-hiring concept apparently isn’t new – well it’s new to me.

Coined in the early 2010’s, according to wikipedia it’s talent acquisition, with the process of acquiring a company primarily to recruit its employees, rather than its products or services. The products or services are superfluous and are typically discontinued upon the acquisition.

Gee, I remember, maybe 15 years ago, when big companies would walk into an industry and just buy a company for $20M to get the IP rather than spend many more millions developing it. Now they are buying companies just for the talent? I have trouble fathoming that concept.

Well, as cool as acqui-hiring sounds I am a light year away from such a mind-blowing practice so what are my alternatives?

I guess I can get my senior staff together and hire thirty odd employees from or some other talent site. Maybe I’ll use that cool startup, Riipen, that claims to have a unique hiring platform for creative types like programmers. Riipen allows job seekers to gain hands-on experience, demonstrate employable skills and network with employers. I need your typical hi-tech group of employees like accounting, marketing, secretaries and assistants combined with a smattering of research scientists and Ph.D’s – yikes!

The thought of spending days and days hiring people to fill my talent pool sounds like a mind boggling and tedious issue yet I’ve always felt that the CEO should find the startup employees after his own vision. Personally, I think I like the concept if I only needed 4-5 new hires but when it comes to evaluating essential personnel and deciding on hiring scientists I need something other than a vision and a gut feeling.

I can’t ask my Co-Founder and CTO to spend days on the issue, he’s up to his neck in development – after all he is the mad scientist in the group. Ok, I guess I must let him come out of his sterile lab to meet with some ‘interesting’ Ph.D types. He does know the questions to ask after all.

So, I’ve dodged the bullet so far, no friends and no hires outside my pay grade. I’ve got to remember my mantra, ‘hire employees with advanced flexibility’ able to fit into any situation they face and think through a solution themselves. But hey, this is half my company I can have doubts!

In a very cogent moment, I realize my partner needs to hire the people he needs and with his background he probably already knows the guys in the business that we need. I’ll negotiate the salaries.

I’ll need a wrangler for the staff but think I might want to find the right people through connections and referrals than put an ad out there. A friend told me if you need a great programmer ask your best programmer – they know!

I guess I can stumble through the first three months after financing to take my sweet time to find the perfect people but our project has a time frame and I have no trouble firing those who don’t keep up or meet my standards.

I can look to Riipen whose claim to fame is they issue challenges to job seekers to prove their mettle to an employee, but frankly, I’m not looking for tech guys, I’m looking for people with people skills and scientists, an odd combination for sure.

I can stagger the onboarding of talent so I’m not overwhelmed but this company has to be up and running fast and efficient from the very beginning. E-commerce store Zappos offers new-hires $2,000 to quit during training, an opportunity to get out if it’s not a good fit. It sounds like a good idea but makes me a little uneasy about hiring someone who would turn down the $2k (in another time I might have taken myself).

I think I have it figured out. My Co-Founder physicist already has a 2IC in place so between them they can hire the eight or so scientists they need. I have my 2IC and the CFO will be put in place by the funder so that leaves me about 3-4 departments. Still sounds daunting but maybe the solution is to bring everyone on as consulting contractors for 60 days.

I can find out their peccadillos, figure out which ones are keepers and which ones to purge. This scenario seems a tad easier than onboarding employees from the beginning and stumbling through HR issues.

Gee and I thought this was going to be a fun exercise – not! Now where do I put them all? Anyone know of office space in Vancouver?

Gary is a Startup Specialist, CEO of Bizzo Management Group Inc., Bizzo Integrated Marketing Corp. and Syphon Nanotech Inc. in Vancouver. London-based Richtopia placed Bizzo on the Top 100 Global Influencers in the World for 2018. He is an Adjunct Professor of Integrated Marketing & Communications as well as Consumer Behavior at the New York Institute of Technology, MBA School of Management (Vancouver Campus).


Equities Contributor: Gary Bizzo

Source: Equities News

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