Zoli Erdos penned this excellent piece recently: Startups: Executive Hiring Challenges or Beware of the Suits. He discusses hiring management for startups, and his observations on hiring experienced management (the pedi-greed) versus the scrappier less experienced but often tougher and more resourceful (the mutts – of which I am proud to be one).
The only problem with this hiring mentality was that it completely ignored human nature. If you’ve done it all, there’s little challenge left in the new job. And challenge you need: that’s what makes you strive to become an over-achiever, which is what a startup needs. The been there, done that types often have a sense of entitlement, having descended on the startup world, they expect smooth sailing till the IPO, than retirement. Smooth sailing is not what you need in a startup: you need fighters.
He goes on to comment that a lot of people that thrived in the big corporation lose their edge without their support structure.
Another problem with hiring former corporate hotshots is that they often turn out to be quite incapable of performing without their previous support infrastructure and staff. They are leaders, not doers – a startup needs both in one person.
I have been involved with technology start-ups my whole career. This is my fourth which I refrain comment on since we are still in that hiring/honeymoon/growth stage. Of the previous three I have sat on the executive team with a number of Ph. D.’s and MBAs who were very smart but not able to function at multiple levels needed for success. In contrast I have worked with guys with a high school education and no experience that have knocked my socks off doing things that even the most educated and accomplished would have struggled through.
Beyond the credentials the distinguishing factor has been creative thinking, and a lack of fear to try new things. There can be too much of a good thing too. I have been in a startup were there was very little experience and that one didn’t make it. I think the key is to get the right mix of experience and creativity so that the combined group succeeds. The one point worth noting is that if you look at the some of most successful tech companies it seems that they were started and managed to the billion dollar range by founders with little or no operational experience:
- Apple – Jobs (Woz made it pretty far too)
- Microsoft - Gates and Balmer
- Google – Page and Brin
[Yeah I am sure there's a great pun in the title of this post too too]
(photo courtesy of This Year’s Love)