Hiring talent into startups

It is hard to hire good talent in India these days – no matter which company. And if you are a startup, the problem only gets compounded.

While things are changing of late, I feel it is partly cultural and partly lack of awareness of startup advantages. I even came across few folks, who after going through complete recruitment process backed out in the last minute because they (and their parents) felt that their marriage prospects would be affected because of “unknown” company 🙂

There is ton of material on internet w.r.t startups. Based on my experience, few things I found that helps great deal in attracting smart geeks and good talent into startups:

Motivation & Vision. It is important to communicate this to the prospective candidate- why did you start this company and where do you see this would go in the future.

Give them examples of world changing startups and how they started. If your founding team members have past startup experience, have them talk about it. Recently, I came across the following quote from Alexander Tamas (of DST):

“The urge to built something meaningful that changes the world is a life time chance.”

Do you think of your company the same way ? If you don’t, don’t complain and stop right here.

Passion. Not only the candidates need this, but he/she should feel this in the company – in every employee out there already. So, think about how you are going to make candidate feel/perceive this in your company ?  There are no silver bullets here – if you (and your founding team) have this, it will ooze out in every thing that you do.

Sense of ownership.  This is one attribute that every single individual is bound to mention, if he/she ever worked for a startup. No big company is going to match what a startup can offer. Take full advantage of this and talk about at length to candidates. If you already have some team members, have each one of them (esp the junior ones if you are hiring into a junior position) talk to the candidates about the work they do and how they feel about it

– The Team. No smart geek wants to work in isolation. Developers like to hang out and work with other developers who are smarter than them. Having a brainstorming sessions on challenging problems with people they respect and lookup to – is like an extra dose of dopamine. They don’t mind getting addicted to this form of drug. The only question is do you have sufficient quantities of this drug (in other words, can your team produce this drug) ?  Expose the candidate to just a smell of this – he would be sold in no time.

Trust. This is ultra critical if you want your employees stick to the company, especially in startup companies. But unlike the other factors, this comes into play only after the candidate joins the company. Like a customer always trusts a company that is transparent and pro-active, employees trust their company if they find it transparent and company trusts them.

I am no expert in this matter, you will find plenty of stuff on this topic on the web. Only one key advise though: If you promise your employees something (be it their promotion, pay hike, change of work/roles & responsibilities, company future/next steps etc), please donot ever go back on your word. Put in extra-ordinary amount of effort, if required, to fulfill your promise. If you don’t, employees are gonna get hurt. Once they get hurt, they are gonna loose trust.  You may go out victorious by just announcing the failure to keep promise as some change in company policy etc. You think that meeting went well – but the effects of employees loosing trust is like a “slow release drug” – unless you are an expert in human psychology/behaviour, you are not gonna be able to correlate these negative effects with specific incidents.

But if you must go back on your word, there are ways to do that without lot of negative impact. Own it up!!. Just come clean with the employees, be transparent, explain as to why the promise couldn’t be kept, explain to them where you goofed up. They understand that  end of the day you are human and forgive you.  You may even see them even more committed if they believe you.

In short, just treat them as family – you donot have to take up any extra steps and your actions will be natural.

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NotionInk’s Adam – Tablet from India arriving soon…

I have been watching NotionInk’s progress  on their tablet product with great interest for several reasons:

  • It is an Indian new generation start-up with lot of promise – there are not that many hw/sw product companies that we can boast of.
  • The timing of the product is excellent
  • Impressive technical specs – yes, it runs Android
  • Love to see it making a dent on Apple’s iPad

Today, they have started accepting pre-orders for Adam. Congratulations to NotionInk.  While I mayn’t pre-order, I am looking forward to buying this when it comes out.

Apparently, they ran into bunch of issues with the launch. Starting with US tech media slamming them for scam, photoshopped images, return policy issues and then the pre-orders not going through their backend.

In company’s blog, founder Rohan Shravan explains what went wrong and how they are getting back on track. I believe in them – who doesn’t have problems. At least, they are prompt and keeping it transparent.

Accuracy of google book search – broken ?

I usually donot use google books, but today I ended up landing on this site and was generally browsing through. I happened to click on “Photography” link on the left navigation “Subjects” area and I was shocked to see the results. I just see two photography related books and nothing else seems to be connected to anything remotely photography related. And this is not even adhoc search, but a simple navigation through their pre-defined subject areas 😦

Push to TV

Snapstick takes on Apple TV, Google TV —  Snapstick in action in CNET headquarters on an iPhone 4 and TV monitor.  —  A startup called Snapstick is introducing its spin on Internet TV today that it hopes will compete heavily with Apple TV, Google TV, and other set-top boxes.

Sigh!! I was toying with the very same idea last few days after I recently bought Samsung TV that has internet features. Even with DLNA, sharing what is on my mobile and PC is not easy. All DLNA does is, it makes your DLNA connected device appear like a USB device on your TV. You then browse through the content much like you do with any other USB drive.

I was looking at the experience to be more like :I am sitting in front of the TV watching some program with my family. And at the same time fiddling with my “Windows mobile turned into Android phone“, I see that I received an interesting MMS and would like to share with rest of my family watching the TV (probably during a commercial). I would like to do this by selecting the MMS message and simply push a button “Send to TV”. And Voila, the MMS message appears on the TV.

Or, found a funny video on youtube and would like to share that with the folks. It doesn’t make sense to switch the TV to internet mode, select the youtube app, type in the URL using a TV remote. Instead, would like to click on “Send to TV” button that magically does all the above.

And this is not very hard to do. All it needs is a background app running on TV to receive the control and  data messages from authorized connected devices (my phone, iPad, laptop etc).

I will probably spend few cycles during the weekends anyway with Samsung TV SDK and give it a spin!!