One of the most important factors in getting a startup off the ground is the quality of the team. A VC or investor might initially look at the founders – do they have relevant skills, experience, business relationships – but as a team ramps up from 1 or 2 to 10 or 20, they need to maintain a that same level of momentum and talent.
Some of the top sources of talent are as follows –
Online networks – LinkedIn and AngelList are excellent platforms that connect people and highlight their key work experiences and relevant skills. LinkedIn’s search filters can be set for 1-10 employees, often a flag of a startup, so having an updated LinkedIn with relevant news and job openings is a strong “pull” tactic. AngelList is focused specifically on start-ups, offering an easy “matching” service that allows people looking to join startups with startups. The quality of companies on AngelList is also impressive – one of the companies I connected with on AngelList I wound up doing consulting for – which was later acquired by Groupon.
University, Graduate School, and Alumni clubs – Whether sponsoring on-campus conferences or hosting your own company-specific events, having a presence in a densely populated, highly qualified population student campus is a cost-effective and impactful recruiting channel. If done right,these are not only channels for recruiting, but also creating a long-term brand halo among all of those students and their subsequent employers and acquaintances.
Network, network, network – At the end of the day almost every start-up I have worked at, consulted for, or invested in has been as a result of my personal network. Through being in touch with former colleagues / classmates, attending start-up happy hours, and putting genuine time and effort in keeping in touch with like-minded people I’ve met over the years, I feel very lucky to have met and cultivated relationships with many who have later become my founders / co-workers / investors / etc.
For example, I was connected through my brother’s colleague to a startup that was looking to augment its management team. During a conversation that started as a sort of job interview, it became clear that was not a mutual fit between myself and the company – it is an industry I wasn’t interested in, they needed technical sales skills I didn’t have – but it was a great conversation about a company with incredibly impressive fundamentals. As a result as opposed to joining the team, I wound up first doing some consulting on their fundraising strategy, and ultimately invested in it. Interestingly enough, when a former consulting colleague of mine was looking into new opportunities and voiced interest in that same sector, I wound up introducing her to this company where she quickly joined and was installed as COO.
In short – you have no idea where your relationships will lead to, and/or opportunities will arise from. But the more you can work with those around you, making introductions, providing expertise, the more of a multiplier effect you can have on the entire startup ecosystem.