How to attract talent as startup?


What are the best ways in attracting talent to a startup? Is it salary, a cool brand, a cool office or something else? Equity is pretty much a standard so I'm looking for some other tips.

A while back I read an article about a startup that got some decent talent by having a very cool "first day" setup where they greet the new employee with a desk of different cool gadgets, choice of computer and even a dose of soda. Unfortunately I can no longer find this article, anyone know?

Hiring Employees Interviews

asked Nov 3 '11 at 05:47
139 points

4 Answers


Interesting work on something they believe in.

answered Nov 3 '11 at 07:47
Giles Thomas
1,540 points


I don't think there is any one formula for what makes someone stay or go.

So I would mix as many of the following as you can

  • Good work place. Doesn't have to be like the RedBull office but make sure its not a dank, dark, hole miles from anywhere (especially food and drink) choosen because it was the bottom of the barrel on price.
  • Very few rules, only those that are constructive ... like get the job done, all questions allowed .. Zappos is a good public example.
  • Sense of "We are all in this together against the world"
  • Agreed set of end goals
  • Allowed to argue and
  • Sense of discovery. We are breaking new ground, scientific endeavour.
  • Autonomy in their work. This needs to be balanced against the goals and choices of the company but especially for the early adopter group this is a key benefit.
  • Being held to account ... but within limits
  • Praise success, celebrate failure as learning not as recrimination
  • Good feedback metrics.
  • Bunch of friends enjoying a challenge.
  • If they are developers a good set of tooling (hardware and software)
  • A sense of "earning it" bit by bit over time. If it all comes to easy, then where is the challenge? if it never arrives, whats the point? Basically make the steps incremental and achievable.

Remove as many of the following.

  • Unknown rules that are there "just because"
  • Focus on the money today only, yes its important, but it annoys everyone because sometimes you need to do things like pay down technical debt and make other less obvious choices.
  • Penny wise, pound poor or in these days pay for minor things be smart about the larger purchases.
  • Administration minimisation. This is a key ingredient, you need to provide the minimum "other stuff" that gets in the way, Joel wrote a post years ago on the job of the manager is to remove all the non-developer/productive hurdles out of the way so the productive people can focus on the productive work.
  • Miserable people and nah sayers. Last thing you need is to be told its too hard, other people are smarter and that someone else is bigger and better than you and that you don't stand a chance ... get rid of them, they have no place in a startup.

then add a bunch of other elements yourself.

answered Nov 3 '11 at 12:01
Robin Vessey
8,394 points


To keep it simple I would say the primary start up draws would be:

  • Ability to make a difference. Something unique and potential to change the game.
  • A place where there input and efforts make a true difference in the business and product
  • Challenging and creative work
  • Freedom to use the technology and tools that make the most sense for the job
  • At least enough money to not be embarrassed around friends and family

Sure having a soda machine, the latest laptop, the Aeron chair, a cool Steelcase desk where I can sit or stand is great. But, that really doesn't matter. That same person would be just as satisfied coding on a couch with their Macbook. Those are perks, but right now I'm seeing some developers take less $ to work somewhere they can have an impact and work on something they believe in.

answered Nov 3 '11 at 13:04
Ryan Doom
5,472 points


If you're talking specifically about attracting technology talent, the environment is a very important factor, probably more than money or options--and I am not talking about a ping-pong table or free beer. The best engineering talent tend to be attracted to two main things at a start-up:

  1. the presence of other good engineers to work with, and
  2. the company is using the latest exciting technology to tackle a challenging technical problem.

If a company doesn't have these things going for it already, it is going to find it very difficult to attract top-shelf engineers.

It is a bit of a chicken and egg problem, I'll grant you. You need that first one or two passionate developers to start to build the kernel of the team. If you yourself are not technical, then you will not be able to attract tech talent until you have a solid, dedicated founder-level technology person on board who can focus on building the team. I have seen a few non-technical co-founders attract that first developer simply with the promise that they can choose the technology and build the team. There is a smaller subset of engineers that have leadership qualities and can be attracted to that proposal. But, do make sure this first engineer has leadership experience in their past.

answered Nov 10 '11 at 04:50
Sam Mc Afee
118 points

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