Champ Suthipongchai is founder and GP at Creative Ventures, a deep tech firm that invests in early-stage companies.
If you’re hiring for your startup, you need to understand one thing: This is arguably one of the worst times to be looking for talent.
While inflation continues to skyrocket and the Fed pumps up interest rates, consumer confidence remains unchanged and unemployment sits at a historical low. The business and market financial outlook is grim, but companies are still at the mercy of their employees, who seem to have endless choices for jobs. Big Tech might have released some 10% of the talent back into the market, but those were generally not employees executing core businesses.
How, then, can early-stage founders compete with larger, better-funded companies in this war for talent?
View talent through a product-market fit lens
Whenever possible, it is far better to slowly integrate a great candidate in as an adviser or part-time contractor and let things play out.
Most startups simply do not have the means to compete on the basis of capital, especially when it comes to talent.
Your early employees (your first 20-25 people) join you because they are seeking something that bigger companies with money cannot offer them. Your job is to figure out what that something is and make it available.
Approaching early-stage recruitment through a product-market fit lens is great way to do this. Think of your candidates as your customers, and get to know them in person, understand their career path and learn what their gaps are. Their gaps are your problems and the role you have to offer is your product. The two have to fit together — otherwise, it’s not a good hire. When you figure this out, explain how they can get what they want from working with you and why they cannot get it from other companies.