Tag Archives: hiring

Outsourcing software development: pros and cons

Outsourcing part of software engineering is not for everyone. Outsourcing requires a lot of micromanagement and software engineering background to make sure that what you ask for is what you get. What follows is my own experience over the last 10 years in many outsourcing contracts working across India, China and Eastern Europe outsources both independent and agencies.

Are you sure it’s for you?

Never “palm off” the job in the form of outsourcing. Otherwise you will be heading down a spiral of getting “f**ked”. Because the important piece of outsourcing is both micromanaging and understanding what the fuck is getting delivered. This way you can either pull the plug on shitty code or influence the right sort of implementation.

If you outsource too early or the core IP you lose the power to radically change the design of your product. Early design is constantly changing especially if you are building something which has never been done before. You want the flexibility to change fast. You need to be under control and know what is going on with all the moving pieces. Read more on this how bad outsourcing impacted Boeing’s Dreamliners (787’s).

This leads me to some key points on what skills you should have if you are going to outsource. Mind you I said “you” because it cannot be someone else you palm it off to.

1. Have a strong background in software engineering.

Loose coupling, Less code, Don’t repeat yourself (DRY), explicit is better than implicit, Test-driven development (TDD), Distributed Version Control System (DVCS)… all important. Did you understand any of those? If not then you are going to get a piece of shit code. Why is code important? Because it determines the type of engineering culture you build out internally & future maintenance (this is where the hard costs nail you down) and local hiring – quiet frankly great engineers do not like working in a pile of mess.

If you do not know how to code move on or go and learn to code. Anyone with the right attitude and time today can learn to code. See http://www.codecademy.com/, http://www.udacity.com/, https://developers.google.com/university/, etc… plenty of resources online for free. No excuses.

In a nutshell you need this experience and knowledge so you can “cut through the bullshit”. If the outsources delivers crap code you tell them to fix it. If they continue to deliver crap code. You break the contract and provide constructive feedback to them.

Detail detail detail. “The devil is in the detail.” my previous biz partner stressed this to a point where it is now embedded into my psyche and into how I work.

If you are outsourcing make sure that you or the person working 1:1 with the outsourcer are very detail orientated. This way bullshit is caught fast and stopped at the front line, and where appropriate move fast and fire the outsourcer.

2. People skills

If you have a background working with people (we all do right) and managing those people (oh here we go) then this part will also get smoother. You need to understand you are working with people who have their own lives, family, goals and ambitions etc… so don’t be an ass because you outsourced a piece of work to a “cheaper” labor country.

If it helps, review (even if you have already read it) How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. The 3 basic principles:

  • Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.
  • Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  • Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Look, you are going to have to micromanage them. Yes micromanagement ain’t ideal for your immediate employees but for contractors it is a must. They are paid to do a certain job and usually move on. You need to receive quality (refer to point 1 on engineering) and also make sure commitments are completed on time and within budget. Hence the micromanagement.

I also like to emphasize to build a good relationship so you can work with them again. Obviously pending the results of your encounter. Results is all that matter at the end of the day. But, never lose sight of maintaining that level of expected quality. If it drops, give them a chance to correct it by providing constructive feedback. If nothing changes again, then cut the tie immediately.

Remember: “Once shame on you, twice shame on me” (in 1st person)

Right so you have the necessary skills to get moving. Here is where the harder stuff begins.

The checklist!

1. Automate.

As much as you can. Outsourcing isn’t just relationship management. There are a number of balls in the air from managing the relationship to code review & feedback to product questions that need to be answered and/or fleshed out.

Use DVCS (ref my previous blog post) with email alerts enabled for code checkins, comments and issue tracking. Have everyone involved with the job on email alerts so you know when code is checked in or issues logged. I like using Bitbucket for all of this.

I also recommend you put them on HipChat for Private group chat and IM, business and team collaboration. This way you will maintain all communication in the one place.

2. The standards list.

Send the contractor your “standards list” of what you expect out of the engagement. Use Google Apps to write one up & share it if you do not have now. Put a line in the sand. A bar in front on:

  • Expected quality – DRY baby!,
  • Naming conventions,
  • Daily status updates – email or via HipChat,
  • Use of standard industry engineer practices like TDD else you will get code without unit tests!!
  • How everyone can reach each other for questions on product spec or similar ie. Skype, emails, cell #, HipChat etc. Include timezones everyone is working on.

3. Requirements.

Fuck sake man. More detail. Stipulate any API calls, use cases, designs, standards as mentioned above etc.. If you have an engineering background you will appreciate and say “fuck yeah” to what I just said.

No one likes to document things but this small initial investment will weigh in its worth when the final product is delivered to spec. Do not leave anything for misinterpretation.

  • Have a Balsamiq design illustrating all the screens you expect and how they should look.
  • Where applicable provide designs for every screen. Do not let the contractor try to work out for themselves what you want. Never ends well and you get billed for that time.
  • Technical detail around API calls (request & response) with examples, use cases, high levee flow diagram etc..

4. Understand it before you open your mouth.

If you are developing for a channel you have no experience in, ie. Android. Then spend time learning it from at least a “high level” understanding so you can speak the lingo and know when you are getting lied to in the face. If you level out with the lingo then you will get respected more and the contractor will not be able to pull a “shifty” on you.

5. Hiring.

Never straight forward and always requires a ton of work. But this pays off when you have the right contractor on board working with you.

  • Spend time writing up a detailed job spec and list it on oDesk/eLance and wait for the flood of offers. Immediately decline those that have not met all 5 stars criteria.
  • Setup a spreadsheet of all those that applied to keep track of who you short list, their contact details, your last communication with them etc… From the 100 narrow it down to top 20.
  • Interview the top 20 via Skype video (yes you need to see them) and listen for something that will differentiate one from the rest. For me it was getting asked questions I did not have an immediate answer to. Smart switched on engineers are like that and you know you got a winner there.

Remember that at every point in the interview/communication you need to be prepared with a series of questions so you can use those as a base for quality and comparison.

Tip: And when you do engage the outsourcer make sure you stay working via oDesk or similar tool. As much as you may be conned into believing working outside oDesk is worth 10% discount it isn’t  oDesk provides great tools to track your contractors time (with videos) and in the end you get to provide feedback on them. Bad business means bad comments means no future business. So it is in everyone’s favor to be on best terms and get the job done right.

6. Have fun!

Not a long-term strategy

Outsourcing is great when you first kick off a startup and need to fill in skill or time restraint gaps like kicking off a new channel which will interface interface with your in-house platform (your IP – which you built and are evolving) or design work. But that is where it stops.

Remember that outsourcing is work for hire. Your own company / startup is a labor of love which only you and those that live and breathe it each day share in the office. So if you have high expectations of the outsourcer to care and be on the ball with something they are building or have built then you most likely skipped the crucial part. The part where I told you to own the whole process and be laser focused on the work getting outsourced. You fucked up. You’re at fault not them.

Never outsource your core business. Only channels. Those that are not what I call IP (intellectual property). Your IP always stays in-house managed by you and your cofounder.. and ultimately a kickass in-house team.

Final note

You are not looking for a “sweat shop”. Find rock stars! That have a history of delivering quality code on time while communicating effectively. Communication decides if you get an apple or an orange when all you wanted is an apple.

If you have any stories (good or bad) please share with me them below in the comments.

Happy outsourcing!
~ Ernest

Hiring Hacks for Founders

The last 2 weeks I attended courses on Attracting, Hiring and Retaining the Best People and Top 5 HR Mistakes & Compensation 101. It was organized by StartupDigest University, the insider’s guide to the startup world. This week was session 3, the last of the series and it was a ripper! (Aussie slang for excellent). The topic was Hiring Hacks for Founders.

“Right now there is a war on talent. The entire technology sector is hiring, virtually every startup (alive) is hiring, and VC’s are even creating newsletters to help their startups hire. Hiring is the most important function of a startup founder/CEO. With the talent war raging, it is clear that finding and hiring the best people is one of the most challenging aspects of an entrepreneur’s job. Developers are elusive and expensive, and it’s hard to find a business or marketing person among the noise.” ~ StartupDigest

This evening had 3 great speakers which filled the event with tactical knowledge and inspiration rather than just inspirational rhetoric. There was no bullshit. The folks in the room were A-players, smart and were thirsty for education which would serve as the arsenal of hiring tips and tricks.

Here’s what happened.

How Interns can be a game changer by Nathan Parcells, Founder at InternMatch

Nathan Parcells, Founder at InternMatch

Nathan Parcells, Founder at InternMatch

Nathan covered how Interns can add value and be a game changer for your startup. He also spoke about how to recruit top interns and tips and tricks for intern management.

Full blog post is located here: http://www.theroadtosiliconvalley.com/jobs/interns-startup-nathan-parcells-internmatch/

Hiring Hacks by Dan Arkind, CEO and Co-Founder at JobScore

Dan Arkind, CEO and Co-Founder at JobScore

Dan Arkind, CEO and Co-Founder at JobScore

Dan covered everything you need to know from hiring to retaining top talent and how to build culture around having and being the best in the industry. He gave plenty of examples and techniques on how this is achieved including kick ass Hiring Hacks. He sent a clear message to Hire for TALENT (ability to learn new things) vs Skills (stuff you already know) since skills get outdated fast while talent.

Full blog post is located here: http://www.theroadtosiliconvalley.com/jobs/hire-hacks-dan-arkind-jobscore/

Closing like a Champion by Russell Fradin, Investor & CEO of Adify

Russell Fradin, Investor & CEO of Adify

Russell Fradin, Investor & CEO of Adify

Russell covered how to close like a Champion once you have found great talent including the process to follow and the post-offer. He sent a clear message to never forget that people work for people. They do not work for companies.

Full blog post is located here: http://www.theroadtosiliconvalley.com/jobs/closing-champions-russell-fradin-adify/

Isn’t this educational and inspirational! Great content from great founders that know what it takes to hire the best people. So this was part 2 of 3 and I will be posting links to full videos of the event later in the week – so come back to check this blog for more updates.

Happy hiring!

~ Ernest

Linked mentioned in this post

Hiring & Closing like a Champion

This is the full post from StartupDigest: Hiring Hacks for Founders. Organized by StartupDigest University, the insider’s guide to the startup world.

Russell Fradin, Investor & CEO of Dynamic Signal

Russell Fradin, Investor & CEO of Adify

Russell Fradin, Investor & CEO of Dynamic Signal

About Russell:

  • Russ Fradin co-founded Adify with Larry Braitman and Rick Thompson.
  • Most recently, Fradin was the SVP of business development for Wine.com, the internet’s largest seller of wine, where he was responsible for creating new revenue channels for the business.
  • Before joining Wine.com, Fradin was the EVP of corporate development for comScore Networks. He began at comScore in 2000 before comScore signed its first customer and was responsible for starting many of the company’s businesses as well as structuring strategic alliances.
  • Fradin began his career at Flycast Communications and had a number of roles during his four-year tenure, finally serving as Flycast/Engage’s VP of business development.
  • He holds a BS from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

The presentation notes:

  • Inability to recruit & retain talent is one of the main reasons startups fail.
  • Company changes due to better people, not you.
  • Working at a start-up:
    • It’s a lifestyle decision.
    • Don’t hire assholes – it gets harder to close good talent.
    • Exits are great but nothing beats March 9.
    • Be more intellectually fulfilled.

Best way to close talented people

  • Be organised, diligent and respectful on every touch point. Make sure that when you close that person they will want to work with you.
  • Design a hiring process that encourages a “yes”.
  • Transparency on timing, compensation and equity.
  • Look for the right person (recall March 9) rather than filling head count.

Process

  • Don’t over-promise (promotion, raise, valuation, responsibility etc)
  • Your selling a growth plan – use your examples of growth.
  • Make your jobs sound cool.
  • Remember hiring someone great BEGINS the process.
  • The more information you give people the better since both parties need to find the right fit. Therefore find out what “they” need and want in life. Find a match between your and their career growth.
  • Sell vision, team and culture.
  • Great employees are worth your company. That’s what these company acquisition are, talent acquisitions.

Post-offer

  • Remember, people work for people. They do not work for companies.
  • Networking helps by attending social events.
  • Hire 1st a couple of great people and look after them well. They will help you drive forward and get more like-minded people on board.
  • The hardest thing to do is get someone great with their own great idea to work on your great idea. Give them time and try again.

Happy hiring!

Other StartupDigest Seminars covered by Ernest Semerda:

~ Ernest

Linked mentioned in this post

Hire Hacks

This is the full post from StartupDigest: Hiring Hacks for Founders. Organized by StartupDigest University, the insider’s guide to the startup world.

Dan Arkind, CEO and Co-Founder at JobScore

Dan Arkind, CEO and Co-Founder at JobScore

Dan Arkind, CEO and Co-Founder at JobScore

About Dan:

  • Dan brings recruiting experience and vision to JobScore. Dan spent seven years with OTEC, the recruiting firm that spun off Hotjobs.com.
  • Dan co-founded OTEC’s Silicon Valley search practice, training a team of recruiters and placing personnel at early stage enterprise software, internet services, media and content companies.
  • Dan holds a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University.
  • Dan runs a very informative and professional blog called “The Art and Science of Recruiting” located here: http://blog.jobscore.com/

The presentation notes:

  • Only hiring friends = FAIL.
  • A great startup hiring process is where the candidate doesn’t know you.
    • “We Start With the Customer and We Work Backward.” ~ Jeff Bezos on Amazon’s success.
  • Work backwards using 3 month milestones.
  • Change is the only constant in startups.
  • You will constantly iterate and rework plans.
  • Create a Plan to get from A to B. This means Goal setting – Today, 3 months to 6 months. As shown below in the picture.

    Hiring Plan

    Hiring Plan

Getting it right

  1. Set clear goals and time-lines.
  2. Sequence and Prioritize.
  3. Assess existing talent skills & expertise inc. throughput.
  4. Build vs. Buy.
  5. Vet with experts.

Job Description – 90% effort spend is required on the first 2 and 10% effort on the last. However most spend on the last 2 (points 3 & 4). Make sure you cover:

  1. What we do (commonly forgotten)
  2. What you’ll do (commonly forgotten)
  3. Need to have (most time spent)
  4. Nice to have (most time spent)

Interviews

Interviewing

Interviewing

  • Interviewing takes time.  Therefore write down all learnings and how-to’s so you can iterate and improve.
  • Establish “core values” and a plan how you will interview people to match those.
  • Drive, Personality & Talent TRUMPS over Skills.
  • To reduce stress on the candidate, explain to them the full interview process e.g. what’s going to happen, who will interview them, how to get to the firm etc. Remember that normally people are not stressed during their day job and so will always perform differently under stress.
  • Document feedback and meet immediately after with the interview team to evaluate the candidate against multiple criteria. Make this a habit early in the company so that everyone follows it.
  • Sample feedback form:

    Sample feedback form

    Sample feedback form

  • Engineer your questions, then iterate on failure to spend more time on qualified candidates.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions upfront if you can close a candidate eg. wage, last time bonus, figure out what they want.
  • People should not flip out if rejected. If they do, hang up on them. Life is too short.
  • Only send written offer letter once the candidate has verbally accepted the offer. If they don’t verbally accept, talk to them until they do or stay in-touch until they accept and only then send the job offer.
  • Referrals are exceptions – Just Sell, do not assess.
  • Hiring requires focus – 10 at once, not 10 in 3 months. Choice is good!
  • Turn interviewees into advocates. Turn your company into a magnet so everyone talks about it. Pitch these.  Candidates should come to you.
  • How to pitch a job – mission (where you are going), status, team, pain (customer problem you are solving) and opportunity (goals – see above).
    • The people: prompt, prepared, fun, engaging and smart.
    • The office: cool, light filled, modern, comfortable and big monitors!
  • Sell you – what you can teach, your personality, your resume and your vision.

Hiring Hacks

  • Express a problem, not skills, to get to candidates. e.g. instead of asking for python developer ask for someone who developed high scalable open source cloud solutions.
  • Be specific when wanting to hire someone so that you can generate stronger referrals.
  • Ask for referrals (and you get advice), Ask for advice (and you get referrals).
  • Your company is your people. Get the right ones. Even if it means moving heaven and earth to hire proven commodities.
  • Hire like an investor. Equity is your currency. Get it. Spend it.
  • Be hyper aggressive in the 1st year.
  • Hire for TALENT vs Skills.
    • Talent is the ability to learn new things.
    • Skills is the stuff you already know how to do.
    • Skills get outdated fast in this fast changing landscape while talent is something which stays with you forever.
  • If you don’t believe your special. Quit. Since you need to believe you will change the world in order to compete with the likes of Facebook et al.
  • Job market doesn’t matter since it’s never of a recessive nature. There is always a market for smart people.
  • Make bets – cliffs and vesting are you friends.
  • “Fire Fast” – create a culture where that’s possible.

Happy hiring!

Other StartupDigest Seminars covered by Ernest Semerda:

~ Ernest

Linked mentioned in this post

How Interns can be a game changer

This is the full post from StartupDigest: Hiring Hacks for Founders. Organized by StartupDigest University, the insider’s guide to the startup world.

Nathan Parcells, Founder at InternMatch

Nathan Parcells, Founder at InternMatch

Nathan Parcells, Founder at InternMatch

About Nathan:

  • Nathan graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Pennsylvania where he double-majored in Economics and International Relations.
  • Nathan gained experience in marketing while working at Arnold Worldwide and in the environmental community after completing internships at both the National Audubon Society and the National Parks Conservation Association.
  • Seeking adventure and the outdoors, Nathan spent his summer before graduation sailing the Labrador coast of NE Canada in a crew of six and with no prior sailing experience. This trip furthered Nathan’s interest in the environment, confronting challenges, and learning in new situations.
  • Currently Nathan enjoys working on InternMatch and meeting new people as the platform grows.

The presentation notes:

1. How interns add value

Interns can be experienced – especially in the current economy there is a lot of highly skilled individuals both young and senior. Some benefits of hiring an intern include:

  • It’s a back door of hiring top talent.
  • Get part-time help at a discount.
  • Fill in gaps on the founding team.
  • Gain early evangelists.
  • Hear an outside perspective.

2. How to Recruit top interns

Places to look:

  • Internship sites like InternMatch.com.
  • Direct from colleagues.
  • Craigslist – however you wont find the upper echelon there.

Pitching:

  • Pitch what you do well – sell the vision of the company.
  • Promote your investors, press coverage and the team talent to illustrate a great environment.
  • Let the intern know what they will learn especially the stuff that they cannot from a school.

3. Tips and tricks for intern management

  • Assign a dedicated manager to the intern.
  • Grab coffee with them once a week.
  • Explain the intern’s work in the context of the bigger company picture.
  • Give really clear deadlines on projects like at school eg. iterations with feedback.
  • Use Non-Monetary Rewards to motivate them. 99% of them are not there for the money. They are there for the culture, experience, networking and knowledge to set them apart in the marketplace.
Other StartupDigest Seminars covered by Ernest Semerda:

~ Ernest

Linked mentioned in this post

Top 5 HR Mistakes & Compensation 101

Last week I attended a course on Attracting, Hiring and Retaining the Best People. It was session 1 of 3 organized by StartupDigest University, the insider’s guide to the startup world. Yesterday was session 2 and the topic was Top 5 HR Mistakes & Compensation 101.

“Right now there is a war on talent. The entire technology sector is hiring, virtually every startup (alive) is hiring, and VC’s are even creating newsletters to help their startups hire. Hiring is the most important function of a startup founder/CEO. With the talent war raging, it is clear that finding and hiring the best people is one of the most challenging aspects of an entrepreneur’s job. Developers are elusive and expensive, and it’s hard to find a business or marketing person among the noise.” ~ StartupDigest

This evening had 2 great speakers which filled the event with tactical knowledge and inspiration rather than just inspirational rhetoric. There was no bullshit. The folks in the room were A-players, smart and were thirsty for education which would serve as the arsenal of hiring tips and tricks.

Here’s what happened.

Brian Helmick, Founder & Managing Partner at Algentis

Brian Helmick, Founder & Managing Partner at Algentis

Brian Helmick, Founder & Managing Partner at Algentis

About Brian:

  • Brian Helmick is the founder of Algentis, an HR Software & Services firm that simplifies operations for small and medium-sized businesses by assuming the burden of HR administration.
  • Algentis provides a technology-enabled service offering which seamlessly integrates HR compliance, payroll, benefits, and insurance.
  • Algentis helps startup clients with all the headaches associated with HR, so entrepreneurs can focus on the core aspects of their business.
  • Website: http://algentis.com/

The presentation notes covered 5 HR mistakes:

1. Misclassification of Workers

  • There are strict IRS guidelines and the choice isnt yours. Learn those guidelines or speak to a specialist.
  • Most startups break this law.
  • If an employee is made to work strict 9-5 hours on a computer provided by the employer then they are labelled as an “employee”. Else, a contractor. Some employers get around this label by adding computer expense into employee’s salary vs providing them the tool/s.

2. Errors in Hiring

  • Improper interview questions – personal type like age, race, state etc. this can lead to being sued should the unsuccessful candidate believe it was due to these personal questions they were not hired.
  • Hiring for skills and not fit. Companies change so hire for fit to make sure to retain great employees.
  • Ask for candidate references and then ask the references for another degree of references. You need to really know how this person is and not what their friend (reference) scripted.

3. Improper Documentation

  • Don’t use your friends legal documents. They are not fit for your purpose.
  • Average cost to defend against an employee claim is $150K.
  • On average, most HR issues are not seen until the company hits the magic 20 employees.
  • Poor documentation of performance, attendance & misconduct. When you document make sure it is stored in a safe & secure place.
  • Wrongful termination award is $125K.
  • Do quarterly reviews – to speed up the process get the employee to do self reviews and no more than 3 questions with a scale.

4. Errors with Employee Terminations

  • Too slow to fire – always. Nobody ever complains about firing somebody too quickly.
  • An under-performer is incredibly costly financially, your time and morale.
  • A lot of this is due to the “termination discussion” which is not fin and mostly emotional.
    • Start with the conclusion and keep it short.
    • Make it clear that the decision has already been made.
    • Be sensitive of the other person’s feeling – do not let it get personal.
    • Severance is highly recommended to minimize getting sued especially if the employee is volatile. But do not make this a policy since it can be used against you.
    • If the employee threatens to sue you. End the conversation and contact your lawyer.
    • Finally, always give the final paycheck on the employee’s last day.

5. Unsuitable Benefits & Insurance

  • Workers compensation insurance of at least $100K is legally required.
  • Choosing benefits:
    • Basic = Medical only
    • Basic plus = Dental, Vision and FSA
    • Premium = Medical, Vision, FSA, Transportation, Unexpected life events and 401K.
  • Having a good plan helps with recruiting.

Compensation 101

Before you begin, always work out your strategy e.g. low cash and high equity reward or high cash and low equity. Don’t shy away on spending if you find the perfect person.

There are 3 components:

  1. Cash
    • Easiest for both to value.
    • Cash bonuses have mixed review – they are not properly valued by employees if at 10-15% of their base salary. Best to give this as merit instead.
    • Studies have shown that behavior changes at 25%+ of base salary. Which is why it works so well in Sales and Financial Services industry.
  2. Benefits & Rewards
    • Small personal incentives like a restaurant / theater voucher or a letter to spouse are most powerful.
    • They help build the company culture and show that the employer cares. Yet are cheaper to implement then a 10K bonus.
  3. Equity
    • Common terms:
      Vesting 3-5 years
      Cliff 1 year
      Expiration 90 days after employee leaves
      Buy back Company to buy back the options
    • Equity split for non-founders:
      COO 2-5%
      Cxx 1-3%
      VP of Eng. 2-4%
      Other VPs 1-3%
      Directors 2-5%
      COO 0.75-1.5%
      Key Eng. Roles 0.25-1.5%

Taso Du Val, Co-Founder and CEO of TopTal

Taso Du Val, Co-Founder and CEO of TopTal

Taso Du Val, Co-Founder and CEO of TopTal

About Taso:

  • As an early and lead engineer at Fotolog (Acquired by Hi-Media for $100m), Slide (Acquired by Google for $224m), and his own companies, Taso brings unprecedented top management and engineering experience to TopTal.
  • While running a small consulting firm, he recognized that while many of his co-workers overseas were just as good as his friends and colleagues at Google, Facebook, and other companies with notable top engineering talent, it was simply impossible to find them.
  • TopTal was created as a solution to the sky-rocketing demand for top engineers in Silicon Valley, US, and Europe despite the shrinking local graduate rates of such engineers.
  • Website: http://toptal.com/

The presentation notes:

  • There are 4 types of labor outsourcing:
  1. Traditional outsourcing – using consulting firms.
  2. Democratized outsourcing – providers of a virtual marketplace for freelancers and freelance agencies to negotiate work contracts with businesses that hire independent professionals and agencies.
  3. Crowdsourcing – Crowdsourcing is the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to an undefined, large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call.
  4. Top sourcing – sourcing company full of expertise and knowledge to help businesses cut procurement costs.
    • Companies in this space include: toptal etc.

  • Managing remote labor:
    • Learn to manage your local staff well before managing remote staff.
    • Communication is VERY important.
    • Product is the most important thing. Period.
    • When your remote talent is better than your best developer, you know you’re doing it right.
    • Use Skype excessively (24/7).
    • If 2 days go by without communication, fire instantly.
    • Expose them to Silicon Valley (TechCrunch, Quora etc).
    • Use PivotalTracker or similar Project Management tools.
    • Daily Scrum (development) works very well.
  • A note on communication with foreign hires:
    • Proper English != Communication
    • Bad English != Bad Communication

Isnt this educational and inspirational! Great content from great founders that know what it takes to hire the best people. So this was part 2 of 3 and I will be posting links to full videos of the event later in the week – so come back to check this blog for more updates.

Happy hiring!

~ Ernest

Linked mentioned in this post

Attracting, Hiring and Retaining the Best People

So recently I was invited to a 3 evening course at StartupDigest University via Hacker Dojo on Attracting, Hiring, and Retaining the Best People. Today was day 1. More to come over the next 2 weeks. StartupDigest is the insider’s guide to the startup world and the evening was hosted by Gagan Biyani, Co-Founder of Udemy, where all the videos of the presentations will be hosted later on.

Chris McCann

Gagan Biyani, Co-Founder of Udemy

“Right now there is a war on talent. The entire technology sector is hiring, virtually every startup (alive) is hiring, and VC’s are even creating newsletters to help their startups hire. Hiring is the most important function of a startup founder/CEO. With the talent war raging, it is clear that finding and hiring the best people is one of the most challenging aspects of an entrepreneur’s job. Developers are elusive and expensive, and it’s hard to find a business or marketing person among the noise.” ~ StartupDigest

This evening had 2 great speakers which filled the event with tactical knowledge and inspiration rather than just inspirational rhetoric. There was no bullshit. The folks in the room were A-players, smart and were thirsty for education which would serve as the arsenal of hiring tips and tricks.

Here’s what happened.

Immad Akhund, Co-Founder and CEO of HeyZap

Immad Akhund

Immad Akhund ~ Co-Founder and CEO of HeyZap

About Immad:

  • Immad Akhund is the CEO of HeyZap and an engineer.
  • Having studied Computer Science at Cambridge University and co-founded 3 successful start-ups.
  • He was previously a co-founder and the CTO of Clickpass.com (acquired by Yola.com).
  • Clickpass partnered with Plaxo, Scribd, Disqus and others to power their sign-on through OpenID.

The presentation notes:

  • Recruitment is a Marketing Exercise. You must market yourself and your company over and over so it gets into people’s head that you are a good company.
  • Ask yourself “Why should this hire give several years of their life to your vision?”. Remember that you aren’t the only making favors here.
  • Hire Generalists over Specialists.
  • Spend time on your jobs page to make it Marketable. It should lure talent in. See http://www.heyzap.com/jobs
  • Use all the available channels to get talent. Being: Internal, Online, Offline, Campus and New clever ways like running random competitions for others in the social space to re-tweet your job ads.
  • Give employees a hiring bonus $2-10K to show you care.
  • Good people have at least 5 friends that are like them. If you find an A-player tap into their social grid since there is a high chance their 5 close friends will also be A-players.
  • Add “We are hiring” to all your blog posts.
  • Online communities like HackerNews, Reddit, StackOverflow, GitHub et al are one of the best sources of A-players.
  • Organize “open house” like Startup Crawl to allow A-players to come and have an open chat with you.

Auren Hoffman, Founder and CEO of Rapleaf

Auren Hoffman

Auren Hoffman ~ Auren Hoffman, Founder and CEO of Rapleaf

About Auren:

  • Auren Hoffman is the CEO of Rapleaf and an angel investor.
  • Rapleaf helps B2C companies give their consumers a better experience by providing automated search services for each consumer.
  • Auren is also a non-employee cofounder of BrightRoll and a co-founder of AdRocket.
  • From 2003-2006, Auren served as Chairman of Stonebrick Group and Chairman of the Connector Group (Silicon Valley 100).
  • Previously, he founded and sold three Internet companies before age 30: BridgePath (sold in 2002), Kyber Systems (sold in 1997), and GetRelevant (sold in 2002).
  • He writes a blog called Summation ~ http://blog.summation.net/

The presentation notes:

  • 3 ways to find an A-player:
    1. Having worked with them,
    2. Knowing someone who vouches for them and
    3. Reflective interview process.
  • Resumes are bad since they are nothing more than marketing and act as a selling document.
  • As the interviewee, you should always show up on time. Be respectful of the candidates time too.
  • Once you get comfortable about their specific skill there is no need to further drill it. Move onto other questions.
  • Get the candidate to teach you something. If you see they have a specific interest / hobby like chess, ask them to teach it to you (crash course) in the interview. Few people can “simply” explain complex concepts. Yet being able to explain a complex concept in simple understandable terms by breaking it down and even drawing it on the board is an important quality of an A-player. Every complex concept can be explained easily by an A-player.
  • Ask insightful and hard questions which are interesting for the candidate. Ask about:
    • Their thesis,
    • Current events like WikiLeaks and the ethical dilemmas created,
    • Drill into something they stipulated they are good at and see if their depth of knowledge reflects it,
    • Ask curious questions like: “How do you think LinkedIn generates the n-th degree contact/s?” Even if you don’t have the answer observe how they tackle the problem.
  • Don’t ask typical questions most interviewees ask. Come up with something clever that is specific to the candidate and see the fire it ignites in their desire to get to the answer. If you get a call or email after the interview with the answer then this is a great indication of the desire and fire that burns in A-players.
  • Don’t talk more than 25% of the interview. You want them to do the talking since you need to get the answers to your single question – “is this an A-player”.
  • Try to determine how Smart the person is by accessing:
    • Are they curious?
    • Do they ask the right questions?
    • Do they engage in further deeper discussions?
    • How well do they take feedback?
    • Are they unsatisfied with mediocre answers?
  • You can even get the candidate to do a presentation on their topic of choice and see how they can explain and simplify it enough so it’s crystal clear and educational. Make sure the topic is hard so you can see their thought processes. Then ask yourself the questions above whether this candidate is smart.
  • Overall, you need to determine whether you would enjoy working with this person. At the beginning stages of your company you are the company culture and bringing in a new employee may change or enhance it.
  • You get to choose the people at your company. Therefore choose wisely.
  • Choose 3 key criteria you want in the people you hire and stick to them.
    • Rapleaf has the following:

    • A. Scary smart
    • B. Gets things done
    • C. Nice & friendly
    • Notice how there is no technical skills listed. Remember, top 3 only since in a Venn diagram too many circles creates too many overlaps which are too small. You want a nice chunky even spread.
  • Finding a Co-founder is always hard. So when you think you found one do something together to determine “compatibility” – something like a blog post together or running an event. This will help you see whether this person is trustworthy, follows up with their word and has passion for their work. The try before you buy approach. But always remember, that no matter what, even the 1st employee should be called a “co-founder”, looked after with good equity and be treated as such to help your vision come to life and ultimately success.

Isnt this educational and inspirational! Great content from great founders that know what it takes to hire the best people.
So this was part 1 of 3 and I will be posting links to full videos of the event later in the week – so come back to check this blog for more updates.

Happy hiring!

~ Ernest

Linked mentioned in this post