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What’s one of the biggest challenges for any startup?


So this Friday, we’re sharing some wise words from people who’ve hired hundreds — or even thousands — of startup employees.

Rules of attraction.

Last week, Amy Lewin chaired a panel discussion hosted by specialist product recruitment firm Few&Far.

Here’s the (stellar) panel’s top tips on hiring — and keeping — great talent:

How do you attract great talent?

  • Have an interesting mission — ie. an exciting product

  • Be ambitious — be bold, tell people about it 

  • Be genuine — share your vulnerability, and show your true motivations to people 

  • Empower them — give them ownership, trust them

“Whenever we bring in a candidate near-final stage, we always get them to meet the people they’ll be working closely with — and we get the managers out of the room, so they can ask genuine questions like, ‘What’s it like to work here?’. That really drives conviction.” — Jack Tang, founder and CEO of on-demand wellness startup Urban 

What are some interviewing tips? 

  • Try to understand candidates’ true motivations — if it’s just salary, pass

  • Trust your gut 

  • Try “topgrading” — a time-consuming process, but one which often leads to hiring better fits, so people often stay longer 

  • Give candidates plenty of time to ask their questions — remember this is a sales process, and you also have to convince them to join

  • Challenge your biases

“There are two questions I ask at every single interview,” says Richard Shepherd, global head of product at Just Eat. "I ask both of these questions after the interview’s finished — except the interview hasn’t finished, they just think it has. So say thank you very much, put away your papers, then ask these two questions. 

  1. What do you do for fun at the weekends? If they say anything to do with going out with friends, eating, cooking or reading, it’s a no. They need to be able to articulate something passionately, and sell an idea. The most interesting answer I had to that was a guy who was interested in Pakistani politics. I thought, this is a tough sell. But after five minutes, I was suddenly very, very interested in Pakistani politics. And I thought, if you can do that with a product, that’s amazing.

  2. What have you been listening to or reading recently? To see, are they full of bullshit, or are they actively participating in the product community."

What’s the key to retaining talent? 

  • Stay transparent — host “town halls” to share company information with all staff, keep everyone up-to-date with the vision and give the team a chance to ask questions 

  • Start company rituals — Urban has started a Friday quiz. Questions are generally related to the company, e.g. how many bookings did this beautician do over this time period? “The show up on Friday is much higher,” says Jack Tang. “People really look forward to it, there’s a nice buzz. It’s become a ritual for the company.” 

  • Be honest with your team — don’t lie to them, or pretend everything is rosy if it isn’t 

  • Keep giving them opportunities to learn  

  • Treat others as you would expect to be treated 

How can you get better at hiring?

  • Ask investors to help: “Remember that investors work for you too, and they build incredible networks. Most of them will introduce you to your early team.” — Michelle Coventry, talent and people advisor at Kindred, and VP of people at autonomous vehicle startup FiveAI

  • Get better at firing: “Hiring slow, at pace, but firing faster than you’re hiring is important — but it doesn’t have to be a bad experience to let someone go. It’s often a relief.” — Michelle Coventry

  • Keep at it: “It’s like driving. Just because you get a licence, doesn’t make you an excellent driver. But the more you drive, the more you have sensory feel around it.” — Michelle Coventry 

Further reading:

🇮🇪 SaaStock 2019 🇮🇪

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In other tech & startup news

🚗 A self-driving car milestone for London. This week marked the first ever demo of an autonomous fleet that can navigate a “complex urban environment” in London. The cars are fitted out with tech from UK-based Oxbotica, and were operated with a safety driver in the front seat.

🏦 Bnext raises $25m in Series A cash. The Spanish neo-bank has 300,000 active users and handles more than €100m in monthly transactions. The round was led by DN Capital, Redalpine, and Speedinvest.

💳 Rapyd raises €91.6m. The London-based fintech-as-a-service provider wants to help global businesses “check out like a local.” Its tech enables e-commerce platforms to expand abroad by providing a wide range of payment solutions that are effective in different markets.

😩 Gut-testing startup uBiome is officially shutting down. It’s been a rollercoaster ride for this microbiome testing startup, which has announced it will be liquidating its assets just a year after a $83m raise. Click here for Sifted’s take on whether or not the gut testing industry is bullshit.

👩‍🍳 Uber is expanding its “on-demand” gig economy model. A new app being launched today will match businesses with blue-collar workers such as clerks and chefs. It has already been trialled in Chicago where it is now being rolled out officially.

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Elsewhere on Sifted

⏹️ Stop apologising, Europe. The European tech industry seems to feel a constant need to apologise for itself: we’re not as ambitious as Silicon Valley, or we’re not as disruptive as China. But is this kind of thinking holding us back?

😲 London’s Curve snags former Amex VP as chief operating officer. Nathalie Oestmann, who spent 15 years at American Express before moving to Samsung Pay, describes herself as a “risk-taker” who’s ready to “break things if we need to”. Sifted's Isabel Woodford spoke to her to find out more.

🤖 Inside Britain’s $1bn robot surgeon startup. Sifted's Kitty Knowles takes a trip to CMR Surgical’s vast 55,000 sq ft office (which even has a climbing wall) to talk to the man behind the machine, Martin Frost.

Sifted suggests

🤝 A “quiet revolution” in workplace mentorship. A Melbourne-based startup called Mentorloop has created a sort of dating site for mentoring relationships, which is helping people “make that right connection” so that they flourish at work. Interestingly, mentorship schemes have been shown to raise retention rates for both the people being mentored and the mentors themselves. 

🔒 A step-by-step guide for startups on cyber security. Data leaks are a scary prospect for anyone in tech — especially high-growth startups. This piece from Forbes is a handy breakdown of security considerations for startups from the perspective of a founder.
Amy Lewin
Senior Reporter

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