How to Attract Tech Talent to a Start-Up - 3 Techniques That Work
At GemPool, we have worked with tech start-ups going all the way back to 2005. This is our bread and butter. It's fantastic that Ireland has such a vibrant tech start-up scene.
For example, reflecting a bit on history, in October 2019 (according to figures released by CRIF Vision-Net), there were 55 new companies being formed every day in Ireland. There were 17,160 new start ups in Ireland at the time. This was also right in the middle of the uncertainty that Brexit was creating in the market here, so they are impressive statistics.
Fast forward to November 2020 and we were all in the midst of Covid. The playing field had changed significantly, but yet, funding for start-ups (at least venture capital funding) was still very strong. VC funding in Ireland in Q3 of 2020 was up 40% on the same quarter in 2019, according to the Irish Venture Capital Association. However, while there was plenty of capital floating around, it was tending to be put into start-ups that VC’s were already backing, in order to help them through the tough times. Far less was going into new companies and early stage start-ups.
Now, in June 2021, there is another challenging trend for leaders within start-ups. Talent acquisition is a huge barrier for growth. It's very hard to find talent and the salaries are often very high. The tech talent market is candidate driven, meaning there are more jobs than candidates. So the war for talent continues.
In Ireland, in particular, there has been a divergence in the tech market between start-ups and smaller companies, when compared to some of the larger companies that open offices here. Quite often the salaries and additional benefits are miles apart. There has always been a gap on packages on offer between these segments of the industry, but the gap is getting wider.
Therefore, now more than ever, start-up leaders need to find ways of attracting candidates to the start-up life. With most people now also working for home, the attraction of really slick, state of the art office environments has somewhat diminished. This is an advantage for start-ups. They can sell the excitement of building something new that could disrupt the market. The key is getting across the vision for the business and the impact that one person can viably have.
Here are my top three strategies for tech start-ups to attract tech talent:
Talk about autonomy, speed and impact
Start-ups have a big advantage over larger companies in that they are uninhibited by bureaucracy, red tape and overly engineered processes. This means things can happen quickly. Decisions can get made in real time. This is really attractive to tech professionals who want to get things done.
So it's vital that the leaders within start-ups give their staff the autonomy to make decisions and enjoy the benefit of being able to move quickly. This autonomy is critical. It becomes really compelling when you join this autonomy with impact.
If your tech staff have the authority to make decisions and move quickly, then they will see how much their direct contribution is having on the business. This is hugely motivating and will drive further engagement and performance. It's also a really great way to sell the opportunity to potential new hires.
Sell the story
For a start-up, it should feel like it's the team against the world. This sense of building something really unique, potentially disruptive and interesting. The founder story and vision for the business can be a really compelling narrative for people who might want to join the company.
Will they get a sense of the adventure that this role will bring? Will they get to be part of that journey with the founders in taking on the industry? This story must be articulated through the interview process, the job specs, the website, all social media etc.
Present a compelling upside
For tech professionals there can often be a very attractive potential upside to joining. This is normally in the form of share value being realised through an exit down the line. If you can provide equity to new hires, and make an honest and realistic pitch about what these shares could be worth in 3-5 years, all going well, then this could be really attractive to a new hire.
The prospect of making, say, 300k in an exit, could be life changing and very unlikely to ever happen in a larger organisation. However, there are pitfalls with this technique to attract talent. For example, if the company does not follow the trajectory you have pitched in terms of growth, staff could get spooked and walk away.
It also could attract candidates with a certain mentality that might be more focused on what they can get out of the company rather than what they can bring. But overall, this is a valid and powerful tool for talent acquisition.
If you are a hiring manager in a tech start-up and trying to scale up, please consider these things when going out to the market for talent. If you ever want to discuss these with me please get in touch and I would be happy to share what we see and hear in the market every day. You can get me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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