Startups hiring and Culture

Part 11 of Stanford’s How to start a startup class. Presentation by Ben Silbermann (Pinterest), John Collison (Stripe) and Patrick Collison (Stripe) on how to hire and create a strong corporate culture. All notes are consolidated on a single page here.

MOST IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF BUILDING A COMPANY CULTURE
– who do you hire
– what do you do everyday, why you do it
– what you choose to communicate
– what you choose to celebrate (and punish)
– have everyone informed (transparency), which becomes a challenge as your company grows
– have everybody aligned on the vision

WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN THE FIRST 10 EMPLOYEES
– hire people that look like you and share your values
– look for multitalented people who have a lot of interests outside of work [ties into what E.Schmid is calling “smart creatives”]
– nobody knows your company, so you will have to fight lack of awareness and relatives telling future employees not to join
– have your early employees refer friends, word of mouth is a very powerful way to recruit
– get people early in their career, most of them will likely be undervalued
– genuine, straight people, trustworthy, who like getting things finished, with no ego getting in the way
– there is no wrong place to find people

HOW TO IDENTIFY RAW TALENT
– you never 100% know if people are going to be good [remember to use that trial period as a real trial period]
– ask yourself what’s really world class. Ask people who are world class at a certain thing what you should be looking at in a new hire, the questions to ask
– good people want to solve tough problems, to come on hard things
– be very transparent why it’s an amazing opportunity, but also explain that it’s gonna be hard.
– tech people: spend a week-end working with the person

WHAT CHANGES DID GROWTH BRING TO YOUR COMPANY?
– either you fail, or growth becomes your number one problem [Better be good at it]
– try to make people feel like they are in startups inside a larger organization. Let people control the ressources and priorities and let them know how success is measured.
– recreate diversity inside teams (designers + writers + programmers together)
– as you grow, your time horizon grows. At the beginning you hire people for a month, then you hire them for years
– at the beginning, you need people who can contribute immediately. After a few years, you can make longer term investments, start working on things that will pay off down the road and not immediately.
– your tools will need to evolve (from email to better communication tools, because it becomes harder to copy the whole company on emails)
– make sure people don’t HAVE to grow into leadership roles. Some early hires have what it takes to become managers, others don’t. Don’t create an organization where the only way to evolve within the company is by taking a management role.

I am an entrepreneur and researcher passionate about understanding the social implications of digital technologies.
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