MBA Mondays: Where To Find Strong Talent

One of the most vexing problems entrepreneurs face is where to find strong talent for their companies. The kind of people you want to hire for your company are in short supply and they are rarely out looking for a job. You have to go find them and recruit them to join your team. But where to look?

Here are some suggestions:

1) People you know and people your team knows. This is the most obvious but also often the most fruitful source of talent. I know an entrepreneur who asks everyone he hires this question on their first day on the job, "who is the most talented person you have ever worked with and whom you would love to work with again?." He then adds that person's name to his list of people he is trying to recruit to his company. It is that kind of dedication to sourcing talent that is required to build the strongest team.

2) People who work for your competition. I often tell entrepreneurs that they are overly focused on their competition and that they should spend less time watching the competition and spend more time focused on their own game plan. But there is one place that watching the competition closely pays off. If you find a sales talent who keeps winning deals from you or a product talent who is making your competitor better, you should see if you can recruit them to leave your competitor and join your team. There can be issues with non-competes but the truth is that non-competes are often unenforceable unless they have been properly structured and most are not.

3) Companies that have been recently purchased. When a company is sold, the team is in play. Buyers know this and structure the deals to lock up key employees. But the combination of having had a decent payday on the purchase, having to wait a bit for the stay package to pay off, and the dread of working for a big, slow, bureacratic company is often enough to cut them loose. When a company sells, find out who the stars are on that team and go after them. It might take a bit of time to get them, but keep trying. They will free up in time.

4) Other parts of the country and the world. This is particularly true if you are operating in a hypercompetitive talent hub like NYC or Silicon Valley. The best talent is often locked up by the big companies in the neighborhood. I have seen our portfolio companies do incredibly well by locating super talented folks working in other parts of the country or the world and relocating them to NYC of SF. They find these folks on places like Stack Overflow, Behance (both are USV portfolio companies), Dribbble, and GitHub. Relocating someone from another part of the country often means making their relocation painless with financial incentives and also things like helping a spouse find a job. Relocating someone from another part of the world means all that plus navigating the immigration system. It is painful to do all of this but it is often worth it to get the right type of person for your company.

5) Colleges. You cannot fill your entire company with young folks graduating from college. You will need people with experience and management skills on your team. But you can supplement senior talent with people just starting out in their career. And the one pool of talent where everyone is looking for a job is the senior class at a college campus. I had an investment in a company back in the 90s that had a high paid sales force that wasn't getting the job done selling the company's product. The CEO fired the entire sales force and replaced them with an army of smart, inexperienced college grads who were hungry and scrappy and sales took off. That move won't work for everyone but it sure worked for that company. It is often surprising what young folks right out of school can do with the right management.

If you want to focus some of your recruiting efforts on college grads, I would encourage you to set up an internship program for students to work at your company prior to being hired. There are all sorts of ways to do this. One of our portfolio companies offers seniors in college the opportunity to work for them 10 hours a week during senior year. They then offer the best ones full time jobs upon graduation. There are also programs like HackNY that can bring great summer interns to your company.

6) The big companies in your market. This one is a little dangerous because you can find a lot of people "resting and vesting" in big companies and you don't want to hire that kind of talent. But the fact is that when companies like Google, eBay, Yahoo, and yes, even Facebook, get big, they become the wrong place to work for the scrappy fast moving entrepreneurial types. The early employees get itchy and can be cut loose. Focus your recruiting efforts on folks who have been at these companies three years or more because at that point they will have vested into the majority of their initial stock grant and will have weaker "golden handcuffs."

7) Your investors. The truth about venture capital firms is that as much as anything else, they are recruiters. I don't think a day goes by in our firm where someone isn't doing some form of recruiting. People who want to get their "resume on the street" will often come by and let us know they are looking around. We get tips from all across our network that someone is good. We reach out to them, take them to lunch, and get to know them. And then we route all of the talent we are seeing to the places in our portfolio where they are the best fit. If your investor isn't helping you find talent, then they aren't doing their job.

So those are some places to go to in order to find strong talent. Don't expect that you will be able to find people easily. Recruiting is a full time job for many people. Even if you can't make it your full time job, you must work on it every day, and be thinking about it all the time. You need a strategy, a process, and a committment to the process. It will bear fruit over time if you are patient and committed.

#MBA Mondays

Comments (Archived):

  1. Fernando Gutierrez

    And recruit before you need to recruit. Always have someone you want to recruit in mind, even if you don’t need that person yet. Many won’t be available when you finally need them, but if you find yourself in a rush you’ll be ok if you’ve already done your homework.

    1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

      Keep on recruiting otherwise …. Keep the recruiting ON always πŸ™‚

    2. reece


    3. Matt A. Myers

      This should be point #9 (just to start a Top 9 lists streak)

    4. Donna Brewington White

      Great advice!Anyone that you meet who could potentially become an employee at any time should stay on your radar at some level — and you should stay on theirs.

  2. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    The kind of people you want to recruit are rarely out looking for a job … so best method is “PULL” them out of their job.No 2) is the dangerous game that is mostly played on startups than other way around unless you have big banker backing yours early in the game.

  3. reece

    “Always Be Recruiting”#1 keep a list: awesome one. i think i mentioned this before, but i have a running spreadsheet broken down by engineers, designers, biz people etc where i list everyone i want to work with eventually and any people i stumble upon that are “amazing”#4 relocating: great advice, but most startups can’t afford to relocate people. probably easier to figure out how to effectively work remotely until the company grows and can afford to relocate talent#5 and #6 are good, but i still find i meet tons of college kids and big company people who don’t “get it”

    1. fredwilson

      good point on #4. you may also need them to work remotely until you can get the immigration thing worked out

    2. John Best

      Re: #4 – Do you think remote working / outsourcing is a good compromise?

      1. reece

        it’s hard. if you have a remote team, just make sure you create time for everyone face to face, in real life. once you know and trust someone face to face, it’s much easier to work remotelyfurther, working remotely is a great way to stay focused (if you’re disciplined). i work remotely from my hometown a lot in the summer and i love it because i avoid all the distractions of “the scene” here in NYC and just get work done (then bunch any meetings i have into a few days every couple weeks when i need to)note: i am not talking about outsourcing. that is entirely different. i’m talking about have a teammate who is remote

        1. John Best

          Outsourcing is a totally different dynamic, certainly.I suppose the face to face is as much about building the team’s trust in you, too.

          1. reece

            absolutely. trust is a two way street

      2. leigh

        We find remote when you are small super super difficult. Creating culture means everyone being together. Really has to be someone spectacular to make it worth your while.

        1. John Best

          Or someone that you’re already very familiar with/close to?

          1. leigh

            for sure that helps — but what i’d say is that regardless there is a dynamic that is created when people work around the same table. There’s a magic that starts to happen when it’s all working right. Even with SKYPE and the right person, it’s just not the same thing. When you are building culture (vs. once it’s established) it’s all about the choices since you can’t afford to have it all. So what’s the value exchange when someone isn’t in the office and is it worth it? Sometimes absolutely yes and many times no.

  4. jason wright

    make yourself irrisistible…as an employer.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      How you doin’

      1. jason wright

        It’s a work in progress, and perhaps it’s an impossible approach, in that each person has a different thing that they find irrisistible.I kind of think the best chance comes from finding out what makes the person tick, the psychological driver that hastens them on. It could well be that the things that have nothing directly to do with the job are the things that can be best used to attract them…if you can find out what they are. Finding out what they are is the difficult bit. It’s a like a puzzle to be solved, and it’s a jigsaw puzzle fitting these different things together.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          I imagine the method you need to use is just to put yourself out there – in all your glory, whatever that may be – and if those non-job-related things attract the person then goal still completed!I try to show people I have big plans – and lots of possible pieces to work on or more around to. That I have ideas that will work and that will make substantial money (for their own sense of security, short and long-term), ideas that will change things for the better, and that I want to create a fun and good company to work for that will have other good people involved- and that I will be the most awesome boss possible, and I will try my best to always be improving.I’m quite involved in the community as well, and trying to be even more so.i) I enjoy it,ii) I’m meeting like-minded people serendipitously and who at a very minimum are excited about my projects, and at best have technical skills that I’m looking for.I have two meetings with people today, one of which might find me a second high-probably technical person (waiting for another to finish his Masters), and the other meeting could result in a very valuable contact / partnership – which could be another smoking gun to getting investors on board / on board faster.You’re completely right though. It’s a jigsaw puzzle – and you don’t know when you might get different pieces. And pieces can fall off the table and get lost if you can’t place them in a certain period of time.Luckily, it’s like Tetris – and pieces will keep coming as long as you can keep up with the pace. πŸ˜‰

  5. William Mougayar

    #1 is very important & it typically brings good quality leads. That has been my experience.Β I would add one more:- Attend the various local Meetups on different topics & technologies. They are great for meeting other local talent, especially from the competition. Β Stay in touch with them in a collegial manner. You never know what happens next.Β 

    1. fredwilson

      Good one. Now we have eight places

    2. Matt A. Myers

      I’ve been attending events in Toronto lately (Hackernest, Rails Pub Night …) and it’s been great, not only for potential future hires – people are generally keen to talk and share – offer ideas and feedback that have potentially a lot of domain experience behind them. Free advice from experts FTW!

    3. Luke Chamberlin

      As someone who used to attend a lot of Meetups, they have become 60% recruiters and 40% actual talent, in NYC at least.

      1. William Mougayar

        Well…every one is a recruiter, right?

      2. Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg

        I am openly hostile to the recruiters that attend both the Philly and NYC meetups I go to. If you are only at the meetup to do recruiting, then you are not adding any value whatsoever to the other participants (trust me, if they’re in tech, then they don’t need recruiters at meetups to find gigs). But… aren’t recruiters normally focused on hiring for larger organizations (i.e. not startups)? If you’re a startup and you need to hire someone outside of your organization to do your hiring, then you won’t be starting up for long.

        1. Luke Chamberlin

          In my experience they seem to be recruiting for second-rate mid-sized organizations.The worst are not professional recruiters, but the “idea people” looking for their “technical co-founder” who come to events and are unable to contribute anything.

        2. LE

          “I am openly hostile to the recruiters that attend both the Philly and”While I’m sure it’s annoying (and I am certainly one to get annoyed at things that hit my buttons) I don’t think it’s a good move to be “openly hostile” to anyone you meet in business. Or anything close to that. About the only exception I would make is telemarketers.As an example we are located in a medical complex and some of the neighboring offices have “no solictors” in the window. I’ve talked to the docs about this and told them that it’s possible that some of their patients are sales people and it’s a turnoff to them. They seem to think that it’s more important that their receptionist isn’t bothered by the 4 people a month that come to sell office supplies. It’s offensive to anyone in sales to see a “no solictors” sign.

          1. Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg

            “I don’t think it’s a good move to be “openly hostile” to anyone you meet in business. Or anything close to that. About the only exception I would make is telemarketers.”Recruiters == Telemarketers. Anyway, to each his own, but I’ll remain hostile to those I feel like are leaching from the communities I’m a part of. If recruiters would remain a part of the communities that they are recruiting within, or if they gave back to those communities in some way, I’d be fine with being friendly towards them, but they are/do not, and so I am not.To be fair, it’s not just recruiters, I’m openly hostile to any sort of huckster or parasitic person.

          2. LE

            “Recruiters == Telemarketers”Like you said “to each his own” but if a recruiter takes the effort to show up at a meetup I wouldn’t exactly put that on par with a telemarketer using a robo caller. It’s really not the same.

          3. Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg

            I’m just going to go out on a limb and assume you’ve never been a target for recruiters before. I get more recruiters calling me unsolicited than from any other telemarketing “vertical”, so if anything I agree: they’re much more annoying.

          4. leigh

            Alex, I’m a huge target for recruiters. I will tell you this. Recruiters know everyone. I mean everyone. They know some of the most sr. clients. and are deep into many large Corporations that you may want to do business with.As I mentioned before, the good ones are few and far between, but I would have to agree with @LE open hostility may not be a winning strategy in the long run πŸ™‚

          5. Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg

            Could be. People often tell me that I should “cool it off” and be nicer to people whom I have no respect for (in this case the “whom” is a profession), and I usually ignore them, and often I do the opposite (heat it up, instead of cool it off). The day I meet a useful tech recruiter is the day I’ll change my tune.As I said, I’m sure someone must find some use for them, because there are so many of them around. I just can’t see what the use would be for a startup, since if you can’t do your own talent evaluation and hiring, you’re most likely looking “down” not “up” in your start.Also, I think the idea that “they know someone” and that might negatively affect me or my business is silly. No recruiter is going to convince someone that we aren’t ridiculously good at what we do, and no recruiter is going to be the decision maker for whether to choose vendor A or vendor B. As far as I can tell they have little-to-no influence in the world(s) in which I live, and thank the lord for that, because it’s very harmful to have useless professions drive useful pursuits.

          6. leigh

            just depends what your business is. I dunno, i always think, you just never know where they help or the extra push is going to come from.that being said, i’ve been known to piss a few people off in my time πŸ™‚ It happens when one is opinionated. Just thinking that one day you are going to be super successful and scale – and that’s the moment where a good one might be very useful to you.

        3. LE

          Wanted to also mention Alex that I got my start in business knocking on doors in Old City where you are located and I started my business after college when it was all warehouses and wholesalers (before Old City coffee). On my first day in business I knocked on a ton of doors and everyone was nice to me. The only exception was Jim Kramer (of CNBC’s) father who was an absolute asshole. He threw me out in disgust and didn’t want to be bothered by some young kid.…Looks like they are still at 140 N. Third St. according to google street view.

          1. Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg

            Funny. Old City Coffee is actually a (smaller, but awesome) client of ours:…We’re actually about to leave Old City for Center City. Not only are we doubling our space, moving up 13 floors (from the 2nd to the 15th), but we now have a “permanent” classroom / meetup space. πŸ˜€

          2. testtest

            you shouldn’t link to the html5shiv repo from your site:…you should have something to indicate the navigation list items drop down. anti-pattern.on the carousel, the ‘next’ and ‘previous’ buttons should be visible without needing to hover over the carousel. anti-pattern.the logo should have an alt tag, with a target keyword. if you care about seo. and since it says, “Alex fell in love with the CMS because of its ease-of-use and remarkable search engine optimization (SEO) capabilities.”, you probably do.i don’t consider myself an expert, so find it odd when people who are “mastering stuff” that isn’t even attempted by anyone else, make basic mistakes.

          3. Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg

            Thanks for the advice. I appreciate your opinion, but you should know our site is about to be re-launched with a brand new design in the coming weeks. It may seem like web shops should pay the most attention to their own website, and yet the reality is usually the exact opposite: our website has always been the least of our worries (designing and creating awesome web applications for our clients covers priorities 1 through ~100).Also, how exactly is any of this relevant to the subject at hand? I mean, I know it must make you feel like a *genius* to do this sort of deep analysis of a website (content shmontent!), but it’s about as useful as a third nipple.

          4. testtest

            is it useless, or does it suggest you’re making wild claims about the abilities of you and your team. in effect, you are the huckster that you hate so much:”I’m openly hostile to any sort of huckster or parasitic person.””It may seem like web shops should pay the most attention to their own website, and yet the reality is usually the exact opposite”if by ‘pay most attention’, you mean, get the basics right, i agree.

          5. Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg

            I guess you’ll have to ask our clients. BTW- do you do actual work outside of being professionally annoying?

          6. testtest


        4. Donna Brewington White

          I’m curious, how much time do you spend recruiting each week, on average?

          1. Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg

            That depends what you mean by recruiting, and it is easy to tell by the framing of your question that you’re selling your profession (you can’t hustle a hustler, I did check and confirm my suspicion before submitting the comment). From where I sit, just about everything I do is aimed at recruiting and retaining both clients and staff.If I had to point to one skill that has helped me the most as I’ve started up my (bootstrapped) business, it my instinctual knack for very quickly evaluating value, both in people and propositions. I imagine starting up a business where one of the founders didn’t have that skill would be much more difficult, but I guess someone must find recruiters useful, or I’d be receiving far fewer unsolicited phone calls.

          2. testtest

            it’s well know that donna does recruiting; i’m sure she was asking because she was curious.

          3. Donna Brewington White

            Actually, I had a much longer response but it got lost during a refresh. So I just shortened it to that question.Obviously, you don’t know me. I don’t use AVC to hustle or I wouldn’t have lasted in this community this long. But…I can hustle if necessary. I am my mother’s daughter. That’s all I’ll say about that. ;-)I asked that question because you said “If you’re a startup and you need to hire someone outside of your organization to do your hiring, then you won’t be starting up for long.” I thought about how many hours I spend recruiting for each position. I then tried to imagine being a CEO trying to scale — or even run a company — and spending that sort of time recruiting.I guess it depends to some extent on the complexity of the business you are running. And the complexity of the recruiting. And whether you are a product or a service business. If you are a service business then recruiting is part of your “product development.”I notice that you didn’t answer my question. Not that you had to.

          4. Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg

            Obviously I don’t know you, and I never claimed to. You seem to assume that I had some negative connotation in my mind when I used the word hustler, when I actually meant it as a compliment (note my tiwtter bio starts with “Born Hustler”). I don’t want to get caught up in semantics, but where I’m from a hustler is simply a salesperson that is going to make shit happen “no matter what” (another term I could use for that would be “entrepreneur”). “You can’t sell to a sales person” just doesn’t have the same ring to it, but that’s what I mean, and I still won’t answer your leading questions, because I reject the premise outright (and I have absolutely have heard this line of questioning from recruiters in the past). The answer is: you don’t have an idea about startups, or (as I’ve already stated) you’d know that EVERYTHING is recruiting (either clients or staff) .Anyway, it seems silly to have to make this argument here. Let me just quote from some dude you may have heard of:”Don’t waste money on recruiters. – I can’t think of the last time one of our companies hired a recruiter. I am sure it’s happened and maybe recently, but it’s not something many of them do anymore. LinkedIn, in particular, has become an amazing way to recruit on the business side. There are times when it does make sense to hire a recruiter, particularly for a specific skill set that the company doesn’t have in its extended network. Those times seem to be fewer and farther between these days.”From:…Your imagination is not painting an accurate picture of a startup CEO from where I sit- instead it’s leading towards a conclusion that validates your profession. As I’ve said, and I’ll say again, just about everything I do that doesn’t involve cash directly (i.e. payroll, paying rent/bills, etc) involved some combination of recruitment and retention. They are constants, they are the air I breathe, and outsourcing these vital parts of my young business would be foolish, and likely very damaging.

          5. Donna Brewington White

            I should have paid closer attention to the “openly hostile” part before asking you a question. That would have let me know that I probably would not be able to have a dialogue with you. But I’ve gotten spoiled here at AVC. I’ve had some great exchange with people with whom I disagree and I’ve learned a lot. There is a lot to learn from critics. One of the toughest critics of recruiters at AVC is @philipsugar . I learn from Phil. I even re-blogged a quote on recruiting from him ( is opinionated, and then there is bigoted. There is a difference. I should have seen this.And you are right. You don’t know me.

          6. Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg

            I didn’t say that I was simply “openly hostile” to recruiters, I said I was hostile to them at the tech events I help to organize and participate in. I don’t believe I was hostile to you, per se, but to your profession. The fact that you have taken it personally doesn’t mean that I was personally attacking you. Again, I didn’t mean anything wrong when I said “you can’t hustle a hustler”, and I’m sorry if you took it as in insult.I love learning from critics, but what exactly are you critical of? Of my recruiting abilities? Of my frank and brutally honest communications? (That one I chalk up to a personality trait, bordering on a disorder) Of my belief that you should not outsource recruitment efforts at a startup? (Again, that seems fairly non-controversial)Anyway, I’ve been riding these horses (let’s call them “I don’t give a sh*t” and “chip on the shoulder”) for my entire life, and while I’ve certainly made enemies along the way, I can’t think of a single “enemy” that has impacted me negatively. I guess some day I may get bit by it, but generally I only pick fights with people and professions with little to offer me (and often times the world), and that same fight is what has driven me to do what I do (i.e. bootstrap a business with little regard for rationality– at least at first). In general those people / professions seem to eat themselves without my help, but maybe recruiters are the group that will come to haunt me as they end up dominating the IT business world. I’ll just have to take my chances- so far calling out recruiters has only upped my profile in the communities I’ve called them out within (I guess they annoy other people too?).Anyway, I have less than no problem with you, just so long as you don’t start calling me, spamming email lists and forums with your “great opportunities”, or getting “all up in my grill” at events.

    4. Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg

      I would say to not only attend meetups, but host them as well. We now host 4 meetups out of our Philly offices dealing with the technologies we’d look to hire for –Drupal, Node.js, SASS, and Alfresco–and we’ve gotten something like 20% of our staff through those events (it can also be great for sales- I also scored a couple of our biggest gigs over beers at the NYC Drupal meetup). I actually met my co-founder/our CTO at the Philly Drupal meetup: she was demoing some crazy jQuery work she was doing (mastering stuff I had never seen anyone else even attempt) and I could tell from the way she was talking about her work that there were none better than she was.I’d also go a step further and say that you should be looking within the broader communities from which you are trying to hire, for example going to and sponsoring/attending conferences in the areas that you are looking to hire within.

      1. William Mougayar

        Exactly. It’s all about networking…Who you know, and who knows you.

        1. Emily Merkle

          …tough for those of us who have little patience for networking πŸ˜‰

    5. LE

      “various local Meetups on different topics & technologies”A great idea. I would add also (depending on the business and industry) trade shows at convention centers in addition to obviously as others have mentioned tech industry events.For example there is a show called “info 360” at Javits center in June.…But even an non IT tradeshow (such as the NY Gift Fair) is a good place to troll for talent (although the degree that they are clued in will depend on the location and the show).Separately this is also a good way to develop sales opportunities for your products by finding companies that you might not be on your radar and to gather intel.

      1. William Mougayar

        Yes. agreed.

  6. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    Have a great Memorial Day and spend few dollars onhttps://secure.donationrepo…P.S. my intention is not to take the spirit of MBA mondays … but the following report is really disturbing.http://www.huffingtonpost.c

    1. andyidsinga

      Thanks for sharing the huffington post link.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Andy — email me please dwhite AT bwasearch

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Appreciate the link.

  7. John Best

    With #6, you’re getting access not only to the talent, but the network that talent can bring. In fact, I’ve worked places where hires have been made on the basis of that network, rather than the candidate’s ability.

  8. leigh

    I’d also (believe it or not) talk to recruiters. My two favorite recruiters will do work for me and give me leads for free knowing that one day i’ll be big enough to pay for them. They support my growth and i’ll support theirs. They also tend to get newbies who are interested in x or y through their office and are great at finding young talent who they can’t place today due to lack of experience which of course, i’ll give them πŸ™‚

    1. fredwilson

      Yup. Now we have nine places.

      1. William Mougayar

        Shall we put them on a telephone dial format like Twilio’s?

        1. John Revay

          They may be more to come

          1. William Mougayar

            I know…I couldn’t resist saying it πŸ™‚

      2. Matt A. Myers

        Do you think it’s best for a company to have money for hires before seeking talent through recruiters? Or is the alternate just a big no-no?

        1. leigh

          It’s never good to pay recruiters until you have to. It’s about value exchange. I send them lots of talent for what they are looking for as well (I keep joking i should be a recruiter)…But i find when you start to get scale and you need to grow fast, a great recruiter (and they are few and far between) can become core to your success as in growth cycle the right talent is everything.

          1. Matt A. Myers

            I can see how talent can be the largest barrier to scaling.

          2. leigh


        2. Donna Brewington White

          Matt, I’m confused. Do you mean using a recruiter to find people before you have money to hire the people the recruiter finds?

          1. Matt A. Myers

            Correct!To elaborate, some people might not be looking for new employment until the future – or if a project they would enjoy working on comes up, then they may only then leave their job… That’s where I am thinking from.

          2. Donna Brewington White

            Oh, Matt, you ARE an entrepreneur!The best a recruiter can probably do for you is help build a bench (or a pre-pipeline) to recruit from when you do have money to hire. What you need for that is a sourcer rather than a recruiter.Ping me if you need some help figuring out how to go forward. I will give free advice to my friends. ;-)Note: I didn’t see the elaboration when I first read this from email. You probably don’t need a sourcer or recruiter at this stage. But begin recruiting about three months before you need to hire. Too much further out, a lot can change if you are recruiting people who work on contract or who work for startups. It also depends on the level. Start hanging out on discussion groups and write down names and companies. If someone particularly impresses you, send them a note to make an introduction.

          3. Matt A. Myers

            Opportunity everywhere! :)I may have to take you up on that offer soon. πŸ˜‰

  9. awaldstein

    Great lists but this gets even harder as the skill set gets more specific.UX talent and mobile design talent is critical but just about impossible to find. Don’t look in the normal channels, look where they are getting trained and want out. Hint…Interactive agencies. In house brands with big campaigns.Community managers are another. I’m starting to believe you have to let them grow but searching for that DNA is like boiling the ocean.Best advice I’ve heard from from someone in avc a while back is to work to make yourself a company that they want to work for. Creating a social gravity is a strategy in its own right,

    1. Matt A. Myers

      You’re lucky in NYC that you likely have hundreads of interactive agencies to scout.Being attractive is the best way to attract. Even once you attract people, you then have to see or hope things can align with ones’ life plans. This is why investing in existing teams is such a strong piece to investment criteria for some. It’s a proof point that you’re capable of attracting good, strong people, team members.There really is a huge disadvantage to being in any city under a population of a million; I actually wonder what population is needed for the network effects to start being amplified the most – I have a fairly good idea as to what the key ingredients are for that amplification, as was also recently discussed here on AVC.”Creating a social gravity is a strategy in its own right” – Love it.

      1. awaldstein

        I am hoping that Donna and other recruiters chime in.I think the role of the recruiter has changed dramatically…or should change.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          I’ll be back.Got some UI/UX people to tend to first!

          1. testtest

            what’s the most sort after thing (skill or something else) that are looked for in a UI/UX person?

          2. Donna Brewington White

            Chris — I don’t do a lot of these searches but a special client had a pressing need so I jumped in.In this particular case it has helped if the person could do some front-end coding (HTML/CSS — especially exciting if also JavaScript/jQuery).I don’t know how common it is to require this but it is a line of demarcation in this situation.I can tell you that the list gets shorter when you try to find people who have worked with web products and apps rather than just websites. Then the list shortens even further when you include working with both web and mobile interfaces.Bottom line is that I am not the ideal person to ask — @awaldstein:disqus knows a lot about this! Arnold — you want to chime in?

          3. testtest

            that’s about in line with what i thought. didn’t realize it wasn’t a regular search. thanks anyhow.UI/UX on mobile is definitely different. i heard someone talk about really getting the hang of it after the first couple of apps; previously doing web only.i can see how front-end code would be attractive. if the person can do a mock-up without the need of someone else, they can quickly test the UI. a common workflow being, paper prototype, mock-up, code–but it depends on the team.then there’s other techniques used to gauge usability, like, interviewing, ethnography, experience sampling.understanding of common design patterns would be useful. Ultimately, the UI will probably be significantly unique, so knowledge of principles becomes more important.that’s probably not that helpful, but if it helps in any small way.

          4. Donna Brewington White

            Well, Chris, it might become a regular search. This is a fascinating field and I am always drawn to the more difficult searches…the impossible. I’d probably be richer otherwise. Also, I am becoming more passionate about user interface and experience because my awareness is growing of how vitally important this is. Maybe that’s why I caught on so quickly after beginning this project.The main thing is that now whenever I interact with anything on the web or mobile, I am so much more aware of UI/UX. I’ve always sensed it, but now I am seeing it with different eyes. I have come across people on different sides of the spectrum — from those who treat this like a social science to those who are web designers and have an intuitive sense about UI/UX. I think there is an element of hospitality in UI/UX. That’s probably a quaint way of viewing it.Is this what you do? Your Twitter stream leads me to believe this.See Arnold’s comment below.

          5. testtest

            i know what you mean about being much more aware of it. at the moment my favourite UI/UX is youtube. it’s a joy to use.yeah, social science is where things like ethnography come in. Also, understanding that the user creates mental models of the user interface: so some psychology/empathy is needed.i was trying to stick to thinking about media on twitter. how it effects us, what it means, why it is the way it is etc. thought it would be cool to do something not many other people do as a little hobby. find my own thing.

          6. leigh

            You should follow my friend Heather @peaandbea on twitter — she’s sr. UX researcher at Youtube πŸ™‚

          7. awaldstein

            I’m not the expert.What I’m discovering though is that you want a point of view first.if you look for someone who understands behavior, UX, mobile, app and web, speaks wireframes and has a deep knowledge of prior and current art, you will most likely have someone with both a digital media and a programming degree.Is that person hard to find. O yeah!. Can I imagine building a service without that? No way. Would I search for technical skills first? Absolutely not.Where I differ from most everyone else is I would never wait to hire to fill this skill.This skill is more available right now in contract at negotiable rates. I want this on staff. I would simply not wait because the CEO or product visionary is still the key to understanding the behavior around their product. The UX person can guide and build the roadmap and iterate and manage change with engineering and design.Big believer in contract now, hire as you find them.The process never ends. Why wait to start?

          8. Donna Brewington White

            You are not the expert, you say, but some things you said to me at the beginning of the project are ringing true as I get further into it.Are you back from your vacation?

          9. awaldstein

            Back at work!

          10. testtest

            “has a deep knowledge of prior and current art”i like that.good designers tend to have good taste in clothes. part of being aesthetic, i suppose. not sure if that helps with the experience (UX), but it’s needed for the UI, imo.

        2. Donna Brewington White

          Arnold, I never truly chimed in the way you meant.But I think that to do so would be missing an opportunity. I’d prefer to ask you — how do YOU “think the role of the recruiter has changed dramatically…or should change”?If you’d prefer, I will give you a guest post on my humble blog and promote the heck out of it.I really want to hear your thoughts about this.

      2. ShanaC

        More than a million, you need more diversity of individuals.It is called an ecosystem for a reason.

    2. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

      I think it was Andyswan … I completely agree with you on ‘Social Gravity’.

      1. awaldstein

        I was once going to call my then agency Social Gravity. Been looking for a good opportunity to use the term!

        1. leigh

          You know my company is called Gravity don’t you? That’s pretty hilarious!www.gravityltd.comno site yet but don’t you like my photo from Cambodia? We find it confuses our competition and clients find it amusing.

          1. awaldstein

            Actually I didn’t.SocialGravity came BTW from an early and great exchange with Mark Essel, right here at avc.

          2. leigh

            Funny — who knows – maybe it was somewhere deep in my subconscious ….

          3. Ludovic Urbain

            unexpected and ugly. at least noone will forget it that’s guaranteed.

          4. leigh

            ugly! and posted 4 times so clearly you thought i was REALLY ugly πŸ˜‰

          5. Ludovic Urbain

            My bad, I think the site was unresponsive and I “attempted” several times πŸ˜‰ Either way, I still remember it today.

          6. Ludovic Urbain

            unexpected and ugly. at least noone will forget it that’s guaranteed.

          7. Ludovic Urbain

            unexpected and ugly. at least noone will forget it that’s guaranteed.

          8. Ludovic Urbain

            unexpected and ugly. at least noone will forget it that’s guaranteed.

        2. Donna Brewington White

          I hope you’ve hooked that name in. It’s great.

          1. awaldstein

            yup…locked.maybe i’ll use it sometime.

          2. leigh

            throw up a link to my site for now πŸ˜‰

    3. Kirsten Lambertsen

      “…make yourself a company that they want to work for. Creating a social gravity is a strategy in its own right,” Right on!What are the ingredients for a great place to work?- competitive pay, benefits, equity- collaborative environment- free food, beverages?- extras like tuition reimbursement?- flexible work hours? working remotely?- contributing to a great product- working with other rockstars- what else?And how do you get the word out that you’re a great place to work? Should it literally be part of your PR plan? Are there good ways to encourage employees to crow about their jobs?

      1. Guest

        That list makes you exactly like every other company out there recruiting.In fact, that list translates into “ya da ya da ya da” to a reader of the job opening.You have to stand out…

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          Yes, the list is not complete. That’s why I ask, “What else?” Have you any suggestions?

          1. Guest

            First off you need to step back and figure out exactly what you need to hire and how many. If you are a start up of 5 to 10 people then the first question you have to ask is if your current talent and founders are attractive enough to entice world class talent to work for you.If you are only hiring 2 or 3 highly skilled people then you need to focus strategically and forget all about all the websites and all the things that you listed.If you actually read and study why people are unhappy with their current jobs you find that it is management and lack of growth.That is why, as a small start up, or a small company, its critical that getting management out and about is critical.Its the “intangibles” that are critical. Let prospective employees talk to current employees and make sure that the current employees know that you expect them to be open and honest. Maybe think about an “open house” just do things differently than everyone else and the buzz will bring you the folks you need; then all you have to do is close the deal.

          2. John Rorick

            Creating a great place is not a pamphlet, it is an ethos. That is hard to quantify but does come from having a genuine and high performing culture. You could have the same above list at two different companies but have it mean nothing or everything depending upon the ethos.

      2. jason wright

        These peripherals can make the difference.If an employer said to me that they offer a a secure bicycle storage space, and a shower, and accept that ‘bike trouble’ (e.g. a puncture) is as valid a reason as ‘car trouble’ for being a few minutes late in the morning, and organic food, and beverages in glass bottles, and everything else πŸ™‚ that counts in my little world beyond the specifics of the job then I’m interested in them. They’re are starting to become irrisistible to me and hard to turn down.The difficulty is finding out which peripherals work for which people.

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          Ah, yes. This was helpful to me. So, it’s a lot like customer development πŸ™‚ We need to find out what specific things are important to the particular kind of person we want to attract… which I suppose would start with asking the great people we already have.

        2. awaldstein

          People, groups, communities, great companies are dynamic and messy and the aggregate of all these little things to the nth degree.I”ve always felt that we work to learn and win, then we deal with the stuff that makes your day great beyond those. Great coffee. Dog friendly. Bike patient.

      3. awaldstein

        People talk….all the time.Once you build an environment it just happens.Example…last time @wmoug:disqus was in NYC I had a meeting with him at General Assembly.Walking in, riding the elevator, waiting and then leaving, I was engaged in at least 4-5 conversations. Someone recognized me from my avatar (go figure!) but who are you? what do you do? did you know about x company? what’s your blog url?At the street level, on a local scene, value finds its channel.There are lots of tips and tricks as well of course. That’s marketing!

        1. William Mougayar

          The GA / Union Sq area is definitely a mini silicon valley. It’s brewing with Startup activity. Next time, we’ll meet at the Coffee Shop.

          1. awaldstein

            Socialization happens at the street level big time.I bet if I collected business cards of every person I told that I was there to see you could track them in signups. That multiplied by what 500 contacts each is how you discover your village.if I lived somewhere else and had a product that was built on dense social interchange, my community manager would be in the Flat Iron or Williamsburgh without a doubt.The best way to start an online community is by human contact if you have that advantage.

          2. leigh

            sure you will. :)Cheers

        2. Matt A. Myers

          “At the street level, on a local scene, value finds its channel.”- Another epic quote, brought to you by the one and only Arnold Waldstein.

      4. Donna Brewington White

        Sounds good to me!You can not be all things to all people, so be the things that the people you want to hire value. Ask the people who work for your company what it is that they value at your company and build on those things — ask what would make the environment even better. One of the best sources of insight is the group of people you already have — and creating an environment where they can be fearless will provide you with amazing insight.If your people feel like they are actively involved in creating your culture they are going to be much more excited about selling it. Encourage them to be active on social media and to talk about their company. Encourage them to join groups and meetups. Find ways to boast about your people online. They will want to point people to these “announcements.” Create a sense of being part of a winning team! When people feel like they are part of something special, we generally want to talk about it. It is our way of letting people know that we are special. We may not be doing this consciously, but we do it.If you generate a sale based on someone’s effort (who is not in “sales”), or recruit a new employee based on their referral, brag about this. Celebrate it.I am in an interesting situation. I am on the outside looking in. But I am paying close attention.



    4. leigh

      Also developing the system for training community managers key.We’ve got one for Corps and one for ourselves. In the middle of training about 10 people as we speak.For ourselves, we tend to use Jr./Sr. model for that. Hire pple straight out of school who are digital at the core and train them up with oversight from seasoned person….

      1. awaldstein

        Really interested in the process of on boarding community chops as part of company culture.

        1. leigh

          Part philosophy, part e-learning (there’s a word we don’t use often any more ;).My fav. part is when you get Sr. Exec.s on the the tool (we recommend taking them through the 5 hr training so they understand the dynamic especially as so many are far removed from what CM really is) — they are always saying stuff like — “there’s no way someone would really say that” and we reply “well actually it’s a real example from last week” Totally gets them to see the business differently after that.

          1. awaldstein

            What ‘tool’?

          2. leigh

            oh we created one — nothing fancy but it gets the job done and helps to simulate in a safe env.

          3. Donna Brewington White

            “oh we created one”Leigh, you crack me up. You know someone is brilliant at what they do when they make it seem like the easiest thing in the world.

          4. leigh

            lol you should see the youtube insights/analysis tool our creative technologist just whipped up and showed me the other day. i LOVE the team of people i work with.

          5. Donna Brewington White


          6. leigh

            ha…internal tool. that’s why we agencies suck nature of the business but also the nature of the type of people who work in our industry and are notorious stealers.

          7. Donna Brewington White

            Ha! Not that I would have known what to do with it anyway.

    5. ShanaC

      That may be because community managers are pushed into too many directions. It isn’t a sales role, it isn’t a customer service role, it isn’t a marketing role, it is something else.Gah

      1. Dale Allyn

        Very true, Shana. It’s often a role which should be considered for splitting into two (or more) and redefining somewhat. In fact, marketing and biz dev gets dumped on the community manager too often and that’s a mistake in my view. Not that there are not elements of them (marketing and biz dev) in the CM role, but there are distinct differences which need to be addressed for each position to function efficiently. That said, everyone on the team should have some connection to “marketing”, “biz dev” and “customer service”. Without developing and serving the customer there’s no need for employees.

        1. awaldstein

          Agree to a point Dale.Everybody reports to someone though. So…in your opinion, community reports to…..?

          1. Dale Allyn

            It depends on the size of the organization, Arnold, as well as the nature of the model (or business/market, etc), and the dynamic of the team. In our current project we have a “Marketing and User Acquisition” position, a “Community Manager” position, and a “Customer Support Lead” position. There are overlaps, plus some hierarchy among the support team based on experience and personal preferences, but the overall environment must be mentoring, nurturing and supportive with a shared vision. The goal is to run as flat as possible, for as long as possible, but there must also be some hierarchical organization to avoid chaos.As the organization grows the dynamic must change.To answer your question: It depends. πŸ™‚ We’ve not defined the size or stage of the organization, so the answer, in my opinion, is not fixed. It also depends on the specifics of the management (i.e. CEO, COO, CMO…) and their specific strengths. Again, if we’re assuming a startup environment, those individuals will likely have different strengths and styles in comparison to such positions in an older, established company (e.g. a publicly traded, multi-national co.), so Community Mgr. might report to CEO or COO directly, or if the position exists it might be CMO, again, depending on traits of that individual. I don’t like such separations in early stage companies (early being perhaps up to 50 employees or so). Lots of variables though.I should add that “Community Manager” may mean different things to different people and for different projects or business models. This is a conversational topic which has many facets. Lots of elements and nuances which may be difficult to convey in a few brief exchanges.I’m not sure if adding this helps to describe my preferences, but I’m a huge fan of how Zappos has each new hire work in the order fulfillment center as well as the customer support lines before settling into their role, regardless of their eventual position. It’s not literally practical in all settings, but the concept of every employee understanding each type of contact-point with clients or users and what it takes to deliver the product or service is very important to me.

          2. awaldstein

            Thanks for putting the time into this answer.Clear now!

        2. ShanaC

          Agree with all of this.

      2. awaldstein

        Bigger topic as you are talking from an org chart pov I believe.As a rule though, whenever anyone defines anything or anybody by what they are not, I stop listening.In fact, I would say as that how you define community and your ‘management’ of it, defines to a large extent who you are.

        1. testtest

          ‘As a rule though, whenever anyone defines anything or anybody by what they are not, I stop listening.’interesting. the ‘not’ plays a large roll in language, and life. for example, getting rung up by someone and berated for not ringing them is possible.’not’ is also used in paradoxes:’The barber shaves only those men in town who do not shave themselves’and used when there’s one thing or the other–dichotomies:up/downgood/evili’m not saying it’s right or not right (wrong) #JustSaying

          1. awaldstein

            :)Syntax and communications are of course completely different things.It was the Mad Hatter I believe who celebrated his Unbirthday πŸ˜‰

          2. testtest

            it’s more than syntax. ‘not’ negates; changes mean; it’s semantic also.and it was scott stratten who wrote unmarketing

          3. awaldstein

            Not familiar with Scott Stratten. I’ll check him out.

          4. leigh

            He does good presentation. πŸ™‚

        2. ShanaC

          Probably true.Unlike you, I think there are systematic techniques you can use for managing a community – many of them driven by learning how to listen and respond and getting a community to self organize.

          1. awaldstein

            I agree.

    6. Sunil Kanderi

      Interesting you hint ‘Interactive Agencies’. I run a boutique Mobile App Development company and we work with some of the best tech startups in the valley. Invariably all of them make attempts at poaching my team, however none have been successful so far. If you run a company that people enjoy working at and feel genuinely productive ( I found this to be at the top of criteria that good developers and designers look for ), no amount of luring with incremental benefits would help.I know most non-compete’s are unenforceable, but I sometimes wonder about the ethics of trying to hire away, when you have a company-client relationship.All in all, it is definitely a very hyper-competitive environment for finding the right talent.

      1. awaldstein

        Sounds like you run a smart company that realizes that its team is its greatest asset.And yes, recruiting out of your agencies is bad karma. I’ve never worked with an agency where I didn’t sign a no-hire clause. Seemed fair.That being said, everyone comes from somewhere.Looking for talent where it is is not poaching. Its life.

      2. Donna Brewington White

        The agency people that are interested in talking to me are1. beginning to feel underutilized — or over-utilized 2. want to do a career pivot and leave the agency realm3. want the experience of being part of building something on an ongoing basis4. want to work for a startup5. find the opportunity I am representing to be especially compelling(as in one or the other, or a combination)Only the first category could the agency have possibly done anything to avoid.

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


      3. Ashwin Ramasamy

        Sunil, nice to see that you are in this community too. We see this trend across all good agencies that work with startups. It’s not uncommon for agency staff to moonlight on their own pet project or do it for extra cash. This is the sign of things to come (where organizations become federations of talent, which work ‘with it’ and not ‘for it’).I’m curious if in the space that you are in, there are any employer side experiments on drawing contracts that allow designers/developers to pursue multiple interests while being employed!Ashwin (ContractIQ)

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK

          ALLOW?NO CAN STOP.

    7. Donna Brewington White

      “UX talent and mobile design talent is critical but just about impossible to find.”NOW you tell me!

    8. Polina Moskovaya

      For “Community managers” I would be looking for someone who established and grew a successful community before. There are plenty of people on the web who have had their own websites/blogs/forums and were able to attract and retain big audience. The most important bit of their CV is already on the web!

      1. awaldstein

        Perfectly said.What’s interesting is that there are few resources that I can find for this group. A few web sites but no ‘community’ of community managers,Big opp for someone to put this together.

        1. Erica Brescia

          Check out the Community Leadership Summit, a free event taking place in conjunction with OSCON this summer: http://www.communityleaders…I have been in previous years and they have a great gathering of folks that are interested in and enthusiastic about community management. The people who attend are making an effort to learn from their peers, improve their skills and make new connections, which makes it a good place to recruit. In terms of reaching out to a ‘community of community managers’, I think this is the closest you can get right now. If you don’t make the right connection there, it is likely that someone you do meet will have some recommendations for you – a lot of the community managers know each other and know who is looking for a job.Note that the best people for these types of roles are incredibly difficult to find. It takes a very special type of personality and set of skills to really be able to make things happen in terms of community growth.

          1. awaldstein

            Thanks!This is one conference I’d love to speak at.

          2. ShanaC

            I’d love to talk about this/attend. Seriously.



  10. jason wright

    I also like the idea of nurturing talent rather than cherry picking off the tallest tree. It’s cheaper too. Be frugal is number 9.

  11. William Mougayar

    The best Recruitment is No Recruitment. Build a great company and they will come to you.Do you think Twitter & Facebook need to recruit? They cherry pick the thousands of resumes they receive.That said, you need these recruiting efforts until you become a great company.

    1. Cam MacRae

      You might be right about the need, but they do still recruit.

      1. William Mougayar

        For specialized and executive jobs probably yes.

    2. Luke Chamberlin

      Just like top universities they get to cherry pick only the top 10% but then they fight amongst themselves over that small pool of talent.

    3. fredwilson

      Twitter and Facebook recruit their asses off. Just last month Zuck personally recruited a top iOS dev from one of our portfolio companies.

      1. William Mougayar

        I added later that they would recruit for specialized or executive jobs. But my point was that it’s easier for them because they’ve already built the reputation of the company.

    4. obscurelyfamous

      I haven’t seen that to be the case anywhere. Sure, great companies will receive thousands of resumes β€” but such companies are great because of careful team building.The bigger and greater the company, the larger the recruiting operation. At this point, they need to find amazing people at a big scale.In fact, in a company that’s proven itself to be great, there’s effort in recruiting the type of entrepreneurial person who thrives in a smaller environment where he/she can intuitively make more impact.

      1. William Mougayar

        Sure. The recruiting style and focus shift when you are bigger & have a good reputation.

    5. falicon

      …the ones they can’t directly recruit, they just buy πŸ˜‰

  12. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    LinkedIn no one?

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Good — I get to keep this one to myself.(I find LinkedIn to be a highly effective source.)

      1. Kate Huyett

        What are the strategies you’ve used on Linkedin that are most effective?

  13. JimHirshfield

    Very telling is the absence of job boards. I’m not advocating one way or another. Boards are good sometimes, not so good other times. I bring it up ’cause I know you’re invested in Indeed.comI was going to also highlight recruiters, but I’ve heard your opinion on that before πŸ˜‰

    1. Scott Barnett

      I was thinking the same thing Jim. Although I would probably rank them at the bottom of Fred’s list, at least for a startup. A more established company can use recruiters as a means of moving faster than the organic suggestions listed here.

      1. JimHirshfield


    2. Luke Chamberlin

      “Below-market pay with so-so benefits” doesn’t sell well on a job board.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Funny, it never actually says that in so many words. Usually something about stock options and unlimited upside in a revolutionary early-stage company…with a ping pong table.

      2. Fernando Gutierrez

        I think that level of honesty would attract some people.

      3. Dale Allyn

        Yeah, but the hours are long.;)

  14. Kirsten Lambertsen

    What’s your opinion of incentive programs, where existing employees are paid a bonus if they refer a new hire?

  15. Dave

    Great post Fred. Timing was impeccable. I recently left a company after 20 years (I joined them as a startup). I’ve spent the past six months helping a company which I founded many years ago. I am now looking for a new role (and just so all of your posters know, there are actually some great people looking for new roles who may not be currently employed due to all sorts of reasons. Ignore them at your own peril.) Anyway, I know your blog is widely read by hundreds of startups, so if anyone is looking for an incredibly strong, entrepreneurial, business and corporate development executive, with a solid direct marketing background (offline and online), then send me a note please at [email protected]. Thanks.

  16. Mac

    I would take #1 a step further. I wouldn’t just ask a new recruit, “who is the most talented person you’ve ever worked with and would love to work with again”, but who are some of the most talented and exceptional people you’ve ever worked with, or know of, and would love to have on your team. And, do they think this individual(s) would be a good fit in our culture (MBA Monday’s: Culture & Fit – 5/21) Have the core team be involved in the referring/recruiting/review process using this as part of the guideline. Thanks, Fred. Happy Memorial Day.

  17. Luke Chamberlin

    A huge percentage of the top talent in NYC works for companies in the USV portfolio. How much poaching goes on between your companies and how do you feel about it? When a top person from one of your current investments comes to you with a new project, do you kind of wish they would just stay put in their current job?

  18. Guest

    Recruiting talent is a full time job of everyone in senior management.Everyone claims to offer a great place to work, and if you study you notice that everyone offers pretty much the same thing. In fact it appears that has a template that everyone shares.If you are a founder, senior management or in a leadership position then the greatest draw you have is you personally. Its your personality and your words that will attract talent.You have to be honest, transparent, and open; let the word get out and let the talent contact you. Its reputation that matters.Sometimes its just the “intangibles” of a current job that someone dislikes and a personal conversation is all it takes to lure them away.But you got to get in situations where these conversations can occur and remember while you are searching for a skill set you are talking to a person.I remember 1999 when the local unemployment was less than 1% and I never had any problems with turnover or attracting talent; and outside of our daycare and our health insurance (both of which were considered the cream of the crop) we didn’t offer much outside of an opportunity to grow. In fact I always made it clear that if you were looking to get rich we were not the place to apply for a job.

  19. John Revay

    Re: # 7 for a long time – I have seen pages on VC sites listing jobs @ their portfolio companies – not sure how effective these may be – i would guess not overly…but don’t know or have any metrics to support.

  20. PhilipSugar

    Now that I’m old I would say that this is one of the biggest assets people like me bring, which is the network of people that have worked with me and trust me :-)I always believe in going to colleges to recruit for myself. I would send out invitations to everybody that we were interviewing telling them I would be in shorts for the interview, and they could they could too and I would buy dinner and beer the night before at whatever college hotspot kids would tell me is “in”.The career counseling people would always shake their heads when I got the best recruits and ask me how could I possibly compete against Dupont, Dow, and Union Carbide (I had tiny 150 person EnviroMetrics Software). It was simple. I’d tell kids what is the level of commitment? Having me physically be there or some recruiter that didn’t know squat about engineering. That was going to translate during the most important part of their career, the beginning.

  21. Luke Chamberlin

    Another one for the list: coworking spaces. Work out of a good coworking space instead of a private office and you’ll know dozens (or hundreds) of talented people by the time you’re big enough to start hiring.Coworking spaces are also great for the “try before you buy” method. You can hire freelancers to work on your projects and if you like them make them a job offer.If you’re already established, you could send a small team to work out of a coworking space once a week or so. They’re meet a lot of people and if they’re a cool team working on interesting projects others will want to work with them. I’ve seen this happen several times and it seems to work out great.In NYC I recommend the excellent New Work City the “grandaddy of coworking spaces” according to Fred.

  22. William Mougayar

    Tip #10. Work with @donnawhite . She has more than one trick up her repertoire. She knows how to recruit and how to help startups recruit.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Thanks, William. That means a lot. But hold onto your hat!And who down-voted this? Show yourself. I will challenge you do a duel. The @JLM way!

      1. William Mougayar

        Not sure. But you’ll see some positive and negative stuff being said about the use of recruiters, so that’s a valid discussion to be had.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          It absolutely is a valid discussion and I could offer some reasons against it myself — although the reasons I give may be different. A lot of the gripes I have heard against using recruiters comes from the wrong use of recruiters and/or using the wrong recruiters. (But I am not doing a guest post on this — I have more important things to say.)My comment about the down-vote was based on taking this as a down-vote against ME and totally tongue-in-cheek. I don’t care. I get enough love here to withstand an occasional down-vote.BTW, Disqus — I like that you are now giving numbers of down-votes — or were you always doing this?

          1. Tyler Hayes

            That’s new. More info here:…We also keep a log of fixes, changes, and new features worth calling out in the Disqus 2012 Release Notes.

          2. Donna Brewington White

            Nice post, and some nice changes.

          3. William Mougayar

            I think part of what’s needed here is to shed the light on how to work with a recruiter. maybe that could be your next post?

          4. Donna Brewington White

            Maybe YOU should write that one. ;-)In all seriousness, I think I will write on that, but not necessarily for AVC. I wonder if that is a topic that is interesting enough to a large enough group within this community?

          5. William Mougayar

            As @Leighh said, you need a recruiter whether in-house or hired consultant if you’re growing a company. Any CEO who has to fill 3-4 spots at once, in a company of 4-5 will be overwhelmed recruiting on their own. There’s a lot of work that can be off-loaded to the recruiter and they both work in tandem and with the CTO.

          6. leigh

            I think before one disparages recruiters they have to have actually worked with one. The last company i worked with we grew revenue 68% in 15 months — i seriously would have been dead had i not had a recruiter working with me. Changed my entire perspective on the subject.It’s kinda like working with real estate agents. You theoretically (and this day and age) don’t need one — and there’s many of them and many do the bare minimum — but when you find a great one — they’ll help you find the right home – and if they do that? They’ll be worth it.

          7. William Mougayar

            I agree.

  23. ShanaC

    5 is actually really difficult – I remember sitting in a college classroom where nearly everyone wanted a safe job, not a startup. even truer for nonegineering talent…

  24. Chris Phenner

    I was head-shaking about all the recruiter-focused negativity until I saw ‘leigh’ (above) write the following, and Fred’s appointment of recruiters as #9 — leigh said this:’I’d also (believe it or not) talk to recruiters…’My edit to the above is: Why the ‘(believe it or not)’ snippet? I’d say to lose the sheepish parenthetical and own it :)If there are recruiters who are not transparent about their motives or who are not helpful even if you don’t fit with their current searches, those recruiters will not do as well as those who are helpful and transparent — it’s just a matter of time.But just as VCs sit amidst a higher volume of company creation (and by way of that, job creation), I would not dis or avoid or preclude talking to recruiters on the basis that some of them are opaque or pushy or not well-informed — they do sit amidst a higher amount of talent sourcing than do most of us.

  25. Oliver

    Reminds me of the PoachBase company I saw at the NYC Disrupt Hackathon…

    1. fredwilson

      yeah, i liked that one!

    2. falicon

      That was another awesome idea/hack team from @jeffnovich …he has a TON of really cool projects in the works (or already out in the wild).If you don’t already, I also highly recommend following his blog at …I’m a big fan!

  26. Horatiu Mocian

    I think your post covers the startup hubs (Valley, NYC, Boston) very well, but what about startups that are outside of these hubs, or even outside the US? Are there any efficient ways to build a great time in a city where there are few startups and no large companies, or is relocation the best option?

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t think relocation is necessary. but you will need to work harder to find the talent you need.

  27. MartinEdic

    For Innovocracy we have added two interns and an operations guy who just graduated. They are all sons of successful entrepreneurs and it is in their blood to make cold calls, ask for help from influential people, use technology creatively and more because they grew up with this.

  28. testtest

    if you know what to look for it makes it easy to find.

  29. RobRoss

    On the creative/development side, UX, UI & Dev can be the most challenging to identify+select, each to different degrees. UX because it’s about synthesizing abstract concepts into a universally wonderful workflow. UI, well that’s maybe easier – look at the portfolio. Dev is hard because it takes a technically talented exec to know if the person you’re recruiting really is good, especially for your project. To find good devs, there’s a service in beta to check out: [disclaimer: I was VP Mkt & BD]. Gild has evaluated all the public code on Github & scored it, showing who’s contributed & which code has been accepted for open source projects, etc. Lots more features.

  30. Vitomir Jevremovic

    US is saturated with people pushing their ways into start-up scene. Logically, as all the frenzy is the US. I would suggest to search talents into markets that are not start-up enabled (crazy term, but lets call it like that). Markets that have no ecosystem of supporting the start-up scene, or that are just too small for large scale start-ups to dominated peoples minds.You would not believe how many gems you could dig out in such markets.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Vitomor, what do you do? I like the way you think.

      1. Vitomir Jevremovic

        Thanks. A tough question in a way. I’m an entrepreneur, of course. I have my own company in my country. We are making all sorts of digital interactive installations. Mobile + Kinect + Web + Multitouch + Holograms + Gaming, hardware, software, 2D, 3D, all sorts of crazy things. Sadly, local market is too small for quick organic growth. Investment opportunities are practically nonexistent. On the flip side, talent base is excellent and wages are much lower then in the US for example. If you are wondering, yes, I have been seriously thinking on seeking investment in popular markets. Not for interactive projects, they are not easily scalable, but for mobile/web change-the-world ones.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          Now I like the way you think even more! Too bad I am not an investor.

          1. Vitomir Jevremovic

            ..but you do know some :)on the subject of talents, I’d like to add one more observation. Recently I had some discussions with couple of VCs, while mentoring some startups in the region, on the subject that is here under discussion. My question was how do VCs look at plans to hire a third party outsourcing company to do the first major chunk of work. Professionals. They had many objections to that concept. I’m not sure they understood the benefits very well. Like, experienced team, track record, proven technology, reliability, turn key solution.. you pay them, they do it. Done.From what I’m observing in the startup world, this is a non-existent topic. Not even as a discussion point. Strange.

  31. Casey Winters

    I love that tactic in #1 of asking each new employee who is the most talented person they’d want to work with again.I kind of disagree with #2 though. If that person didn’t have the loyalty to your competitor, how can you expect them to be loyal to you? Also, I think hiring within the industry can create an echo chamber of the same ideas/tactics. I’d approach competitor talent with caution, and only if you know they are passionate about the space, but the environment where they currently work is severely daunting.

  32. Vitomir Jevremovic

    Another important comment is that you could search talents in compatible but not friendly industries. Like gaming for example. Game creators are not very keen on web creators (from my knowledge and experience), but are extremely talented, even way better then your standard UX or web/mobile design teams. If you make them switch sides, they could be a serious asset

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Excellent.Often, to be effective in recruiting you have to be creative. This is creative.

  33. Sebastian Wain

    Some of my methods are:Use the APIs! For example, this is a search on StackOverflow for people in a specific city sorted by reputation: http://data.stackexchange.c…Look at computer science olympiads or competition sites like http://www.topcoder.comLook for people/projects on GitHub/StackOverflow/CodePlex. Some sites are getting old (Sourceforge, Codeproject, Freshmeat) but have interesting projects.Use LinkedIn. This is more useful in the US Market. For Europe you have other alternatives like It is important to discover the top professional sites on different countries.Use Google. This is a search for reverse engineering like jobs: filetype:pdf resume windbgUse Google even for better search results on other sites like LinkedIn: windb inurl:pubSearch on Twitter.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      You are getting into the deep sourcing methods. Very time consuming, but fruitful for uncovering passive candidate leads.I’m impressed.

      1. Sebastian Wain

        This are the methods that I use when the typical ones don’t work but are very time consuming. In my niche market there are few people with certain skills. Also I live in Argentina.

  34. Carl Rahn Griffith

    I’m available πŸ™‚

  35. Dave Pinsen

    How about referrals by your current employees?

    1. fredwilson

      yes, that is part of #1. i didn’t lay that out but it is important.

  36. Kyle Van Pelt

    On a bit of a different note, I am intrigued by number 4. How does one get noticed by the start-up world? Are there conferences that people can be noticed at etc.? If you are a rockstar how does the CEO looking for talent find you?

    1. Donna Brewington White

      How do you define “rockstar”?

      1. Kyle Van Pelt

        Well I suppose it depends on what field you’re in, apparently if you are a UX/UI rockstar people will find you, but what if you’re in sales for a small start up in Atlanta, a good sized market, not overly well known for start-ups and you’re bringing in over 500,000 in sales per year. How does a company like Twitter find that guy? Does that answer your question?

        1. Donna Brewington White

          Kyle — you are actually in a desirable category — revenue generation. It is higher on the hiring hierarchy for startups than some other positions. But it is a more difficult field in which to be directly recruited unless you are in a sales management role.On the one hand, it is easier to stand out in a smaller startup market, but then there are fewer jobs. Are you open to relocating? Are you able to relocate yourself?You are in a field and at a level where job boards may be effective for you. Focus on those that recruit for startups (VentureLoop, startuply, etc.) — plus the job boards on VC websites and Indeed and LinkedIn.If you want the Los Angeles market, I know two recruiters that focus on startup sales positions who might be able to help you. dwhite AT bwasearchI am not an expert on finding jobs. I find people for jobs. But this one was easy. Let me know what happens.

    2. fredwilson

      show off your work

  37. John Paul

    You can have a great record of what freelancers worked on for certain projects if all your projects are in workspaces on When you need to make a decision in the future for a possible hire, all the information (comments, contributions, etc.) you need is at your fingertips.

  38. Emily Merkle

    I am making a life shift as we speak, and need talent. I am going to start working on a bigger cause that is reflective of my education, passion, etc. I have thought about it for a while…I am stoked. It is an effort to make a change to our education system to teach kids How to think instead of just what to think; to tie in mobile gaming technology, and to endeavor to foster empathy and leadership along the way. <whew>. I am going to start to work on networking in gov’t and crafting a loose curriculum. Anyone want to play?</whew>

  39. Adam Martin

    I think it comes down to time. If you’ve got enough of it, you can try many roots to finding the best talent, but ultimately this seems to be a big data problem.Let me explain, we live on a host of fragmented networks, all of which say something about us, often about out skills, ie GitHub, Dribble etc, but also about our professional intentions. This isn’t always explicit, but look at the data we create, look for patterns and start to match talent to opportunities using the data we create.A platform should be aggregating all this data and telling a company who their next hire is before that company needs it.Likewise talent should not be prompted to discover an opportunity by chance, but given their big data footprint, this opportunity should come to them.I write about this more here:

  40. Donna Brewington White

    This is a great list.Add to #1 to ask the people you interview this or a similar question. It may be awkward to ask for referrals for the same job (unless you have multiple openings) but ask a UI/UX designer about software developers, or a sales person about marketers.One thing missing from this list except for the allusion in #4 is the great potential of discovering people through online sources. I am thinking groups and discussions more than blogs. Places like Quora, Stack Exchange, LinkedIn Groups, etc. Also, you can find creative types on dribbble, Coroflot, Behance, etc.The caveat is that if you are going to be part of any type of community, on- or offline, you should truly become part of that community and not just approach it as a source of recruits. This is where your team comes in. Encourage them to join the groups that they would naturally be part of and to engage with those groups. But to have their radar up. Way up.

  41. Aruni S. Gunasegaram

    I wanted to comment on your first post on this topic of people, but other priorities arose. I would also say look where you don’t normally look and to people you may not normally think of for particular roles you might pick someone with the “right” resume. Studies have shown that experience and education can be the least indicators of success in a position and most “bad fits” happen from bad integration of culture/norms, etc. It’s riskier in a startup to pick someone who may have to learn some things on the job, but often it’s more risky to pick someone who has done it 10 times before because just as in the financial markets, past performance is no guarantee of future performance. Don’t be afraid to hire people you think are overqualified because they might be at a time in their life that the particular job would ideally benefit from their talent and they really don’t want to rule the roost. Don’t be afraid to hire people you perceive as underqualified if they are smart…you may be able to teach them certain things easily. Of course, if you need a senior programmer don’t hire someone who doesn’t know how to code. If you need someone who has done deep genetic research/analysis, an English professor is probably not going to be helpful…but hopefully you get what I mean. I have heard it is much harder to teach someone to have a good attitude than it is to teach a talented person who is interested in programming to code. Happy Memorial Day!

  42. Michael Diamant

    When attending industry trade shows, rather than place the obligatory “brand” advertisement in the show’s daily rag, we place full page ads of all our job openings (current and mid-term). The best talent is there, and candidates already in your industry will come by your “booth” or whatever and pitch themselves and/or drop off their resumes. They can meet management in person and if the candidate warrants it, a follow-up interview that or the next day is easy. The entire company’s top management at trade shows have a core objective of finding talent and talking up the company. For us it’s by far the best way to find industry-specific, experienced biz dev and product talent. And those ads keep our competitors on their toes. πŸ™‚

  43. Guest

    The answer to where to find strong talent is “everywhere.” I think a better question is “How to aquire strong talent”. Finding talent is just the beginning. Aquiring talent is the only way to improve your business.Let’s take an example. I have a internet/web based system for medical office solutions. It’s difficult to find people who think properly to work on that system. The first thing people think when discussing contributing to it’s development is relational storage and/or pre-designed data entry screens. Nope! The system, eMOS (ecosystem for medical office solutions), doesn’t follow old style user stiffling approaches like that.So, where to find talent? Not in the usual places that’s for sure. People who are able to look ahead and let go of traditional methods aren’t sending resumes (useless by the way), or signing up with recruiters. Those people are somewhere looking for a place that will appreciate their non-traditional view on life and system development.

  44. Chris Kenst

    Very good article Fred!

  45. Athena Jeunnesse Mae Tria

    awesome list!

  46. Boris @ Pealk

    I think that LinkedIn is really a powerful tool to find strong talent using social relations! Ok, not everybody’s there, but most people are :-)I’d like to take this opportunity to spread the word about my startup Pealk, making it easy to search, sort & engage people on LinkedIn! http://www.pealk.comAlso, I think “where” is a key question, but “how” is another one. The talent war makes it very difficult to attract skilled engineers to your project!

  47. Max Ischenko

    Warning: pitch ahead.I believe the old model where companies push data through job sites or Linkedin doesn’t work anymore. Too much noise. That’s why personal recommendations and networking is so effective – it carries credibility.We want to flip the job market. Enable job seekers discover companies that are interesting. Pull instead of push.So we’re building recommendation service about companies. Like did for general interests.We match you with like minded people and use that to find companies. E.g. introvert developer who despise Java, loves Node.js and hiking would get different recommendations from someone who wants well-defined job roles, bigger teams and ok with Java. Even if both of them are Java engineers in NYC.What do you think? I’d really appreciate any feedback from you guys, AVC community rocks!

  48. Max Ischenko

    I think the old model where companies push information out through job sites or Linkedin simply doesn’t work anymore. At least it doesn’t work as good as it used to. Too much noise. Hard to get noticed. That’s why personal recommendations and networking is so effective – it carries credibility.When you look at content delivery in general the model is rapidly becoming based social filtering: twitter, facebook and to lesser extent reddit/9gag.I think similar transformation will happen to job market. Pull instead of push. Instead of sifting through jobs on Indeed/Craiglist/LinkedIn people will more and more rely on recommendations to cut through the noise.Personal recommendations work but they don’t scale. There must be a better way. Startups like Geeklist or are trying to find it. As are we. πŸ˜‰

  49. Ela Madej

    Reg. point 4–the companies you mention are mostly (not “just”- I know, Behance) good for finding tech & web design–that just launched–is aimed to be a place to find people with very specific skills as long as their work is already somehow documented online. Let’s take a YouTube/Vimeo video – it sometimes takes 10-15 people to create a 60 second marketing video… Who are they? Who did what? What are other things they did?Wouldn’t it be good to click a button and see that kind of information whenever you see something impressive?. IMDB for everything that’s visible / documented online or IMDB for all online content. @fredwilson — what do you think? would that be useful (think: not just in the tech world)? Would love to get your feedback one day (at f.ounders maybe?).

    1. fredwilson

      i think this is going to happen vertical by vertical

  50. Cam MacRae

    Shoofly pie. So good.

  51. Donna Brewington White

    You are going to turn Lancaster into a tech mecca yet.I think there is some amish in my soul — except I do love tech.

  52. Cam MacRae

    Yum! I love PA. Planning on buying a house near Bethlehem in the next year or so.

  53. Cam MacRae

    I like trains — more roomy than buses — which train does Lancaster to NYC in 2.5 hours?

  54. falicon

    I’m in NJ about 30mins from Bethlehem (exit 40 off 78)…which also puts me at only about 1hr away from NYC…really is best of both worlds (close to the city, far enough away to get lots of space and peace)…highly recommend it!

  55. Cam MacRae

    I looked at that, but the Amtrak site says 4 hours or something silly.

  56. Cam MacRae

    Sounds pretty much perfect.

  57. Cam MacRae

    I obviously didn’t look very hard πŸ˜‰