What I learned about recruiting & hiring – Part 2

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Xobni – light on features, high on potential

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What I learned about recruiting & hiring in a startup – Part 1


It’s been over two months since Adam & I started doing this startup full time and I had sometime this weekend to reflect on some of our initial ups and downs. Our lowest point to date was the first week of work – we lost our first teammate on day one. We knew a lot of people would say no to us but we weren’t prepared for our first teammate/employee to say no to us so quickly. I won’t go into too much detail on why our first developer decided to back out, but I will say that startups are not for everyone. When the reality of the risk kicks in, some people develop an apprehension towards that risk and I completely understand that. Nonetheless, I’m thankful that he was honest and quit on day one before any progress was made.

Not a great way to get started. Adam and I sat here with our work plans and project scopes in hand starring at each other and wondering what to do. So much for the work plans, we set everything aside and made recruiting our #1 priority. We scoped out our recruiting strategy and started executing. On the 3rd day of work, I still vividly remember walking in the rain from college campus to college campus posting flyers on bulletin boards. It was a shitty feeling and the uncertainty of when we will have a complete team made it worse.

Looking back, I’m glad all this happened. Through the recruiting process, we had the opportunity to sharpen our pitch, develop recruiting skills (which we will surely need again) and most importantly, I strongly believe we ended up in a much better position with Hedley as our lead developer.

For those of you who are just here to find recruiting advice for a low budget tech startup, here’s a few things I would recommend from our experience:

1.       Develop & test your pitch before you start recruiting

a.       This is a tough one because you get better as you pitch more people and get more feedback & reactions. I think it would be helpful to pitch to some smart close friends you can trust and get some honest feedback and reactions from them first rather than testing the pitch on potential hires.

2.       Don’t waste money on a recruiter

a.       You can do whatever the recruiters do. One thing I learned from working at Lake is you can figure out just about everything – if you’re smart, you can figure out most things 80% of the way by being aggressive and creative – sometimes you can even do it better than the “pros”, especially on something like recruiting.

b.      Jason Calacanis has a good article on how to save money, he also believe recruiters are a waste of money.

3.       Leverage your personal networks

a.       Dig deep in your Outlook contacts, Facebook & LinkedIn profiles and you’ll likely know someone who is in the field or has connections in the field.

4.       Target college campuses

a.       Post job descriptions on bulletin boards in common areas as well as specific departments

b.      Talk to career departments and ask for mailing lists – sometimes they will ask for a job description and email blast departments for you

c.       Look up school directories for students and professors and email them for interest & referrals

5.       Look up local developer groups and forums online

a.       We found Hedley through a Ruby on Rails group – there’re plenty of these for all kinds of professionals

6.       Use Craigslist cuz it’s cheap – milk the expensive ones creatively

a.       It’s only $25 to post a job on Craigslist, much cheaper than Monster.com and CareerBuilder

b.      Use the free trials on recruiting sites like Monster.com or CareerBuilder – some of them will give you a few free resumes. Others will let you search for resumes but not give you names & contact info – instead of paying for the contact info, you can Google keywords from these resumes and find these people’s personal websites, LinkedIn profiles or other public online presence.

7.       Write personal emails whenever you can

a.       If you have the time, read a few blogs and websites and write a personal email to potential recruits. Even if these people aren’t looking for jobs, they’re more likely to respond to your emails and give you referrals if you make the emails personal.

8.       Don’t stop recruiting until you have someone on board

a.       It’s easy to feel a sense of relief and get lazy on recruiting when you meet someone good. After all, recruiting isn’t that fun. However, even when you find someone who seems like a great fit and shows an interest in the position, there’s still a high chance they won’t work out for a number of reasons. Keep recruiting until someone gives a full commitment with all the terms worked out.




$10 if you can name “my mecca”

Adam sent me this picture with the subject line “Your Mecca”… thought it was really funny. $5 for anyone that can name what it is, $5 more if you provide the address…
If your initials are “TJ”, you’re not qualified to enter (and obviously, Adam, you can’t enter either)…

Happy commenting! =D

Baidu supports Obama, but not 1st amendment or Taiwanese musicians

Techcrunch had an interesting article on Baidu supporting Obama – kinda odd if you ask me. I guess they envy our right to vote for a leader.

Baidu Obama

Still, a search for “tiananmen” doesn’t yield any pictures of tanks running over students…

baidu tiananmen

And search for “jay chou” (popular taiwanese artist) gives you hundreds of MP3s free to download (or WMA, RM if you prefer)…

baidu jaychou mp3

Thoughts on subprime & the economy

Fred Wilson wrote a great article recently, “Hitting the Reset Button on Mortgages” with examples that clearly deciphers what’s actually going on. His thoughts on the impact of the Fed’s decision to bail out financial institutions compelled me to give more thought to the subprime mess and motivated me to write this post. I’ll briefly summarize a few key points but encourage you to read Fred’s article instead:

  •  Lenders (banks) are trading in their non-performing, subprime backed, loans & bonds for federally insured loans & realizing a loss on the value of the loans
  • If the gov’t didn’t insure these loans, then the lenders will be forced to foreclose on the mortgages for liquidity & send homeowners into the rental market
  • Gov’t insurance of the non-performing loans allows homeowners to stay in their homes and alleviates some of the banks’ liquidity problems – this is good because the home owners will continue to pay a portion of their mortgages (Fred’s example says home owners will pay $1200 instead of the $1500 they’re supposed to pay)
  • This also keeps housing prices from plummeting from an excess of inventory if you start foreclosing – another plus.

This all sounds good if three things are true:

  1. the gov’t can accurately set the value of these non-performing loans
  2. we are at the bottom of this subprime fallout
  3. homeowners will continue to pay a significant portion of their mortgages.

To the 1st point, I’m not so confident that these loans can be accurately priced because there’s no market for them. But, because there are tangible underlying assets (the land & the house), you can safely assume that once you lower the price enough, people will buy them. To use an extreme example, if you sell a house for $1, the checkout line will be longer than the line for iPhones. Still, how can the gov’t accurately assess the value? The most accurate way to do this is to have the individual homes appraised, but that doesn’t sound reasonable.

Secondly, this article is largely true if you believe we’ve reached the bottom of this crisis, but what if we haven’t? If the government insures these loans at a value of $x, what happens if the value declines another 20-30%? Would the government be forced to foreclose on those mortgages, cut back on other fiscal budgets, or issue more debt and continue to hold onto these garbage loans? Regardless, the impact on the US economy will be catastrophic. Stocks are also getting beaten down and companies look to slash jobs as a way to reduce cost & boost earnings/valuation. Low skill level jobs are usually the first to go so a subset of subprime homeowners will no longer be able to pay any of their mortgages. This creates an excess of inventory on the market as homeowners are forced to foreclose or sell at a loss to downgrade. At that point, would the gov’t have to take a significant loss to liquidate these homes. On top of that, these former homeowners will be collecting unemployment (though that money comes out of state tax money, not federal) – one would still beg the question as to what would happen to the US economy if home values & employment continues to decline. How much debt can the government float before they go belly up too?

Third, it’s great if the gov’t can insure these bad loans, allow the homeowners to stay put and continuing paying a portion of their mortgages. Paying $1200 instead of $1500/month is still better than nothing, but how much are people actually paying? There’s got to be a threshold where it makes more sense to foreclose than to keep holding the debt.

Is the government simply delaying the inevitable? I’ve read a lot of opinions but haven’t seen compelling numbers & comprehensive analysis. This would be a cool modeling project if I was still at Lake…

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