Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Top 10 things for startups and founders to think about when choosing their technology platform and hiring.

As a founder or senior leader within your startup, have you asked yourself these questions and got answers you are happy with, if not make the time to work through them, you could regret it later down the line especially when you do finally get investment.

1. Are there staff available in the local area?

It might be obvious but it is amazing how many startups will go with the latest technology like Scala, paper.js, Clojure or Slate, Faust or Squirrel and build an amazing new product but then when they try to recruit the extra programmer they really struggle to hire. Spend some time thinking about where you can find the skills locally or will you have to cross train or relocate talent. Even languages that are becoming more mainstream like Ruby can be difficult to obtain. Resources like IT jobswatch can give you an idea of demand, a quick search on Linkedin might give an indication of supply.

2. What are the rates for permanent/contract staff for your technology stack?

Assuming you are going with your favoured technology when you are preparing your cashflow and hiring plans, take a look at salaries/contract margins. Many startups are amazed at what they might have to pay to get that right skillset especially outside of London where the assumption is to pay less, but competition is really hot for tech skills right now.

3. Where are the big technology companies that use your skillset?

One of the reasons that clusters grow especially around technologies is that there happens to be a large employer of that skillset locally. The reason there were so many start ups in California was Xerox Parc, so many embedded software companies in Cambridge was Acorn and networking technologies in Scotland was NCR and 3Com. Have you looked at the local big tech employers and their tech stack to see if its easy to get people from there.

4. Are you part of a community already?

Have you joined and are active in the local User Groups, Meetups?T his will give you an idea of the quality and depth of local talent.

5. Universities

Have you made links with the local universities, especially the Computer Science courses? One reason for successful startups around York was the quality of their C Science course especially around AI and Vision.

6. What happens when you get funded? Do you have a plan

One of the key bottlenecks for startups is planning, from building and launching a product, creating great customer service and doing the investment rounds when you finally get that magic funding, typically a lot of it will go on hiring. If you have not pipelined and thought about how to do this it can create a major challenge for companies.

7. It's OK, we will just bring in overseas candidates!

Think again, the average time to hire, process and gain a work permit is likely to be around 3-6 months especially if they are not in the country already. On top of which, Visa's are becoming much scarcer now under new legislation. Yes you can still hire from within the EU, but the competition is fierce and most candidates want to live in London as that is the area they know.

8. Beware the unicorn!

While research suggests that recruiting the top 5% of programmers will have a disproportionate effect on your productivity, the reality is they are few and far between for a reason and you have to pay disproportionate salaries and benefits to attract them and present them with the right challenges otherwise they will move on swiftly. A good solid team to start will pay good dividends and if you see one them make a decision then otherwise you could miss delivering waiting for the unicorn.

9. Are you attractive compared to your peers?

Have you undertaken a review of your hiring competition? Not just the local startups but major employers, startups within 1 hours commute which if you are in Nottingham, Birmingham or Manchester could almost be London to see how you stack up on benefits, culture and salaries?

10. Do you actually tell people you are hiring!

A common issue for startups is to focus on their product and sales and not have their website telling people they are hiring or what they are looking for in the future. The key is to make sure that its very visible on the front page.

If you would like to get a free review of hiring practices at your startup or just advice on where you might be able to improve then pick up the phone to Peter on 01299 833980 or email me at