In Response to @DavidCrow ‘s post ‘It’s People, people”: http://startupnorth.ca/2012/01/10/its-people-people/trackback/
We are seeing the same challenge in the community, its a great signal of health. Most every shop Coral CEA is engaged with is on the hunt for great talent, especially on the tech side. I see the ability to attract talent as the second most important challenge to a startup, the first being attracting customers (paying ones;). Much conversation is dedicated to the need and challenges of attracting funding, more thought should be given to revenue and talent.
Advocates of the Canadian startup / tech scene often trumpet our abundance of talent (University educated people), but I think the talent available to startups is much shallower than we might want to believe. The vast majority of the need is for engineers (developers, etc), and most engineers I know are big fans of structure and certainty, not attributes associated with startups. The overall market may not lack for talent, but the combination of talent and the personality type to enter a startup inside the first 20 employees is somewhat rare.
Most recent grads are still attracted to the bigs (telcos, banks, F500s), though they are showing an attraction to startups in increasing numbers. Seasoned professionals, the ones with proven talent and more important experience; which will be critical in a scaling startup, are even less attracted to the startup market. Regular paychecks and benefits are really important to people with families and mortgages, no matter how great your startup that engineer with 5-10 years working at IBM needs to pay the bills and get little Johnny braces. T We need to figure out two things in parallel: better leveraging the talent in the market because there is not enough to go around and get the whole community to critical mass; and work to make working at startups less risky and more attractive to high end talent.
We are working on a couple of initiatives to address this significant risk in the market. We see a number of shops that have expertise on one side of the equation but not the other. Teams of less the 10 typically have a depth of domain knowledge in a market with the ability to execute business development OR a depth of technical talent and proven technology; the combination of both is rare.
Coral CEA is working to create partnership relationships between domain experts and tech experts so each can better leverage their core competence with out falling prey to the ‘recruiting gap’. Two favorite areas are financial services and health care, understanding the needs of the markets and having the relationships to successfully sell into them takes years, these markets are ripe for disruptive tech that change the ‘customer’ experience, the challenge is matching the tech to the right value proposition and right buyer. We are working to develop structures that make these partnership less risky from a time, execution, and capital perspective.
The second part is working to create partnerships with experts on HR. Hiring, retaining, and managing talent is hard work that takes expertise and a core area of risk for a company. A bad hire early in a company can be a disaster (time, money, effort are in short supply), in later stages having bad structure and processes to manage and retain your team can be equally destructive. The challenge Coral CEA is trying to address for the community is getting the community organinzed in a way that makes delivery of the expertise economical for all parties. Having your HR house in order is going to make your startup much less risky and therefore more attractive to the seasoned pro you are trying to lure away from the bigs.
Sorry for the long post, its been on my mind;). BTW we also have opps for Mobile, PHP, and Ruby devs.
Happy to chat more