Right hires for start-ups
In 2015, video conferencing technology start-up, Blue Jeans, hosted one billion minutes of video conferencing. Four years ago, the total market was 200 million minutes.
Its rapid expansion is thanks to the fact that its technology allows different video conferencing platforms to talk to each other. Two years ago the company, having established a firm foothold in the United States, began to eye the EMEA market.
To increase its presence abroad, the first thing the company needed was feet on the ground – sales people that could spread its message to a wider audience. The perfect launchpad for its expansion into EMEA expansion was the UK.
But working for a start-up is a different animal entirely to working for an established business. For one thing, the stakes are higher – a start-up is as likely to fail as it is to succeed. For another, systems and processes are usually works in progress, even in core functions such as HR.
How does a start-up make sure that it hires the right people?
Finding the talent
Early in 2014 Blue Jeans approached Computer Futures, a specialist in the IT and tech recruitment market. Computer Futures has since placed most of Blue Jeans’ mid- and senior-level sales team in the UK and beyond.
“In the first instance of course candidates need to be good new business people,” explains Computer Futures’ Richard Thexton, “Quite often start-ups such as Blue Jeans will hire a Sales Director who will be responsible for finding new clients as well as building a team. This can mean not even having an established office to start with, as the company will follow up with bricks and mortar once the revenue begins to be generated.”
“Clearly, companies of this type carry with them a higher risk, but then the rewards are higher. They are most likely to be pre-IPO, which means that employees will receive equity in the business, which in itself signifies a significant long term investment by the candidate into the business.”
“Employees benefit from there being less red tape: they get to speak to the decision maker; they get autonomy. They could well be starting out in the next big thing.”
By its nature a start-up doesn’t have the resources to go to candidate pools and attract them by itself. It doesn’t have the brand recognition, of course, so is more heavily reliant on experienced and knowledgeable recruiters.
“It can be a challenge,” says Richard. “You can find the people in terms of skills and qualifications but then you have to dig deeper to see if they have the right credentials. They need to be able to roll their sleeves up and get on with the job. A candidate who says “that’s not in my job description” won’t get very far.”
Changes over time
The other factor that sets start-ups apart from other tech companies is that their briefs regarding talent acquisition are quite fluid, as Computer Futures’ Colin Turner, explains: “It changes continually. If we look at Blue Jeans as an example, they recognise the need for diversity within the workforce. At first they needed people who understood the videoconferencing industry and had sold it before, both through channel and direct, but as the business expanded they needed those with language skills. However, if they exclusively hire from this candidate pool the spark of creativity is difficult to maintain, as they may all have a similar way of working. So then the focus is on people who have had a similar sales experience but not exclusively in this area.”
Knowledge of the industry
“I only work in the unified communications industry so I know who all the competitors are and I also know how the product works and what it does,” continues Colin. “I know how different companies operate so I understand how a candidate is used to working depending on which company they come from. This means that when a vacancy arises I already know what candidate pool to aim for.
“My first placement within Blue Jeans is still in the business, and the company has had phenomenal year on year growth,” says Colin. “It has a presence now in a lot of countries. Since then I’ve worked with other start-ups, who value our knowledge in this area. It’s come to be a very mutually beneficial partnership.”
About our consultants:
Colin Turner is a Specialist Unified Communications Recruitment Consultant at Computer Futures in Manchester He has four years’ experience in the delivery of technical specialists in the UK.
Richard Thexton is a Business Manager at Computer Futures in Manchester. Richard specialises in IT Sales, with a specific focus on Business Intelligence and Data Analytics, and has worked in the industry for six years.
Contact us to speak to a Computer Futures consultant today.