Hiring and Applying at a Start-Up

Posted in Rubikloud Announcements
By Kerry Liu on November 28, 2013

Rubikloud is hiring right now, but not just for normal engineers- for early employees. I was having a conversation last week with one of our angel investors and a good friend who’s had a front row seat to the creation of some of the most successful tech companies in the world (i.e Facebook, Palantir, etc). We spent a lot of time talking about the importance of hiring world-class early employees. Every start-up says “we only hire the best.” I don’t buy that. There are simply too few world class engineers and too many start-ups for that statement to be mathematically accurate.   So if you are a world-class engineer and want that new challenge, how do you get the attention of an exciting start-up?

At Rubikloud we’ve spent the past two weeks fielding an overwhelming amount of applicants for very specialized early employee positions. So if you’re someone looking to work for a start-up at the ground floor, here’s what you should remember.

1)   Early Employees are treated like Founders:

You are not interviewing for a job, you are interviewing to be part of a team and a mission that will push you to do things you never thought possible. Early employees have just as large of a role as founders in setting the culture, work ethic, and accelerating the development of the company. A strong early employee is worth 10x more than a mediocre early employee (even more important for engineers).


2)   Be prepared to grow and learn exponentially:

 In my opinion this is the most rewarding part. Start-ups succeed over big corporations because they can accomplish the same amount of work in 1/5th of the time (yes 80% of statistics are made up). No matter what happens with the company, early employees come out of the experience with more practical experience than the majority of other jobs in tech.


3)   Stage matters- do your research:

Do some  research into the stage of the company. For example, Rubikloud is an 8-month-old business that just recently closed its seed round. This means that we are looking for early engineers who will not just come in and do a job, but help us shape the future of the business and product. During an interview, I will be much more engaged when you ask us about our product roadmap and provide suggestions on our stack versus ask me about benefits (and yes of course we provide benefits- why wouldn’t we? That’s obvious!)


4)   Get an introduction:

As Albert Wenger explains here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIRe9uKLjUk getting an introduction from another founder, someone in the community, or even through a second degree linked in connection will significantly increase your chances of getting an interview.  Just like entrepreneur introductions to VC’s are usually great introductions-the same applies to entrepreneur introductions to potential hires.


5)   Expect to own a significant piece of the company:

I hate founders who are cheap on employee equity. It actually pisses me off.  Westjet is a terrible airline, but has a great marketing slogan- “Westjet Employees are owners too.” If a seed funded founder refuses to give you significant equity, then they are not serious about building a successful business. Ask founders to be open and transparent about the option pool, the details around vesting, and exercise price. I’m a huge believer in a system of marketable base compensation + generous equity grants to early employees. If you help build our company- you should share in our success.


6)   Be creative and aggressive- this isn’t management consulting

Creativity is rewarded in the start-up world. Getting the attention of founders who are working 80 hours a week is difficult. Decisions around who to interview are made relatively quickly. There is no team of HR professionals around a boardroom deciding. The more creative you can be to get our attention- with a relevant message, the higher a chance you will have. We had one PhD candidate who sent us details on how his research could directly apply to what we are doing, with a summarized version of his published research papers. This definitely got the attention of Frank and Dan.


Remember we’re trying to identify the world’s best candidates to join a family. It’s not just a job- it’s a lifestyle.