Hiring is an ongoing endeavor. You know you’re doing it right (at least partially) when you’re always doing it, even if you’re not actively trying to fill roles. One of the CEO’s main jobs should be recruiting top talent. Unfortunately, most CEOs don’t put enough systematic effort into recruiting and it falls to the wayside. Then when panic strikes and you desperately need 3 top developers “yesterday”, you’re screwed.
One of the key times in a startup’s life is when it’s raising capital. Raising capital is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. It sure feels like winning (and raising capital is hard), but the day after the money hits your bank account it’s back to business. And things get a whole lot crazier and more intense.
Money does make some things easier – like hiring. You can finally afford people, which is nice, versus trying to convince everyone to join you for pocket change and some equity. Most startups and CEOs start the hiring process after raising money, because they’ve universally told investors that the money they’re raising is going in-part to bolstering the team. And almost every investor pitch will include a list of key hires by position/title. Rarely though, do startups and CEOs actually know who they want to hire once they have the funds.
And that’s a mistake and lost opportunity.
While in the midst of raising capital, you should also be recruiting top talent. That’s precisely the right time to start attracting people to the company. You’re building momentum for funding, in an effort to attract investors. You’re going after press attention, growing your network, bringing on advisors & mentors, testing viral campaigns, etc. That stuff works on candidates too. They want to see momentum and traction. They want to see that you’re bolstering the team with great mentors. They want to feel like they’re going to jump on a rocket ship and have a huge impact doing it.
They also need to get paid. So they’re not likely to jump on board pre-funding (although you always have to convince someone at that stage to believe in you!) but that’s exactly the time that you should be wooing them. Give yourself enough time to recruit the best people possible - they’re not going to jump instantly and easily - and build relationships over time. In the same way that you have to go through numerous meetings with investors, find those that you connect with, get aligned on vision and strategy, etc. — do the same things with candidates.
Running the two processes of fundraising and recruiting simultaneously is incredibly challenging. Both are time consuming, frustrating and risky. You’ll often hear people tell you that when you’re fundraising it’s almost impossible to do anything else with the business (continue building / iterating on product, acquiring customers, marketing, etc.) And that’s surprisingly true. First-timers don’t believe it until they’re neck deep in fundraising, two months in and shocked that the rest of their startup has made little progress. But raising money and recruiting are very similar processes, which makes it easier to context shift between the two. And if you do manage to get people convinced to jump pre-funding (and they’re waiting for it to close), you can highlight those targeted recruits to investors. You don’t just have empty buckets with titles and job descriptions that you need to fill, you actually have people eager and ready to go.
That means when the money hits your bank account you’re going to be able to move that much faster and focus on the next stage of your startup, instead of sputtering out of the gates.