Startups, Invite New Hires to Build the Next Cool Company

Susan Hall

Forbes did an interview with Shannon Callahan, talent partner for venture capitalists Andreessen-Horowitz, which it says plans to model itself after Hollywood's Creative Artist Agency. In its heyday, CAA was ruthlessly effective at poaching the best actors, screenwriters and directors by knowing the dirt on everyone, which projects were failing, who was unhappy and why.


Callahan, who was poached from HP, leads a team that's developing a database of the best talent in Silicon Valley to recruit for the companies in which Andreessen-Horowitz invests. That's a really interesting story in itself. But deep down in the interview, Callahan offers some advice for smaller companies trying to compete for talent with the tech giants that are paying megabucks.


She says:

In order for startups to truly compete, they have to take the compensation talks off the table. They can't compete with the offers which are being thrown around. They have to take the conversation to the vision of what they are building, the contribution a person can make at the size company. They have to feed a person's desire to build the next coolest company, rather than be a part of the current coolest company.

When I interviewed tech pros who had moved from the big-name companies to smaller ones, they spoke of feeling more in control over their careers, of having more influence in the organization and having more impact.


My colleague Ann All also has written that smaller companies should stress differences that could appeal to potential hires, such as greater access to senior executives and more opportunities to earn notice for individual achievements.


Travis May, head of strategy and operations at Rapleaf, wrote in a piece at VentureBeat that one of the most attractive things about going with a startup was the ability to make decisions right off the bat.


Those who enjoy working at startups are a breed apart, Callahan says:

People who join startups have startup, small company DNA. They thrive on flying by the seat of their pants, rapid pivots and limited structure. Folks who join larger companies like a bit more structure.

I'd say that it's important for the employer and job candidate alike to explore where the applicant stands in that regard.

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