Luke Shipley, CEO of Zinc, on what to do to hire the best tech team.
Britain’s technology sector is booming, and the number of new technology companies launched in the UK last year rose by nearly 60%. In London, new technology incorporations grew by 76%. Having recently built an entirely new team of 10 engineers for Zinc, a London-based startup that is building blockchain-based hiring software, I wanted to share some of my learnings on how to hire a winning tech team.
No hierarchy rules!
When hiring a team for a tech startup, you need a small group of hungry, rockstar, all-rounders. Easy! You need everyone to have a broad skill set, be hungry to learn and be quick at doing it. Tech teams at early stage startups are easier to hire for in some ways and harder in others.
The specification for roles can be very fluid and you’re often looking for similar skills in everyone. Rule number one is the no-hierarchy rule. You can have team members that have different levels of experience but you need everyone to be capable of making decisions, with the ability and inclination to go and implement things without the need to rely on others. You should have a lead but your lead should be purely hands on. There should be no gap between the lead role and a would be CTO role.
Don’t get me wrong, you need an effective decision making process and that may involve someone falling into the authority figure. But the reality is you don’t have time for meetings and bureaucracy and all that stuff big companies waste all their time on. You’ve got to get efficient and start shipping fast. Otherwise it will be the end of the road before you’ve even built anything.
Experience isn’t everything
You will not be able to find people with everything you’re looking for and although it sounds like a cliche, one of the most important skills you need in a tech startup, is willingness to learn. I’m looking for exceptional people with one years experience, great engineers with two to five years experience and a superstar engineer with five years experience under their belt.
Startup vs scaleup
When an early-stage startup goes into scale up phase you face a fresh set of challenges.
You then have more of a demand for people who “have been there, done it and got the t-shirt”. This is because in an early stages when building something new, you’ll come across unique challenges and problems you need to solve. Experience is unlikely to make the difference coming up against problems that nobody has looked at before. When moving into the scaleup phase, you often hit more familiar road blocks such as structuring multiple high functioning teams that can co-ordinate work with each other. Scaling technology is hard but it’s often solved in a few familiar ways so experience really pays in this phase.
Diversity from day one
The tech industry isn’t known for its diversity, particularly when it comes to gender. Whilst it is almost impossible to plan for when you have the hash realities and demands of a startup bearing down on you, it’s highly important to ingrain diversity in your team from the start otherwise it makes scaling teams without cliches next to impossible. It’s widely accepted that increased diversity brings a wider range of perspectives, attitudes, experiences and ideas, all of which ultimately contribute to building better businesses.
It’s actually not all about the money
In regards to tech startups, it’s no longer true that startups don’t pay as well. The battle for top tech talent is on and startup’s won’t compromise here any more than the tech giants. A better determination of salaries is the types of technologies that the company uses. Top talent wants to work with top tech and providing opportunities to work with cutting edge tech is likely to be far more alluring to ambitious talent than working with older and more established technologies.