Punching above your weight when recruiting

I was recently speaking with another investor about how successful our companies are at recruiting.

At the surface, one might expect a company’s recruiting success to be tied to the strength of their brand and the financial offer they make to candidates. Traction is a pretty good proxy for the former and the combination of profitability (or a lower net burn rate) and funding are good proxies for the latter. And this is indeed broadly the case. Companies with more traction and a better net funding position are more successful at recruiting.

However, during our talk we also identified several outliers in our portfolios. Specifically, some companies were punching well above their weight by attracting a level of talent that’s difficult to justify by looking only at their traction and net funding position. So there must be at least one, or perhaps more, variables that we’re missing. I think there are two.

The first is the founder’s ability to inspire others to join them in the pursuit of a shared vision. This comes from being authentic, being able to clearly communicate your vision, and caring about the people you work with.

The second is how much time the founder spends recruiting. All else equal, the more time you spend meeting candidates the more likely you are to hire the right people. Together with setting the company’s vision and keeping it funded, recruiting is one of the three most important responsibilities of a startup founder. And some founders have internalized this more than others.

Your traction and net funding position determine your weight when recruiting. Your ability to communicate your vision in a way that inspires others and the time that you dedicate to recruiting let you punch above your weight.


Originally published at Thoughts of a VC.