Building Foundations: How To Hire and How To Know If You’re Failing

In the tribal stage of the blitzscaling process, your company now has employees in the double digits. You’re starting to generate revenue, you’re beginning to see whether or not your idea was actually that crazy, and now you have a new set of issues to deal with. When you reach this phase, there are two places where most other founders fail — hiring and self-evaluating. So, how do you avoid being another failed startup tribe?

Some of the biggest mistakes founders make as they begin to grow their companies into the tribal stage lie in the hiring phase. In the tribal stages, the small base of 10–100 people are the determinators of the company culture and further, will ultimately end up taking positions of leadership in later stages of the blitzscaling process. When you start hiring at this stage, you should be aiming to do a few things:

  1. Look for High IQ Generalists

At this point, your company is still fairly small. Employees still carry a lot of responsibility, and are responsibility for disproportionate amounts of your code base and customer base. Right now, the thing you need the most is fast learners — people who can learn fast, who can code fast, who can adapt fast to the rapidly change environment that is characteristic of any startup, including yours. Specialists are less important

2. Create Artificial Demand

If you want talent, one effective strategy is artificially inflate the value of holding a position at your company. Eric Schmidt while at Google noted that potential interviewees could go through 10+ interviews before being allowed into the company. By creating the perception that getting into your startup is extremely competitive (even if this is, to some extent deceptive), you thus create an intellectual exclusivity, which by extension adds perceived value to your job positions. This, in turn, will attract more talented people who want to work at companies that will value their high intelligence and will give them recognition and validation for their work.

The other major failure area in the tribal stage is not having effective metrics. That is, the tribal stage of the startup is the point at which you begin to determine whether or not your product is worth pursuing and worth putting in Sam Altman’s noted 10+ full years of life necessary for making a startup successful. Especially at this stage of the company, when you have nearly 100 people working overtime to bring your product to fruition, you need to have measures of the success of your company, for both accountability to your employees and for self-accountability (that is, to show yourself you’re doing something meaningful). Metrics give you a way of setting goals for your company, and thus by extension force you to move your company in directions that are more optimized for success as measured by said metrics.

(As an aside, I found it surprising the emphasis that speakers like Naficy felt it necessary to place such a strong emphasis on dashboards; it seems intuitive to me that when growing an entity as fragile and time consuming as a startup that one should be evaluating constantly the performance of the company, at minimum several times a week, if not daily. She seemed to believe that this was a non obvious thing to do, which felt odd. Startups necessarily need such monitoring due to fragility in the tribal stage, and I’m curious as to why this was unintuitive or novel. Personally, as a scientist, the first thing I would do in a company is precisely to establish a system of quantifying success, and I’m not sure what backgrounds make doing this immediately nonintuitive.)

You’ve made the product. Hire fast, evaluate constantly, and you’re on track to make it big.