The Bellagio Casino, Ocean’s Eleven

Build a Team Like Danny Ocean

If you have ever tried to hire a technical workforce to build and scale your startup, you may have asked yourself at one time or another, “if Danny Ocean were CTO, what would he do?”

As you may remember, Danny Ocean is played most memorably by George Clooney, in the 2001 heist comedy Ocean’s Eleven. Clooney’s character sets out to break into the highly secure vault of the Bellagio Casino. To do so, Ocean has to assemble a team with the perfect collection of skills and experience.

If Danny Ocean were running your start-up he might say:

Hire Great Engineering Leaders

CTO’s hire engineering leaders who can be an inspiration to their teams. The Bellagio is not going to get knocked over without a leader.

Hire Without Bias

Small engineering teams should hire the best technical talent they can find without bias. This includes the so-called “culture fit” bias. Culture fit often gets in the way of ensuring that your team has the breadth of skills and experience necessary for the job.

Hire Like a Technology Innovator, Not a Business-Side Innovator

When the business side of a startup gets involved with hiring technical teams, things go wrong fast.

The best startups are the ones with a technical co-founder. Someone who understands the challenges that need to be met and conquered.

Engineers are motivated by challenges and the best ones want to see that building or applying bleeding edge technology is a priority. They want to solve the most challenging problems in a meaningful way showcasing their talent and technology.

To Create Innovation, Hire Technical Teams Differently

Business and technical goals in a company should be aligned, but the approach to hiring is going to be different.

In startup world, it’s not easy…you need people with skill, fortitude and a willingness to take on risk. Many of the candidates you’ll meet will have many chances to take roles in larger more stable organizations. Why are they going to risk their necks following you?

You will want the teammates who will push boundaries to create something spectacular. When you hire a team just like yourself, you are being safe. This might be the least safe thing a startup could do. To innovate and disrupt, you are going to need team members who are additive, not identical.

Innovation Does Not Exist in A Vacuum

If you do the same thing over and over again, expecting different results, isn’t that the definition of insanity? When we hire people just like ourselves, and expect to create something new, we may not get the results we expected.

Often in Silicon Valley, we hear that it’s ok to fail and to fail quickly. This does not mean that it’s better to fail than to succeed. I think we’d rather succeed, no?

Software and digital products are unique because the only inputs into their creation are a bunch of commoditized hardware and cloud platforms to which everyone has access. What’s the differentiator in your case? It’s the people. It’s the team.

Build the Right Team for the Right Job

So, be like Danny Ocean and assemble your crew. Understand the problem you are trying to solve and build your team so that you have a complete set of skills and experience regardless of culture fit.

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