Interview with Steve Newcomb: Cult Creation

We interviewed Steve Newcomb and learned how he hires and manages top talent. If you want to build great teams, listen to this episode and read Cult Creation.

Steve has founded several companies, including Powerset, which was acquired by Microsoft and ultimately became the underlying technology behind Microsoft Bing.

Powerset was one of the most-respected startups in the late 2000s. It launched with the mission of building a better search engine than Google and built an exceptionally talented team.

In 2010, after having sold Powerset to Microsoft, Steve wrote one of the best guides to hiring and management at startups, called Cult Creation. Along with this interview, he’s releasing an updated version of Cult Creation with all the lessons he’s learned from running his current company, Famous.

In this interview, Steve shares his favorite lessons from Cult Creation and talks about what he’s learned about hiring and management in the six years since he wrote the original.

Here are a few of my favorite learnings:

  • Use peer-judgement to identify the most talented people in a group. When trying to find the best talent, interview lots of people from within that group and ask who each person thinks is best. Listen to a description of this process at 19:37.
  • Founders should personally manage the hiring process. Your best employees often won’t be great at sourcing or interviewing. Steve personally sources all candidates at Famous, does the first interview himself, chooses which candidates to bring in for his team to interview, and walks his team through conducting the interview. Hear why a founder should manage hiring at 40:00 and more about how to oversee the hiring process starting at 48:50.

If you’re looking for places to efficiently source great candidates, we built both AngelList Talent and A-List for you.

  • Help your employees focus on their career progression, not the company’s odds of success. If you give your employees the opportunity to develop expertise in a way that future employers will appreciate, they don’t have worry so much about the inevitable ups-and-downs of your startup’s journey. Listen to Steve describe this starting at 1:10:10.

You can learn more about Famous on their website and follow Steve on Twitter.

Originally published at on November 1, 2016.