Everyone has some sort of twist on the startup recruiting problem. VCs have elaborate programs and networks of talent they offer their portfolio companies. Meanwhile companies go to desperate lengths to attract talent with over-the-top perks and big equity stakes. Recruiters lurk on Github or StackOverflow.
Coders, developers, and designers are in high demand; a startup’s success or failure depends on its ability to sop up talent. The problem is even more acute in the increasingly interactive world of advertising.
And yet! The US just experienced its worst quarter for jobs growth since 2010. Most would respond to this incredible disconnect by saying there isn’t enough of the right kind of talent out there. This is true. But if you ask Steve Roberson, StartUpHire CEO, he’d say that the right kind of talent isn’t considering a startup for their next job.
Roberson says the problem is actually exacerbated by the poor economy, because startups are viewed as risky. “In the late nineties it was common for people to feel like they could leave a larger corporation to work at a startup because if it failed, they could always go back to the a large company,” he says. “No one says that today.”
This is why his company is campaigning all summer to fill 10,000 startup jobs by November. It’s not much more than a spread-the-word campaign via social media, Huffington Post, IdeaMensch, and various other outlets (I believe they call these things “grassroots”), but the message is a worthy one. Users can sign up here to auto-Tweet one open job at a startup per day.
The idea is that the more noise startups make about jobs, the more attention, legitimacy, and hopefully talent, they will attract. NVCA has already gotten on board, as well as New Venture Communications, Startup America, and the National Science Foundation.
In some ways the idea of turning economic growth into a “cause” is a little unsavory to me. I’m always so confused by the “Indivisible” bracelets I see at Starbucks that tell me my five dollar purchase of a bracelet (American made of course!) will help create jobs for the USA. A charitable donation being used to create jobs seems counter to the way economics work. Then again, that cash mob thing seems to be catching on.
But that’s why I like StartUpHire’s approach. This isn’t a cause — it’s basic awareness. Startups need technical talent, but they also need motivated sales people, community outreach people, perhaps even editorial talent. Making the wider community of job-hunters aware of their positions helps the entire ecosystem.
It’s an extension of the efforts of StartUpHire itself. The company, founded in 2009, serves as a startup job board. The idea sprung out of a conversation with a Steve Fredrick, a partner at Grotech Ventures (who is a co-founder of the site). He like, most other VCs, bemoaned the talent issue as the biggest pain point of his portfolio companies. Startups aren’t well-represented on traditional job boards.
Now StartUpHire works with around 45 VC firms to aggregate job listings. But if talent doesn’t know to go there, the point is sort of lost. Last year the site hosted 40,000 startup jobs. There’s no data on how many of them were filled. If the new campaign is any success, the answer for 2012 will top 10,000.