Uncubed job fair helps companies show off startup culture

By Andy Meek , written on December 17, 2012

From The News Desk

In the race among startups to differentiate themselves and to recruiting top tech talent, putting their company culture front and center is increasingly important. Potential hires aren’t just looking for random company benefits or who’s got the flashiest offices, says Canaan Partners’ Ross Fubini. With startups fighting to land the best hires, he says a unique and authentic culture is paramount.

Fubini says that’s why companies -- like Palantir talking about their mission, “tackling the hardest problems that matter in the world” -- and using it as a high-minded lure for talent, or why Optimizely is leading with their product-driven culture, making beautiful products, which just happen to be sold to the enterprise.

And all of that is one reason Uncubed, which bills itself as the job fair for people sick of lame job fairs, is going like gangbusters right now.

At Uncubed events, attendees do things like down drinks at Tumblr open bars from “tumbler” glasses, listen to music courtesy of Spotify, play a little foosball and, you know, actually work in some job-hunting and glad-handing, too. Founder Tarek Pertew said Uncubed’s approach is about bringing something unique to the hiring process: taking a boring, traditional event like a job fair and making it fun.

The fun part comes in where Uncubed allowing companies to let their hair down a bit, show off their culture, and lure new hires in that way. And Uncubed will be doing even more of that in 2013.

There were four Uncubed job events in 2012, and that number will grow next year to 10 events. Uncubed is opening up 4 new markets (L.A., San Francisco, London and Berlin) up from two new markets this year (Chicago and Philadelphia).

“Startups hate job fairs,” Pertew said. “They are usually a waste of money and now only the very large companies spend any time on the job fair circuit. So it was a bit challenging at first to help them understand how successful they can be at Uncubed. But since it works, most come back, many return in a bigger way (like Tumblr, Spotify, Lot18, and others) and word continues to spread. Now we have dozens of companies on the waiting list.”

Uncubed’s NYC version also grew this year, adding a second day, with a third day planned to be added in 2013. Partew says each event seeks to enhance existing elements that are unique to the area. In LA, for example, Uncubed’s event will be at a Santa Monica beach house, where teams will break into a beach volleyball tournament complete with a Grindr after-party.

Past Uncubed event speakers have included Tumblr founder David Karp, OMGPOP co-founder Charles Forman, co-founder Scott Kurnit and NYC chief digital officer Rachel Haot.

Alison Sperling, director of marketing with Stack Overflow, said Stack Overflow participates in Uncubed for a few reasons: to support the startup community, for recruiting and to promote their developer hiring service Careers 2.0 to the high-quality employers and candidates that Uncubed gathers.

“Our company culture is very unique, and it’s awesome for us to be able to show that off at Uncubed,” she said. “For example, we have a catered hot lunch every day in our offices - today was pulled pork and mac n' cheese in New York City – so to be able to have snacks and drinks at our recruiting table goes a long way in demonstrating our culture to potential candidates.”

Her bottom line: “As a company competing for top-notch talent, our image as an employer is very important to us.”