Recently I commented on Lior Shamir's blog post The “Problem” with Startup Recruiting where he asks the question “why will the 20th talented person to join your startup join your startup?” -- especially given the rising competitiveness for startup talent and with companies like Google and Facebook vying for that same talent and corporate environments beginning to simulate startup perks. Lior's thesis borrowed from Peter Thiel is that “the 20th talented person will join your startup because your startup is working on an interesting and important problem.”
Keith Halperin responded with a comment, and closed by saying:IMHO, the sooner the folks that run/work for startups learn that:
(1) They aren’t on a “mission from God”- they won’t “change the world
(2) They’ll probably won’t”cash in” most don’t.
(3) Most people go to work to have a livelihood, not create a substitute family
(4) Working 80 hours /week gets old pretty fast,
I couldn't disagree more with the last paragraph of Keith’s comment. I should say “humbly” disagree because Keith is a master and someone I’ve gained a lot from thanks to his generous sharing of his knowledge in various places.
I disagree with Keith because I so passionately agree with you, Lior — and Peter Thiel for that matter. And Steve Jobs. There has to be a place for the crazy ones. Not every “crazy one” can start a company. Some will need to work for crazy startup founders, people audacious enough to think they are on “a mission from God” and that they are going to change the world. If I am not the crazy one starting a company, I want to be the crazy one helping to make the dream a reality, changing the world and if not the world — at least changing, disrupting SOMETHING — making SOMETHING better! There are people driven by this desire.
But not every person is meant to work at a startup and not every person with the makeup to work at a startup will be the right person for EVERY startup. Making the right match is critical — and this takes time, awareness, attention and skill. And the wisdom and humility to admit that you need help with this.
Where I do heartily agree with [thoughts shared earlier in Keith's comment] is that startups need to open up their thinking and step away from the startup employee clone machine. And this may involve openness to people over 30 or even 40 or 50, people with kids and others who don’t need to work 80 hours a week to provide incredible value. The key is not how many hours, but how much stamina, productivity and passion. You still want people for whom time seems to fly when they are working because they love the mission and the work.
I do agree that startup founders cannot afford to treat employees or potential hires as though they are doing them a favor. Appreciation is huge in maintaining customers and it is huge in maintaining good team members. I believe that the most successful companies will think that both are incredibly important and will take the necessary actions to demonstrate this.