The idea is a seed buried deeply within the heart and mind. It may be carried for a lifetime, never to germinate, to be reabsorbed into the cosmos.
Or, something happens outside. Maybe it’s a major epiphany or a series of interconnected events that brought with them sunlight, water and warm earth, cracking the seed to spring life forth.
Whatever the idea is, whatever problem it addresses, whatever new way to do something it brings, once it’s born it must fight like hell to stay alive. And the first steps in staying alive are capital and/or early beta customers (assuming we’re talking about software, which I am). I’ve out and about in the Bay Area a lot lately and there are startups sprouting up from Santa Cruz to Sausalito, but San Francisco is currently the germinating capital.
According to a recent San Jose Mercury News article, “In 2011, companies in San Francisco raised $2.87 billion in venture capital, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ MoneyTree report. Coming in a distant second in the Bay Area was much smaller Palo Alto with $1.3 billion. San Jose, a larger city, pulled in $784 million — a big improvement, by the way, for a city that has traditionally struggled to attract startups. Only New York City, where startups raised $2.03 billion in 2011, comes even close. According to PwC, San Francisco has led the world in venture capital since at least 2009.”
But a step was skipped, because unless this idea sprouts from someone who knows how to design and code (again assuming we’re talking about a software startup, which more than likely we are these days), employees need to be sourced, lured and “hired” — maybe with stock options and sweat equity or some overly competitive salary in a currently hyper-competitive market.
Maybe a chief technology officer (CTO) is hired, or a lead developer, and from there it’s a mix of brain, brawn, gut and experience to identify and assess who to hire next. Maybe assessments and other screening tests are using prior to making offers — “Can you code your way out of a paper bag? Right on. You’re hired.” Sure it’s more serious than that, more a combination of science and art, but no matter how it’s accomplished, identifying the skills and competencies needed to grow the new business venture is critical. And not just the skills, the entire living, breathing personality package the skills are wrapped in.
Hire them, and then continues the fighting like hell to stay alive and relevant, to stay in business, even though the race from earth to sun has only just begun. Allowing the employees to help till the business soil, and their own career development, to make what the business is all about their own, is smart organic fertilization.
Take Facebook, where every new programmer hire “begins the six-week journey of a new employee class in Facebook’s ‘Bootcamp,’ an experience shared by every engineering hire, whether they are a grizzled Silicon Valley veteran or a fresh-faced computer science grad. Since 2008, hundreds of Facebook’s engineers have passed through Bootcamp, which may lack the physical tests of military basic training but does provide the same kind of shared experience and cultural indoctrination into the world’s largest social network.”
Scaling from 10 to 10,000 employees is no easy trick, but identifying early on the talent needs that will help pollenate growth must be done. Then, documenting weekly/monthly continuous feedback/performance/career path loops, while regularly realigning with the talent needs, becomes even more important to survival. Weeds abound and will choke out any and all fledging growth, but once a business knows what to measure and why, and who they’re hiring and why, and who they’re developing and why, you just might be able to see their talent vitals future, the very life source of business.
Of course it helps that you have a product the marketplace wants and needs, but still.
A very special thank you to our #TChat Community – Last eve’s Twitter Chat was one to remember.