Team – How to attract superstars

Francis Pedraza – Team – How to attract superstars & build your winning startup. 

I had to realize early on, like, I actually realize this with that project I did in college because we had a team with some of my friends on this stuff and its one of the first management lessons I sort of like began to understand, I’m not sure I fully understand it but you can’t have one person infused everyone else with energy and like motivate everyone, it just doesn’t work.

I can’t be thinking about every single one of my team members and like, you know, make it my responsibility to pump them up.

I had this advisor, still have this advisor, who gave me this analogy of sailboats for submarines. Sailboats need wind in their sails, right? And if you’re the wind, you’re like blowing all the time to keep them going. Submarines, like basically, they are nuclear submarines, they just go. They just keep going. They don’t need to like refuel or anything, they just keep going. I guess the question was: What are you? A sailboat or a submarine? So you want to recruit submarines not sailboats.

I think that the hardest part in building a team is creating a critical mass of submarines. Because once you have a core unit of people who, it’s not chief and Indians, it’s not like you know, everyone, it’s not like the guru and the followers, No, everyone is a leader in that way, like everyone, the energy is coming from the inside, the passion is coming from the inside, and the motivation is coming from the inside from them. And the same way it’s for you, it’s from you and that, that’s what you call a founding team. Doesn’t necessarily mean everyone was there before the company was founded. You’re early team is so important to get right and if they are just in the employees mindset, you can’t do great things.

Marzena Kmiecik: How long did it take you to actually set it up to twelve people? You have twelve people on your team?

We have ten people and two interns. So how long did that take?. A long time.

So For the first six months we had five or six people and then we started to scale up and we probably had, we had about ten by September of 2012. That was like nine months in and we sort of kept that since then.

Marzena Kmiecik: What was the process to actually recruit them and hire them? Was there a process?

That was actually the hardest thing.

The reason why investors like to back founders who been in silicon valley for a long time or who already have successful companies, one of the reasons why, I mean its inherently on its face its derisk right but, because they know what they are doing on a lot of different fronts, but one of the things they get with that is You know who to hire, who to bring in. So, you just pick up the phone and call ten friends of yours. One is a designer, one is an engineer, one is a product manager and they’re all really great and you respect each other because you work together before and like you know they are submarines. Then you know, you have this team that is really excited about working together because everyone respect each other and knows that together this group of people can build something epic.

To start, I didn’t have that, so we had to go through a lot of turn. We had to make mistakes and we had to waste time. We had to waste time in the sense that, we had to hire people that didn’t work out and hiring decisions are some of the most expensive mistakes you can make.

Let’s just say it takes you three months to find someone and then hire them. Then three months after they’re hired to see if they are actually any good in meeting your expectations. If they’re not meeting your expectations, you don’t want to just be an asshole and just fire them, you sort of want to set them on a performance plan and see if they can get there. That takes another three months and if you fire them, that takes another three months to find a new person. So you’re a year later, stars do not have a year to do this. So, we try to move as quickly as possible and there was a lot of turn in the first nine months and basically since last September/October we have either, like basically it’s been the same people.

Marzena Kmiecik:  So what is the advice for somebody who is entering into a new market with no connections? Where do they go, who do they speak to? Should they seek out specific people through networks and through community, I mean what would be your advice in cost?

Let me just add one thing to my last comment which is that over time their compounding benefits to working with the same people. It’s like once you have the same core group in place they get better and better and better and better at working with each other. Like little process improvements, trust, like all these things kick in and create this energy that’s really powerful.  It very hard to force that.

So to your question, somebody who’s moving into a new industry? Let’s say I’ve got a friend who runs two very successful insurance start ups. Like very successful. I don’t think they knew a thing about insurance before starting either of these companies. One is weather insurance related and one is car insurance related and I think he has a remarkable ability to find, to hunt. Hunting, hunting is really really important as a skill. The art of like, it’s part of the art of sales. The art of recruiting a person, the art of finding that investor, the art of finding that customer or that person within some huge brand right. That is like the person that you need. Because you can spend your

Let’s just say you’re persuasive right. Let’s just say you have a reality distortion field and you can like use your mind power to persuade someone. To focus all your energy on someone, like there is a chance that you can get them to do something. You can waste that on so many wrong people. So finding that one person who is most likely to be the right person for you, that one investor is most likely to understand what the hell it is you’re doing and why it’s valuable, why it could be big. That one guy. There is a sea of people, yeah. That’s art. That one data scientist who’s  at that random research university in Ohio, who has been obsessing about this for ten years and you’re on the internet at four in the morning and you see this guy posting on some random forum and you’re

Who is this person?  This is like some obscure professor or something but this guy is like, this is all he thinks about. I need that guy, I need to get him on a plane, I need to go and meet him. I need to open his eyes… I MEAN BOOM.  That is powerful. I haven’t done that but I’m feeling this guy has.

Marzena Kmiecik:  You think he’s resourceful?

I think artful design of a team that is handpicked and he’s just really good at hiring people that are smarter than each other and again that has compounding benefits. Cause when you walked into a company like that, now when they recruit they are hiring super smart graduates of PHD’s or whatever. They walk in the office and it’s like one all stars after another, after another, and it’s like, “I want to work here”,  “Just pay me nothing, I wanna learn”. That’s the power of people. Some people are just so actualize it’s almost glorious. It’s like oh my God. You know, like the statue of David for scientist. Your mind is beautiful, like I’m a scientist. That sort of connection, that’s so powerful.

Partly why Google and Apple and all these companies are so focused on, recruiting is the engine. They Just gobble up all the talent, they have a monopoly on talent.