(subtitle: Start-ups’ Biggest Hurdle = Recruiting Tech Talent)
For a start-up, finding good tech talent is tough. It’s a near universal problem these days, but nowhere is it worse than at MBA programs. A school of 1000-2000 ambitious, enterprising, idea generating machines without skills to execute on them.
Sitting in positions both as a VC and club president in the start-up space, I get asked the question every day: ‘do you know someone who knows x coding language?’ or ‘ where are tech people hiding?’ or ‘I’m outsourcing my coding to x foreign country, think it’s a good idea?’.
(NOTE: I did this Prezi along this topic. High level, but prettier than a blog post)
Just to offer a couple thoughts:
1) Don’t outsource your core tech to a development house, aboard, anything… I know it is tempting due to the cost differences, not having to give up equity, etc. If you don’t have someone with the same motivations as you, the road ahead is going to be very tough. Sure, outsourcing non-vital parts can be fine, and outsourcing pieces of the core managed by a local CTO on your team is a doable option.
2) Prepare for meetings with tech talent by knowing (at least roughly) what you need. Research or talk to friendly tech savvy people that can help you determine what skills are required. That being said, be open to their suggestions, even ask how they would solve a particular problem that you already have a decent answer for – see what they come up with. These meetings show that you are serious and practical about how to make your idea come to fruition. Wireframes & tangible examples go a long way!
3) Know your approach. One of the common failings (esp. of MBAs) is in the way they interact with potential tech talent. Treat them like second class citizens, they won’t help you (and rightly so). Even if you perceive they my need you, they may not realize it yet. And you definitely need them. Treat them with respect, a future partner, and if they can’t help, maybe they know someone. See this blog curated by CS undergrads sick of their treatment by Wharton Undergrads and MBAs alike:
– DON’T be a Whartonite Seeking a Code Monkey!
– Also some great commentary found on friends’ blogs: start here
4) Know where to look. Go to events like: (sorry, regionally & school focused)
- Startup Weekend
- NY Hack Days / TechCrunch Hack-a-thon
- Drexel entrepreneurship sessions
- Philly Tech Meetup
- Philly Startup Leaders
- Technically Philly
- PennApps hackathon
- Sign up for PennLaunch
- Weiss Tech House: Pennovation
- (tell me what I am forgetting off the top of my head)
5) Get your hands dirty! As much as it is a scarce resource, coding is actually not that hard to pick up. The basics of most languages are simple. Elegant and fast coding is much more of an art that you master over time with experience. Showing that you are willing to help, feel their pain and understand the hurdles they might hit goes a long way. Start Hacking!
I’ve always loved to tinker. I was a fairly imaginative kid and use to build Rube Goldberg-esc machines as a kid for fun. As an undergrad at MIT, I would get together with a group of friends to discuss business ideas. We called ourselves the ‘breadwinners club’ (who knows if there was some subconscious chauvinism in that, but I assure you, none was intended) and considered many concepts: mobile payments platform, couponing website, location services, etc.
We settled on an idea I had to deliver audio versions of print and digital articles based on a user’s preferences (think customized podcasts + content search + TTS engine). We made some decent traction, were trying to raise a round but ended up folding the business after about a year. Biggest regret, letting go of that team (Neal, Chris, Jason, Greg) – they were awesome.
I then sold my soul and went into strategy consulting. Actually, very much enjoyed it – worked on exciting projects for big corporations. 5 years in, everything was going perfectly: good exposure to clients, rapid promotions, great teams… But had the entrepreneurial itch and had to scratch or I would forever wonder.
(Silicon Valley will laugh at this next comment, saying it proves I’ve abandoned my west coast roots and become a true east-coaster) …so I went to business school at Wharton. Honestly, having been through a year, I disagree with all the web chatter about the ‘uselessness’ of an MBA for an entrepreneur (future post?). I had my heavy doubts, esp. about cost, but it’s been an awesome experience. The speed of which I have been able to make solid connections to heavy hitters has been amplified by my involvement with the school and my classmates.
I wasn’t perfect, but most of my efforts were motivated by my potential goals (join a hot startup, start another company, or join a VC firm): became an officer in the venture capital club, entrepreneurship club, founders’ club; competed in the VCIC, SVCIC (went to international finals in both); worked sourcing deals for a West-Coast VC fund (Foundation Capital). I’ve spent my first months as Co-Pres of the eClub trying to link the various resources and communities in and around the UPenn campus and accelerate the start-up activity.
The summer posed a difficult choice, but ultimately decided to take a VC job at Genacast Ventures and hack away at night on my current business ideas. Still unsure which side of the table I’ll be on upon graduation…stay tuned!
Another general topic that I have even less qualifications to speak authoritatively on…
Ok, who doesn’t like the movies?
That being said, I try to stay away from the mainstream blockbusters, which, although I find to be exciting and visceral, seem generally void of any real emotional connection. I tend to be drawn to foreign, independent and documentary films that don’t just tell you a story about characters & events, but slowly put you in uncomfortable & unfamiliar shoes.
Especially after graduating (correction: surviving) undergrad, I sunk my teeth into as many foreign films as I could get my hands on. Being a consultant – the only time I had to spare was on countless flights where I was looking to unwind.
An avid Netflix user & evangelist (shout out to my buddies at Foundation Capital who were early investors) with about 2,000 movies watched & rated, I’ve doled out one too many recommendations to family and friends to add to their queue.
As you’ll see in following posts, I consider film a passion of mine and love to help others discover and experience new favorites. I start by posting some of my favorite movies, but please don’t hesitate to recommend me some in return!
Like many self-proclaimed foodies – I enjoy a good meal…
Only slightly more compelling, while working in San Diego during college, I finagled my way into a role as a professional food critic. A tricky proposition when I was not legally able to drink…
Originally, my love for food spawned from my parents, both well respected in the kitchen. They had started a small catering business to help them through their graduate studies, and never stopped refining their craft. Dad still spends a couple hours a day in the kitchen and is a long-standing member and past-president of the San Diego Wine and Food Society. He never fails to entertain guests with a multi-course meal, menu and all. Mom has always been the unsung hero with quite a few specialties of her own, yet not as mindful of the fanfare.
- Panko-crusted abalone with a mango buerre blanc
- Hand-made butternut squash, sage and amaretto pasta
- Petit Filet Mignon stuffed with fresh basil & garlic
- Apple-butternut squash tom kah gai soup
- Blackberry and anise sorbet
All that being said, admittedly, I am no expert – please feel free to point out any inaccuracies found on my site. Regardless, I hope this section gives you some ideas and inspires you to try something new or give me suggestions!
Caption note: (Lame pic was both from a time when I had more (and cooler) hair and when I was building my own restaurant review website in San Diego, the others are my parents)