Dharmesh Shah

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Startup Hiring: An Entrepreneur Disagrees With Entrepreneur Magazine

By Dharmesh Shah on July 14, 2008

I recently came across an article in Entrepreneur magazine that talks about startup hiring mistakes.  I don't know Brad Sugars (the author), but he's a columnist at Entrepreneur magazine and has written 14 books.  Though I'm impressed by the fact that he's a published author, I disagree with several points from the article. 

I also was a bit put-off by the statement "the good thing is that there are some hard and fast rules startups should follow".  I may not know a lot about startups, but one thing I do know is that there are very few "hard and fast" rules.  And, those rules that are hard and fast are rarely interesting enough to talk about.

So, here are my tips for startup hiring startups.  In some instances, these conflict directly with the Entrepreneur article -- in others, they're just different.

1.  Don't Hire Based Solely On Intelligence/Brilliance:  You interview the candidate and she has a PhD from MIT and is off-the-charts smart.  That's great.  Intelligence is an important factor in recruiting for most startups.  But, hiring just on intelligence is usually a mistake.  You need at least two more things:  A passion for getting things done and cohesion with your culture.  (That's a fancy way of saying that they agree with what you stand for and "fit in").

2.  It's Ok To Hire The Inexperienced:  If you find super-smart people that fit the culture and are able to get things done they may be a great recruit -- even if they lack experience.  At my startup HubSpot, we call this hiring people that "haven't seen the movie before" (this is our way of saying:  They don't have experience in the specific role/function).  We've had great success with this. 

3.  It's ok to hire for an undefined role:  In an ideal world, you have a nice clear job description and a role in mind for the person you're trying to hire.  And, your network is so strong and your luck so good that precisely the perfect candidates start dropping into your lap just as you need them.  Unfortunately, most startups are not so lucky.  Sometimes you get the wrong people for the right role (the one you're recruiting for).  Other times, you get the absolute "right" people, but just have no current openings.  Sometimes, it's ok to hire these "superstars" even though they may not fit the job description you are hiring for.

4.  It's Ok To Recruit For The Job You Hate:  You might be good at a lot of things (developing code, designing things, selling, accounting, etc.).  But chances are, you may dislike some of these activities even though you could be good at them.  The good news is that there are smart people out there who love the very stuff you hate.  There's nothing wrong with recruiting people for stuff you're either bad at or just plain don't like to do.

If you're interested in more tips on startup hiring, I kind of like some of my points in "5 Quick Pointers On Startup Hiring".

Topics: hiring
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We Love To Hate Microsoft But What About Apple?

By Dharmesh Shah on July 9, 2008

The reasons so many people hate (or intensely dislike) Microsoft are plentiful and for the most part, pretty easy to understand.  If you were to ask around, reasons cited would centralize around too much power, lack of innovation, stifling creativity, being "closed" and generally products that on average, fail to delight customers.  If you're one of those that hates Microsoft, I'm sure you have your reasons.  Many of us love to hate Microsoft.

And, of course, lots of us love Apple.  We love Apple in that sheepishly adoring way that causes us to want to run our fingers lovingly over our favorite Apple product when nobody is looking just because it makes us happy.  Happy in a good way, and not in that weird, twisted kind of way.  It's an innocent love.  All sunshine and daffodils. 

But, I'm going to argue that though we will likely continue to love Apple for a while, there may come a day we hate doing so. 

Why might we hate to love Apple someday?

One simple, fundamental reason:  Apple cares too much about customers, and the customer experience -- and not much about the community.  Apple has become a benevolent dictator.  They'll invest lots of time, energy and money making their products great and their customers "happy".  But, at their core, they want it to be them that delivers that happiness -- not someone else.  Third-party developers are a necessary evil.

There's a reason for this:  Apple (rightly) thinks that a phenomenal experience is created by closed, proprietary systems by companies that control the boundaries and edges of product design. 

Great experiences are created when the experience designer can dictate and control as much as possible.  The iPod would not have been great if the hardware were designed by one company, the device software by another, applications by another, etc.  The iPod was exceptionally great because Apple controlled it all.

This is why the original Apple computers had such a better experience than the IBM PC.  On the IBM PC platform different companies built the hardware, OS, apps, devices, etc.  Lots of creativity -- but understandably, lots of crap.  And lots of complexity for the user/customer.

So, Apple likes control.  But this advantage of control only goes so far.  Eventually, users will come to value something more than the delightful experience.  Might be performance of an individual component (larger storage), lower price, wider selection of add-ons, etc.  (Maybe even replaceable batteries, less confining DRM, etc.)

Now, thanks to Apple, millions of consumers are enjoying technology like digital music that would likely not have done so without Apple's fanatical focus on solving for ease-of-use and experience.  But, now that we're there, will our love of Apple endure? 

And, if we do continue to love Apple, will we hate ourselves for doing so someday?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

The insight for startups?  Some of the biggest innovations and market successes come from companies that are total control-freaks and fanatically focused on solving the problem.  Often, the problem is best solved by an uncompromising purity of approach.  

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