From 0 to 1: Growing your startup team during the pandemic

The crisis may not immediately bring to mind growth, but many startups are looking diligently for new employees, especially in these challenging times. What challenges and solutions are there?

The success of almost any company is due in no small part to the team of people who bring their skills, ideas and energy to the table. Many startup success stories show that a smart, diverse team is a company's greatest asset. And so the team deserves extra attention during a recession. Certainly when it is also expanded under the special circumstances of the pandemic.

“We expect large customers, so we are already targeting that,” said Federico Spiezia, director and co-founder of Bittiq. Like many companies, his startup, which is developing an open finance platform, saw the market become restless, considered a pivot, but is still sailing strongly upwards within the set course. Several new employees were hired last year, but the most important challenge is familiar: software developers in particular are hard to find. Last year, about five positions were released for it. “We now work with freelancers as a solution, because we needed people quickly. But ultimately we would like to have those crucial specialisms internally.”

It touches on the importance of culture within a startup. Before starting recruiting, it is therefore necessary to understand what the culture of the company looks like and to define the main characteristics that employees must embody. The history of many successful startups shows that early employees have a major impact on success. The fact that the shortage on the labor market is currently decreasing does not mean that good matches need to be found more quickly. Characteristic of this time is that many people take a closer look at their current situation and come to the conclusion that they are ready for something different. Or by resignation. For example, the vacancy for Operations Manager for Bittiq received a lot of response, but no one was hired. There was no click. “It's a critical role in our business, so we'd rather be patient,” said the CEO. “It struck me that there were many seniors from corporates who wanted to work at a startup like ours. People who didn't know us before."

story teller
The success of the team during a crisis is also related to the strength of the leadership. In uncertain times, the role of founders is even more crucial than before. For example, a good storyteller is needed who can convey the company's vision to employees, investors and customers alike. Not to be confused with the need to be a world-renowned motivational speaker, states, among other things, venture capitalist Dan Connor† The crux, he says, is to seamlessly connect the future of the company, and everything it takes to grow, with its history and founding principles.

And above all to look ahead. Spiezia compares finding new colleagues with sales: “Instead of waiting for people to knock, we approach people we find interesting.” LinkedIn is the best place for that as far as he is concerned. Most find being approached by a founder no problem – an attitude that sometimes differs from recruiters. “I cannot emphasize it enough to address your network. Most of the people we eventually hire come from the network of Darren, Hidde and me (the three co-founders of Bittiq, ed.).”

In terms of recuitment, the challenges seem to be not too bad. Staying connected as a team while working remotely is a point of attention. Employees may feel disconnected from the ties in the company. At the beginning there were digital dinners, drinks and casual chats, but after the first corona wave, enthusiasm for this has diminished, Spiezia outlines. “The biggest challenge is trying to keep things spontaneous.”

This does not alter the fact that Spiezia has a positive view of this time. Working online also offers opportunities. For example, the pond for fishing is larger, which lowers the threshold. “For example, one of our new developers works from Turkey. It's easier to try new things. And that is what you want as a startup.”

Do you also want to start your own company? Come to our free webinar Meet Holland Startup† We are happy to tell you more about it.

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