The Healthcare.gov Website & Why Startups Need Top Talent

The Healthcare.gov Website & Why Startups Need Top Talent

Why Startups Need Top Talent

Why Startups Need Top Talent

Healthcare.gov just missed another deadline. The administration set its own deadline of November 30th to get the troubled website fully operational but it is now obvious that even that was too ambitious. Since the October 1 launch the site has been plagued with outages, account creation failures, bad information returned to users and incomplete information sent to insurance companies. After a series of Congressional hearings, the federal government has hired top tech talent to try to patch the system together in what they call a “tech surge,” to borrow military terminology. It’s still unclear exactly what went wrong but there were several problems that experienced tech talent could have seen coming a mile away, such as:

  • Inadequate testing IT execs told Congress they didn’t have enough time to test the system before launch. They ended up beta testing, sometimes alpha testing, the software on the general public. They insist that it wasn’t their call to stick to the launch date but there was no explanation why testing wasn’t done earlier.
  • No backups or monitoring tools It’s not that uncommon for a business to go live once with software that has no backups and no monitoring tools to see how it’s doing. Only once, because either they learn their lesson the hard way or they are out of business. Essentially it amounts to closing your eyes and hoping it works. Monitoring tools have just been added now and backups are in the works.
  • Virtual servers Accessing unused space to run low priority programs whenever system resources become available is efficient. Depending on that for mission critical services with vast amounts of traffic is an amateur move. Dedicated servers, storage and databases are now being added. Deploying cloud services correctly takes highly skilled and experienced talent.

Politcal analyst Andrew Sprung spoke for many who now believe that Healthcare.gov could actually become obsolete before it becomes fully operational. “Purely informational comparison shop sites ValuePenguin and HealthSherpa provide all the information that’s supposed to be available on HealthCare.gov,” he pointed out on Xpostfactoid. Naturally, this begs the question, “Who built those sites and why weren’t they hired in the first place?”

There’s no question the healthcare exchange was an enormous undertaking and there were bound to be complications. Perhaps the government did the best they could given 55 independent contractors trying to coordinate 112 complex systems spread out across the country. The fact is though, that Google and Yahoo also operate vast and complex system with huge spikes in traffic and they deliver it around the world for free everyday.

What makes the difference? Top talent. Tech giants like Google and Yahoo can afford to offer the best salaries and perks to attract the best programmers and executives from around the world. Princeton University recently incorporated into their tech courses a white paper called, The Talent Wars: Today’s Toughest Startup Challenge. The takeaway from the study was that top talent are absolutely essential for launching and maintaining new ventures. The paper clearly states the critical nature of the issue; “For startups, winning the talent wars may not be easy, but it isn’t optional either.”

Something good may yet come of this debacle, as long as tech startups study the failures here and recognize why having exceptional people and experienced management is so important. As the old saying goes, “The fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”

Millennium Search is an executive search firm helping emerging startups and technology companies find and secure top talent for their executive, technical, marketing and sales teams. With a broad network of VC relationships, an extensive pool of talent and a veteran recruiting team, Millennium Search consistently creates results that outperform the competition, from the C-Level down to individual contributor roles. To learn more about our executive recruiting solutions, contact us today!

The Series A Crunch and Startup Hiring

The Series A Crunch and Startup Hiring

Startup Hiring

Startup Hiring

In 2012, early stage companies, investors and analysts began to take note of a slowdown in Series A financing for companies in the technology space, particularly for early stage companies with a consumer internet focus. With less A-round dealflow continuing throughout 2013, speculation continues about this pattern being due to shifting preferences by investors. More conservative opinions suggest that, because seed capital is so much more accessible, the volume of seed funded companies is on the rise, while the number of firms providing Series A funding remains constant, resulting in the number of Series A funded companies remaining fairly static. And with the emergence of newer options for seed funding like Kickstarter, the recent loosening of fundraising laws and the soon to be legal crowdfunding options, the number of seed funded companies is sure to increase. But like all situations, the cause of the crunch is most likely a mixture of many aspects, both known and unknown.

Regardless, the data tends to point towards a sustainable level of seed fundings but a flat level of Series A dealflow for today’s high-tech startups. The impact on these companies is felt in many ways, and most certainly impacts their ability to acquire talent. Seed round funding typically goes towards product development, early customer/user acquisition, marketing, and compensation for the initial startup crew. Series A funding tends to become a possibility when the concept is proven, revenue or traction is established, and the company appears to not only be sustainable, but presents the opportunity for growth with the right resources. Once these companies acquire their Series A, they go into expansion mode, which equates to startup hiring. Thus there is a huge impact that a decreased availability of Series A funding has on a startup’s ability to hire, let alone attract and acquire the top talent they desperately need. In turn, this hampers their ability to begin scaling the organization and take growth to the next level.

What should early stage startups do to wade through the tightening Series A funnel? Amish Shah, CEO of Millenium Search and Managing Partner at Sierra Maya Ventures, weighs in with some advice for these companies:

1) Focus on Revenue: “Today’s early stage technology startup needs to develop a strong revenue model early on. The freemium model sounds great, but to move towards the next level, you need to begin earning, grow your customer or user base, and create a strong proof of concept for revenue and profitability. Furthermore, the early generation of revenue can help prolong your need for the next level of funding, which can give you more time to wait, along with more leverage in negotiations.” That is not to say that companies, such as Twitter, can’t become successful despite this advice, but then again, most companies are not Twitter.

2) Run Your Company Lean: “Nothing new here, but it’s a good reminder. Prioritize your needs, and solidify the basics to launch and operate. And don’t pay for premium when you can get it for free or little to nothing, unless it’s really important. And no, not everything you want is important. You wage wars with the army you have, and not with the one you want.”

3) Unify Your Current Staff: “Make sure that your current team falls in line behind you (the founder), your vision and your passion. Conversation and debate is important during development, but at this stage, every person and every resource must be working towards a singular objective. There must be cooperation and singularity.”

4) Get to Know Your Future Funders: “You may not be looking for funding now, but for most companies, the need to pursue Series A is inevitable. And naturally, the people who can give you the best advice and criticism on getting successfully funded are in fact the people who will be potentially funding you. So go network, find ways to meet these investors, get to know them and get solid advice directly from the source.”

Millennium Search is an executive search partner to emerging startups and high growth technology companies. We help our clients achieve growth and success by creating relationships between the right companies and the right talent. To learn more about how we can help your startup, contact us today!

Happy 4th of July: Startup Lessons From Our Nation’s Independence Day

Happy 4th of July: Startup Lessons From Our Nation’s Independence Day

Startup Lessons

Startup Lessons

For me, the 4th of July is a day that not only celebrates our nation’s independence, but reminds me that it is a privilege to think freely, to pursue our dreams and passions with dedication, and to fight for the things that we want in life. And as I spent time reflecting on the upcoming holiday, I couldn’t help but think that, for a startup, there is much to relate to from our country’s pursuit of its independence. After all, The United States’ first startup is arguably The United States itself. A lot of hard work went into the creation of this nation, and few things were easy, which is something that our founders, soldiers and citizens knew well. Yet here we stand, 237 years later. And if we take a few pages out of the founding fathers’ book, we notice some important principles that contributed to their success that can be applied to our own endeavours.

You Need Your Top Talent

I mean, come on! We certainly had some rock stars involved in this startup. Most obvious is Benjamin Franklin, the renaissance man of his day. He was a writer, politician, scientist, artist, musician and more, and is often thought of as the defining persona of American culture and society. Before there was Broseph, there was Brojamin.

And the list doesn’t stop there. John Adams was a practicing lawyer, author, political activist and well known Massachusetts delegate to the 1st and 2nd Continental Congress. Thomas Jefferson was a well educated colonial lawyer and a representative in the House of Burgesses. James Madison graduated from the College of New Jersey, now Princeton, in only two years, and continued to study with the college president after graduating. George Washington was a recognized senior officer during the French & Indian War before the American Revolution.

Before they were the founding fathers, they were already prominent, educated and talented individuals in their fields. Their ideas and opinions carried weight among the colonies. And yes, they still hit roadblocks throughout the struggle for independence, but they were prepared to handle what came their way.

You’ve Got to Get Your Pitch Right

Jefferson spent two and a half weeks writing draft after draft of the Declaration of Independence. He would rise early for breakfast and tea, and then sit at his desk and toil away, tearing up draft after draft, toying with ideas, changing the wording and crossing out entire sections. When he finally presented his work to Franklin and Adams, even more changes were made, and several ideas were disputed. The Continental Congress cut roughly a quarter of the content from the document before it was finalizing.

This just goes to show you how important it really is to get your pitch right. Presenting the right ideas in the right words in the right way can go a long way. The Declaration of Independence was a fundamental document for the founders’ pursuits, and is, afterall, now one of the most important documents in United States’ history.

To be fair, this might not have gone as well on PowerPoint.

Passion is Critical

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

If that’s not passion, I don’t know what is.

You Have A Lot of Hard Work Ahead, But It’s Worth it.

The fighting began at Lexington and Concord in April of 1775, leading to a full scale war for independence by the following year. During that time, the colonies experienced hardship and strife, with gruesome battles, harsh conditions and the loss of significant life. It wasn’t until 1779 that The United States of America effectively won their independence, with fights continuing well into the 1780s.

We do not endure the hardships of such a time, but there is something to be learned from the hard work and dedication of these men. Thomas Paine, in his pamphlet series, ‘The American Crisis’ wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls; the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

So become inspired while enjoying a great 4th of July and holiday weekend! And make sure you bring the good beer. Hey, there’s a reason they kept Samuel Adams around. We hope you got some valuable advice from our startup lessons!

#merica

Can Other Cities Really Jump On the Silicon Valley Train?

Can Other Cities Really Jump On the Silicon Valley Train?

Silicon Valley

The business world as we know it has been evolving and changing over time. Since the boom of startups such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Tumbler, startup companies around the world have been on the rise. People are moving away from the traditional 9 to 5 job for the excitement of entreprenuership, the pursuit of their dreams and the creation of their own companies. And who can blame them? After watching the continued success of startup companies in the United States, the startup trend is spreading globally, with other countries looking to Silicon Valley as their model and direct competition.

Some places are going to extremes in order to lure startups away from Silicon Valley and into their own cities. Most notably in recent news, Canada has put up a billboard on a Northern California freeway that reads; “Pivot to Canada.”  They have also implemented their own startup visa that allots permanent residency to entrepreneurs who can raise enough venture capital to begin a Canadian business. Canada’s startup visa is easier to acquire and retain than visa options in the United States. This tactic makes it simpler for foreigners to launch their startup in Canada versus Silicon Valley. Canada can also boast a more affordable location.

Startup scenes are growing out of Accelerators/Incubators in Chili to other major cities throughout South America, Europe, Asia and beyond, making it a global game. Places such as London, Tel Aviv, New York, Beijing, and Berlin are quickly becoming serious competition for Silicon Valley. Even smaller cities within the United States are striving to make their mark on the map. St. Louis, Missouri just revealed a $100 million dollar plan to make their city the next startup hub. Like many other cities they have all the space and means to support startups; they just need the right talent.

So how do these business-friendly, lower cost alternative locations for startups impact Silicon Valley? Although running a business in Silicon Valley can be more challenging, the networking opportunities are unrivaled. This is where the Venture Capitalists are looking to invest, and where the greatest of innovators can be found. Silicon Valley is to the high-tech community as Hollywood is to the movie industry. With all of that talent and opportunity in one spot, it becomes much easier to connect with the people that can turn your pitch into reality. While there may be more affordable places to do business, it can hard to beat the face-to-face interaction at the coffee shop for getting your next big break.

As time moves on, we will certainly see a rise in startup hubs outside of the Bay Area. We may see an even tighter market for talent in Silicon Valley. But can the rest of the world replace the networks of venture capitalists, advisors, former founders, incubators and accelorators that make the Bay Area so reknowned for today’s startup?

A Startup Employee’s Best Life Hack? Get Some Sleep!

A Startup Employee’s Best Life Hack? Get Some Sleep!

Startup Employee's Best Life Hack

Startup Employee’s Best Life Hack

For today’s entrepreneur, the common life and work hacking strategy can be a lifesaver and a productivity blessing. Ideas for optimizing life and productivity range from ever so simple tweaks like eating breakfast and getting up earlier in the morning, to more radical ideas like creating a schedule for when to look away from the computer monitor. (Every 34 minutes; It’s true, we know a guy…)

For founders and startup employees alike, pushing the limits of productivity is often essential. In the early stages of a startup company, pivots occur often, and must be executed quickly. These conditions can at times push startup employees to their limits. The emergence of life hacking and work hacking in the 80’s led to the creation of simple and straightforward ways to optimize our lives, both in and out of work in order to push ourselves further. I myself live by quite a few of them nowadays, and have seen the benefits (when I stick with them) in my daily life. And if you implement only one hack in your life, it should be this: GET SOME SLEEP!

“Sleep? While working at a startup, you say?” I know, what an absurd statement. I should be run out the door for even suggesting it. Yet no matter how you live your waking life, it will always be a product of how you  sleep. And yes, at crunch time, we all have to pull the overnighters and hammer through pivots and projects. But that should necessitate regular healthy sleep habits among startup employees and founders even more.

Life Hacking? Consider the following:

Memory, Learning, and Retention

Research indicates that sleep deprivation limits your ability to learn and retain information, and that several different types of memories are consolidated throughout multiple stages of the sleep cycle. Why play memory games when you can just go pass out? http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/learning-memory

Creativity and Problem Solving

A recent study offered a more concrete basis around the impact of sleep on problem solving, creativity, and our ability to restructure information. Subjects were placed in groups that either allowed a full night sleep, a specified waking period, or were made to stay awake all night, and were then given a complex number problem to solve. Individuals who received 8 hours of sleep at night were found to be 3 times more likely to solve the assigned problem. Finding yourself stuck on the same problem over and over? Sleep on it! http://rense.com/general48/creat.htm

Sleep, Stress and Sleep

The connections between poor sleep and higher stress levels are probably pretty obvious to you. If you have ever had an unrestful night, you have likely felt elevated levels of stress the following day. And of course, studies have emerged showing that sleep and stress levels are interconnected, with each causing and leading to the other in both directions. Furthermore, studies have shown that poor sleep leads to higher cortisol levels, the hormone that relates to stress levels, as well as vise versa. Aggressive funding or project goals got you feeling anxious? Perhaps a pivot to your bed is in order.

The benefits of quality sleep go on and on, and can be easily applied to today’s startup employee, nevermind the average individual. This leads to an even more important question: How do I increase the quality of my sleep? Enter the common life hacks. Whether it’s going to bed and waking at the same time each day, turning off your phone, computer and televisions two hours before bed, making your bed in the morning, or facing your clock away from you during the night, you will see a benefit from anything that promotes healthy, natural and undisturbed sleep.

The average person can probably afford to deviate from a good night’s sleep, but for the startup employee, consistent and quality sleep is the mother of all life hacks. Eventually, you will probably find yourself pulling the common all-nighters, but until then, do whatever you can to get your eight hours in. Your startup depends on it!

The Value of a Recruiter… I Mean, Besides Recruiting.

The Value of a Recruiter… I Mean, Besides Recruiting.

Value of a Recruiter

Value of a Recruiter

Executive Recruiters are a valuable resource for today’s startup. With the level of startup competition and the demand for today’s top performers, getting the right recruiter on your side can make a huge impact. But many startups do not leverage all that they can from their recruiting partners. Because of the nature of their work, a recruiter’s value goes much further than acquiring talent, as important as that is. In fact, working with the right recruiter can open the door to a wealth of information, years of experience and observation, and a vast network that reaches beyond potential employees.

So what can recruiters do? You know, I mean besides recruiting?

Recruiters Are A Source of Market Intelligence

Every month, executive recruiters speak with hundreds of professionals, from prospects and candidates, to founders, managers and HR professionals. Recruiters are constantly collecting data, adjusting their search parameters, and analyzing conditions in an effort to find the right people for clients. They are at the front lines, keeping an ear out for the word on the street. The resulting information is extremely valuable for effective recruiters, and helps them advise clients, manage expectations, and present realistic options. But its value also extends beyond talent acquisition.

So what kind of data can a recruiter provide? Salary data, of course, but we also collect data points around the market supply and demand for talent. Along with this information, recruiters keep their fingers on the pulse of the industry, and keep a close eye on the emergence of new sectors and the decline of established ones. They stay up to date on new technologies and innovations in an effort to determine their impact on their clients. And let’s not forget the information collected around fund raising and investing. Top talent will demonstrate an interest in this type of information when considering opportunities, making it necessary information for recruiters to collect. The application of this data can be broad, impactful and valuable to today’s startups.

Recruiters Can Advise on Business Planning and Scaling

Along with the collection of this data, startup focused recruiters have worked with companies from their very beginnings, and have seen them grow from conception to profitability. They have also seen them make mistakes, fail to act, and ultimately fizzle out and die. Some companies have tried to scale too fast, and others did not try fast enough. There are hundreds of factors that come into play when building and growing an emerging company, and a thousand mistakes that can cause that company to fail. Startup focused recruiters have been integrated into the strategies of these companies, and have a unique perspective to offer these organizations on what works, what doesn’t and what can make or break a startup.

What can recruiters advise your company on? They can help you organize your team efficiently. They can help you create and define new roles within your company, and give you realistic expectations. They can advise you on scaling your company, and help you determine what you really need at a given time. And beyond building your team, recruiters can offer experience-backed advice on product development, attracting funding, branding your startup, and so on. Search professionals can do this because the acquisition of top talent so often requires significant integration with companies with which they partner, and have been privy to the actions, successes and challenges across multiple organizations.

Recruiters Maintain a Vast Network Beyond Top Talent

Recruiters connect the right people with the right people for a living. Yes, they have an extensive network of top talent across several industries, sectors and geographies, and they utilize this network to get clients the right person for the job. But their conversations are far from limited to just potential candidates. When recruiting top talent, you talk to people to find people. You speak with founders, investors, advisors, analysts, managers, HR pros, and the list goes on. These relationships are a valuable asset to search firms, and are essential to keeping their candidate network up to date.

I don’t think I need to explain the value of these relationships. For starters, I have never met a startup who wasn’t concerned about funding early on. So any VC or investor relationship is of high value. Startups also spend a great deal of time locating advisors with the right backgrounds, expertise and experience. And of course, they have a great network of top talent. You know, just in case you are hiring and were curious about the value of a recruiter.

The Millennium Search team is a diverse group of seasoned executive recruiters. With a focus on technology recruiting, our team has worked with hundreds of successful startups, and has witnessed both successes and failures in the technology industry. We help top startups with VC backing find the talent they need, serving them as a trusted partner in both recruiting and growth. Speak with us today about your needs, whether recruiting or otherwise!

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