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Startup Health Litmus Test Questions for the Recruiter


I enjoy working with early-stage startups.  Some recruiters think I am crazy – the monetary compensation is not usually as high as corporate, I will often work deferred and on contingency, and the risk is great.  The searches are harder because you are looking for extreme talented people who are willing to step away from a lucrative job, bet on their ability to deliver, and work for a deferred or low initial cash compensation.  So why do I do it?  It’s FUN!  The right startup team will be comprised of very interesting, highly intelligent entrepreneurs and I love to see how they put the next best thing together.  And to build the initial team that may one day turn into the next big brand – priceless (almost!).

I have paid a heavy price from some of my earliest involvements with startups,  including extended placed contractor payroll dollars.  Also priceless – lost meals with family, missed child performances, missed paying business deals, stress, etc.  Startups are to a large extent art, and so is the decision to work with one.  I have started a list of considerations I run through now when approached by a startup to recruit.  I will share it here, and please – if you have some items or advice to add, let me know!

  • Company Viability Background
  • Value Statement – simple, clear?
  • When/Why Founded
  • Founders’ Background
    • Starts
    • Funding Connections and Experience
    • Successful exits
    • Expertise in current core industry/sector
    • Are Founders “in” 100%?  How long can they last?
  • Core Team in place?
  • Board Members
  • Competition Research
  • Current Funding Status
  • Possible exits – have they planned?
  • Early Adopters, Clients, Partners on board?
  • Software Build Framework:  Fast Engineering Iterations  (Agile)
  • User Testing – Perspective/Plan
  • Marketing Approach and Expertise
  • Experience Evaluation with other Recruiters
  • Corporate Structure?  Credit Ratings; Personal Guarantee of Financial Commitments
  • How consistent and transparent is their communication with ME?
    • Readily available by email, IM, and/or phone
    • Able to put agreements in writing and sign
    • Review and respond to candidate submissions in a timely manner
    • Give me multiple contacts, including CFO or other key finance person
    • Keep me updated on their funding progress and team changes
  • Is some payment in equity available?
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