Startup hiring: how a Pokémon got us a great hire!


Hiring in a startup is hard because:

  1. Startups are fragile, thus not providing the job security that many people strive for;
  2. Startups are frugal, thus unable to offer the cash that one might expect in a corporate; and
  3. There are not many stories out there about how other startups crack good hires.

Through this story, let’s move a step closer to fixing point #3 above.

We had hit the holy grail of achieving product-market fit (finally!) a few weeks previously, and the time to expand the team beyond just engineers had arrived. Till now, my co-founder Prasang and I were busy partnering with brands. Once we understood the complete process of getting a brand partner on board, we decided to clone ourselves and hire someone who could get more brand partners.

Image : Nintendo

When AngelList didn’t work

Like always, I went to AngelList and posted a job announcing that we were hiring a manager for partnerships at Horntell. Like always, I anticipated that inbox would flood with applications. Like always, there was no flood in my inbox. I soon realised that posting a job on AngelList and sharing it on my Facebook profile wouldn’t cut it — especially when the compensation mentioned in the job post was defined as a combination of just-decent cash and high equity.

I’ve personally believed that a good salesman is always a great storyteller. That night I couldn’t sleep and kept wondering how we could get such a storyteller to join our small team.

To be a seller, be a storyteller.

The light bulb

As I lay in my bed trying to sleep, my younger brother barged into my room yelling, “There’s a Pokémon in your room!”

With his mobile phone, he located a Pokémon near my bookshelf, threw some Pokéballs to catch it and yelled with joy, “Caught a Zubat!”

Immediately after, he left my room, leaving me dumbfounded. Besides astonishing me, his act also sparked a thought in my mind. To hire a storyteller, I needed to be a storyteller myself. And the hero of my story was to be a Pokémon!

The experiment

The next morning, I woke up early, rushed to my office, opened my laptop, and using the webcam, started recording a story — a story for storytellers to join us.

The video did what that job post on AngelList couldn’t. My friends forwarded the video to their friends, referrals started pouring in, and my inbox was soon flooded with applications of quite a handful of really good candidates.

My co-founder and I got busy talking to all of them on the phone and finally zeroed in on three candidates. We were to meet them face-to-face to finalise who our storyteller would be.

At the end of this experiment, the person who joined us on our journey was someone who had the following email signature at his previous company:

Why did he join us?

In our meeting at a coffee shop, I asked why he might be interested in joining Horntell. He said, “Your experiment shows I’ll be allowed to tinker around and do my own experiments. That’s the kind of place where I want my creativity to be nurtured.”

And that’s the kind of person we wanted to have with us. We sealed the deal right there with a handshake.

Now, with a team that’s growing ever stronger, we march forward to catch ’em all.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)