Startups face a myriad of challenges as they evolve from concept to validation, launch to revenue generation. None of these stages is easy. All require effort, perseverance, and talent. Attracting and retaining top talent is not a number one priority when held up against other pressing issues such as product development and, in some cases, attracting capital.
But when they are ready, startups have to vie for talent in a tight market. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for IT professionals is in the low single digits. Projections indicate that by 2016, the increase in technical hiring will more than double the growth rate of all other occupations. In this hyper-competitive market where the competition is large, established corporations that can afford to extend attractive compensation packages and startups with personnel needs face an uphill climb.
In this red-hot labor market, wise startups realize that it’s not always about cash. Instead, offering a unique culture and creative perks can be just as compelling. It also helps to recruit in places that others do not.
MailChimp CEO Ben Chestnut knows firsthand how hard it is to attract talent, but it’s not because Atlanta is a barren wasteland. He uses the fact that Atlanta is a top market in the region to his advantage. “It’s very much a ‘leave no stone unturned’ approach we take, and I’d add that we tend to look under really weird stones. It helps a ton to be in Atlanta, because we’re an attractive city for talent in surrounding areas to move to.”
Soletron CEO A.J. Steigman, an Emory graduate, uses being in Atlanta, and connections with the local universities to his advantage. “The business conditions in the city are superb for startups,” says Steigman. “The positive business environment plus the ability to recruit top notch talent from local universities were the primary reasons for us getting our Buckhead office.”
Startups know there are intangibles that come into play when trying to attract talent. Founders and CEO’s alike find themselves having to sell their vision to potential employees. This is difficult in the earlier stages of a startup’s life but does get increasingly easier as it gains traction. Consistency and clarity of vision is key.
“Our sell is always the same,” offers up Michael Tavani, co-founder of Scoutmob. ”We have a huge and unique opportunity to do something magical that’s never been done before and doesn’t happen much, if ever, out of Atlanta.”
Scoutmob is one of the few business-to-consumer startups showing traction in a town known more for successes among business-to-business startups.
Unique perks go a long way toward attracting Millennial and Gen Z candidates who make up much of Scoutmob’s employee base. Located in the hip Krog Street area, this is Tavani’s description of the “vibe” at Scoutmob: “a casual environment, no set hours or vacation policy and working with a bunch of people that are determined to create something delightful that millions of people will use.”