4 Favorite Talent-Themed Moments from Launch Scale

Launch Scale is a fascinating conference. The brainchild of Jason Calacanis, the LAUNCH franchise exists to ‘support founders and inspire innovation’, and there was plenty of inspiration on tap on day one of this two-day event for startups in San Francisco.

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I attended several of the sessions yesterday and was struck by how often talent and hiring came up as a topic. Four of the most memorable instances:

1) Tony Hsieh on org structures and culture. Zappos culture has been in the press a fair amount over the last several months due to the company’s focus on ‘holacracy’, which involves ditching conventional hierarchical org structures in order to let innovation thrive.

The CEO of Zappos talked eloquently and at length on the topic of people management, stating that “The current structure of companies just isn’t built to last. Employees generally become less happy over time.” His belief in holacracy is rooted in research showing that every time the size of a city doubles, innovation or productivity per resident increases by 15 percent, which he attributes to the fact that people and businesses are self-organizing in that context. By contrast, as companies become larger they are at a greater risk of losing their nimbleness and entrepreneurial spirit.

And Tony’s biggest advice to startup founders in the room? Focus on company culture. While acknowledging that it can be hard to prioritize culture amidst so many other priorities, but he urged the audience to “make an explicit effort” but also “make sure your company values don’t sound like press releases.” Talking about your culture and making it happen are two separate things; support the culture you want through the right processes.


2) Joel Simkhai on diversity at Grindr. Aside from learning more about Grindr’s impressive business success despite never having raised a penny of VC money, it was fascinating to hear Simkhai address the topic of diversity at a company whose product caters to gay men. “Hiring is a challenge for any startup,” he acknowledged, while also pointing out that many straight men and women are proud to work at the company, with candidates who might be hung up on the company focus falling into ‘the vast minority’ these days. With rapid growth and literally millions of daily active users spending an average of 54 minutes per day on the site, clearly they’ll need to keep up the hiring to cater to demand.


3) Julie Fredrickson on the importance of crisp messaging for hiring. The CEO of Stowaway Cosmetics was in gloriously punchy form throughout her talk, which focused on the role of messaging in startup success. Fredrickson maintained it’s essential for startups (actually, any business) to nail their messaging, keep it simple, make it repeatable, and provide the documentation to perpetuate that messaging as the team grows. For her business, that’s been about consistently taking the notion of ‘right-sized makeup’ to market and resisting the temptation to keep playing around with that message.

While her remarks were mostly geared toward helping startups better market themselves, the same story holds true for having a crisp, consistent, short and memorable message for all audiences – including candidates. “The easier it is for someone to grapple with who you are, the better you’ll become at everything – fundraising, hiring, selling and more.” Which begs the question: have you streamlined and simplified YOUR candidate message lately?


4) Nate Smith on how to win at hiring in a competitive market. Lever’s co-founder shared his advice for companies that are attempting to scale in this challenging talent market, at a time when most core hiring metrics – including cost per hire, time to fill, effectiveness of traditional sources of hire like job boards – are all trending in the wrong direction.  


Above all else, Smith says it’s important for companies to find the things that make them unique, not only from a cultural standpoint but also when it comes to uncovering advantageous sources of hire. Treating your recruiting pipeline like a marketing funnel, running the analysis to understand conversion rates across different sources, and doubling down on sources where you seem to have an advantage – for instance, in going back to your undergraduate program to recruit as an alum – will help you better prioritize your higher-quality, higher-yield sources of hire.  


We’ll see what Day 2 of the conference brings, but so far it’s been exciting to attend as a Launch Scale partner and mingle with hundreds of startups that are contemplating taking things to the next level. If you’re in that boat, trust me, it’s never too early to think about talent.

Launch Scale attendees, don’t forget to stop by our booth today and learn how Lever’s ATS-meets-CRM can help you hire faster, smarter and more collaboratively. Get your special  Launch Scale Lever package here.