Startup Fair’09: Hire talent

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The Entrepreneurship Development Cell (EDC), IIT Roorkee is organising a Startup Fair’09, in association with CSI, NSIT Delhi, to facilitate Startups to recruit.

Date:      Saturday, 25th April’09
Venue: Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology (NSIT), Delhi

The  Startup Fair will be a platform for established startups, looking  to expand their team, to hire interested talent from IIT Roorkee and NSIT Delhi as fresh recruits (final yr students) and internees (pre-final yr students).

An excellent opportunity for Startups to reach out to the active student community. 15 startups and 150 student candidates are expected to participate in the event.
Spread the word!


Sudhir Manchanda
Entrepreneurship Development Cell,
IIT Roorkee

Wanna learn: go work for a startup

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I belive startup founders are the smartest people around and we all know that best way to learn is to work with smart people.  That’s the reason you should go and work with a young start-up. You will get an opportunity to directly work with the founders and if you have zing within you they will “air-lift’ you. In terms of learning, growth , responsibility and fun. You will leap frog and surprise yourself in terms of the amount of work you can do, number of things you can learn and no of days you can stay awake with no sleep.

I discovered it by luck or by accident, so you dont make the same mistake. If you want to learn dont even look at a large company jobs – either work at a startup or go do your own startup.

Here is my story:

Back in 2000 I was working for DEC in Bangalore, was part of the team looking after a legacy product, which essentially meant; come to office at 1000 am and leave at 0600 pm. And in between hang out with friends, check mails, listen to music, drink coffee and yeah fix 1 or may be 2 bugs a day. Life was good.

But I soon realized that I was not really learning anything, days-after-days were just going by. I decided to get out and work at a better place, where I can learn and grow. I was also considering working at a startup, had heard that learning is great at startups. In terms of domain, I wanted to work in the wireless technology domain.

So one of the weekends I went for a few walk interviews, where they were hiring for wireless domain. I ended up with two offers – one at a young wireless telecom startup Sonim (company was called Myneton at that point and was renamed later), whose office was still under construction and second at a large established company called Celstream (they offered me more money). I resigned from DEC, now I had to decide where to join.

To make sure I am making the right decision, I met with the senior folks at both companies and tried to figure out the kind of work they will be giving me.  Sonim was a very young company, lots of stuff was not figured out, lots of uncertainity – but at the same time the energy of the people was great. On the other hand Celstream was a bigger company – with good open culture and more money for me. I was inclined towards it, but there was one problem. The Celstream folks told me they can not put me in the wireless team right away, that project was still 6 months away and meanwhile I will be working in a different project. Where as at Sonim it was out and out wireless.

I was still undecided – my adventurous heart was nudging me towards Sonim and my logical mind was telling me to go a bigger / safer / better paying Celstream. That’s when I came up with a solution, I will go and join Sonim and give myself 2 weeks to make sure I was not making a mistake and tell Celstream that I need another 2 weeks before I join. That was my way of following my heart while keeping the logical brain happy.

I joined Sonim in September 2000 and within two days I knew this is where i want to be and I lasted a total of 4 years with them (thats a lot for some one who had worked at 3 companies before, for 8 months each) . It was a young startup with 5 rockstar founders (Sudu, Jai, Ram, Anush and Issac). I was employee number 19 and was part of the server team as a software engineer. The energy was amazing, it was so creative, it was a lot of fun and there was a lot to do. Almost everyone spent 14-16 hrs in the office working, singing, dancing and doing whatever else, at the same time.

Within 3 months of my joining Sudu asked me to lead a new team which was being created to start the “devices” project. That was the start of my airlifting. I had never lead a team before, I had not worked on devices before. But that did not matter, what mattered was that Sudu thought I had the potential and since everything was so much fun, I took it up, ran with it and never looked back. I used to work directly with Sudu, who was very demanding. He had some 10-15 years of experience and expected me with my 2.5 years of experience to perform at par. I had no choice but to pickup speed and to my surprise, I did it and did it while having a lot fun.

Sonim, sonim founders and rest of the team gave me a lot . The founders were guru’s in true sense for me,  I spent a number of very valuable hours with them. My liking for startups started at Sonim a lot of my Startup foundations were built at Sonim. Joining Sonim was the best decision of my career, that’s the single most important reason for me being here today.

While at sonim I coined a philosophy “Once you work at a good startup, you can not go back to a big company. Either you will work for another startup or will go and do your own startup”


Hire the smartest people – For Free


MVP portfolio company SutraHR recently launched, a new job board focused only on “Startup and Emerging companies”.  The Job board is another extension of Sutra’s vision of becoming the leading people solutions company with exclusive focus on “Startups and Emerging Companies”, Sutra will be launching more initiatives like this in future.

As an employer all you need to do is sign-up for a FREE account and complete the profile for your startup. You can upload all relevant information that an potential employee looks for in a start/emerging company.

  • Details about the founders
  • Vision of the company
  • What are you building
  • Funding details
  • Photos / Videos of the company
  • and more

A simple to dashboard can be used to create new job postings and manage them. The response from startups and candidates has been pretty good so far. So if you are hiring for your startup / emerging company go ahead give it a spin.

Screenshot 1




Looking for Co-founder @ exciting sports based startup

My friend Kamal wanted me to put up his requirement, if this excites you, please write to him – kamal DOT raghav AT gmail DOT com

Start up Venture – Sports has broken the barrier of being a pure entertainment channel to being an attractive business opportunity. Currently, this space is dominated by traditional players with an traditional value chain. The venture plans to carve out a niche in this space using innovative methods of reaching out to customers.

Role – Co founder apart from taking full ownership of the technology backbone, would be involved in all operational decision making. Must be a highly motivated individual with lots of enthusiasm, should be comfortable with start-up environment and be able to play different roles. Should have simple and elegant design sensibilities. And most importantly be a fun individual to work with and must like sports!

Status – Legal registration is underway. Future – plans can be discussed on a one-to-one basis.

Location : Bangalore.

The person can expect an unstructured but fun environment (of course its a start-up!). Complete freedom to innovate, share and execute his ideas in this space. Also, uncomplicated work life balance. Of course, equity ownership is part of the deal.

Startup Essentials: Rockstar programmers

I recently answered a set of questions for Charu Bahri, for her column called eVoice in IT magazine ( published by EFY India. All these answers are in the context of early stage, young startups, not well funded, less than 1 year old, less than 10 people.

Is it tough for tech startups to find very skilled tech manpower? If so, why?

It can be tough or easy for a startup to get good tech guys depending on the approach of the founders. With the right approach it can be done fairly easily.

The way startups are done has changed these days, the most well known web products; ranging from Youtube, Facebook, Twitter have been built with small teams of few rock star programmers.

The best option is to have tech co-founders, who will develop the initial version of the product themselves and not depend upon hiring programmers. It’s essential for the founders to build the product and create initial traction around the product. Along side they need to continue to look for the rock star programmers, guys who will be truly interested in joining a startup and doing real meaty work and come on board for lesser money along with equity.

Places to look for are the startup conferences, thru references (spread the word), have your own blog and write about exciting work company is doing, write about the open positions, put job posts on popular startup blogs (for India: venturewoods,, startup dunia etc), also look at getting people form your college. Post to yahoo/google group mailing list from good colleges like IITs etc.

The conventional ways of hiring will not work because over there you will find folks who are looking for safety, salary and cushy jobs. Some of them may be curious about startups, but will back out at some point or the other. No point wasting your time.

What novel remuneration means may be offered to tech specialists?

For right people remuneration wont be the deciding factor, these are people who are passionate about working on exciting things, people who have a desire to learn and to “upwind”, who may themselves want to start a venture down the line.

Quoting form Paul graham, the founder of Y combinator

“In an essay I wrote for high school students, I said a good rule of thumb was to stay upwind– to work on things that maximize your future options. The principle applies for adults too, though perhaps it has to be modified to: stay upwind for as long as you can, then cash in the potential energy you’ve accumulated when you need to pay for kids.

I don’t think people consciously realize this, but one reason downwind jobs like churning out Java for a bank pay so well is precisely that they are downwind. The market price for that kind of work is higher because it gives you fewer options for the future. A job that lets you work on exciting new stuff will tend to pay less, because part of the compensation is in the form of the new skills you’ll learn.

Grad school is the other end of the spectrum from a coding job at a big company: the pay’s low but you spend most of your time working on new stuff. And of course, it’s called “school,” which makes that clear to everyone, though in fact all jobs are some percentage school.”

Is there a possibility of retaining tech specialists to work as and when needed, that is, paying only a retainership (and thus, avoid paying them a full salary)?

I have not come across programmers who are available on retainer-ship, only option is to use a Tech services company, which will surely be very expensive.

Another way to do this is to find folks who are available to work part time in the evenings and weekends. But this approach brings uncertainty into the project, because these programmers have high chance to treat part-time work as low priority in case there is an increase in working hours at their full time work place. Also this option may work for building prototypes and demos. The moment you have to build the real stuff you will need full time programmers.

What sources/routes could tech start-ups use to find the right manpower – job portals, executive search firms, campus interviews?

None of the above works for startups. See answer to the first question

I’d especially appreciate any example you can share with me that showcases how your company was able to recruit the right tech talent and the kind of remuneration agreement you proposed for the talented staff.

At madhouse, after approx 1 year of operations, we found a great tech co-founder (Ankur Agrawal), who single handedly build a lot of parts of the product and since he was a co-founder there was no salary to be paid, until we got funded.

There is another model which has worked for Instablogs (I am an advisor to Instablogs). Ankit (founder of Instablogs) developed the initial version of product, got the traction and later started hiring bright freshers from not so popular colleges. They created a very good training program using which they are able to create very good programmers out of the fresh engineers in record time. For pulling this off Instablogs had to move from Delhi to Shimla, where they were able to find good fresher engineers, who were eager to take a job, learn and do well.

A question relating to the Instablogs example you shared. There is a possibility of the fresh engineers moving off to greener pastures after being trained. What measures did Instablogs take to prevent

I disagree with definition you have indicated for Greener pastures.

  • Green pastured != higher salaries.
  • A job = salary + learning + challenges + working at a place which gives you happyness.

That’s exactly what Instablogs has done, they provide the people with

  • Constant learning and fast growth in knowledge
  • Opportunity to work on cutting edge technologies
  • A place to work where they are allowed to make mistakes, have fun and enjoy life
  • Opportunity to create from scratch

These programmers obviously have friends who work in other tech companies on higher salaries etc, but they realize that their knowledge is far superior as compared to those guys who are getting paid more but are doing UNINTERESTING and NON GROWTH work. Basically at Instablogs people are upwinding and others are essentially downwinding.

There was a recent case of one guy who left for higher salary and came back with couple of weeks saying that he just did not enjoy working at his new job and this has become a live example of all other guys in the team.

Also read: Joining a pre-VC startup

Startup Essentials: Hire the right kind of people (and fire the wrong ones)

Jason / Michael and bunch of other folks have been talking about kind of culture startups should have, to be able to save every penny and march towards success.

As we all know people are the the most fundamental ingredients for every startup and everything else is the function of the kind of people you have.

Based on my experiences, one of the biggest and sustainable cost/time saving can come from hiring the right kind of people (or firing the wrong ones).

Within a team (or the company) there are two types of goals:

  • Team goals
  • Personal goals

There are bound to be times when team goals and personal goals will conflict. You want to have people who will 90% of the time go with team goals. Get these people and keep them (no matter what it takes).If you have people who are always picking personal goals over the team goals, spot them, provide them the feedback , if they dont shape up – FIRE THEM.

Startup essentials: Law of learning and openness (New role, new rules)

Every startup has a core team, consisting of the founders (or just the founder) plus other key early employees. The core team members are those who have displayed the intelligence, high learning ability, passion and appropriate skill-set required for a startup assignment. They are people with a successful track record, relevant experience and good educational background.

But, the very same successful track-record, many times comes in the way of “unlearning and re-learning” that is essential in a startup environment. And that happens when some team members play majority of their new roles with old rules.

The following rules apply to you if you are building the core team or are part of a core team, because in a new startup, different laws apply.

New rules (GO WIN THE GAME)

  • Be open to learning and influences. Build fresh perspectives.
  • Go on a journey to build things from scratch, build them block by block.
  • Think fresh and think fundamental; understand a problem in ways which was never done before and then create a novel solution.
  • You surely have a rich set of experience, knowledge, contacts and education. You must use it as source of reference to help you do a fantastic job. But its very important that you:

    • Adapt the past learning to the current context before applying it.
    • Don’t skip any steps while analyzing problems or building solutions, thinking that you have done similar stuff and don’t need to repeat.
    • Continue to take a fresh look at things with the new context in mind and not let the past cloud your vision.


  • The methods which brought me success in past will continue to apply without any change or adapting.
  • I have enough knowledge, no more learning required for me. I will apply my existing knowledge and make the venture a success.
  • During my days as part of the middle/junior layer, I have been part of teams who have executed many challenging assignments and built things bottom up. Now that I am part of the top management and I will build things “Top down” and the junior and middle layers will worry about the middle and bottom part.


Joining a pre-VC startup

Madhouse is talking to a number of exceptionally talented individuals for senior/middle management positions. Some of them have expressed apprehensions around joining at lower than market salaries and the risk of being associated with a company at a startup mode.Here are some of the thoughts I have been sharing with them. I would love hear some experiences, thoughts from the community.

Joining a pre-VC startup is not only a job or a career choice; it’s a lifestyle choice. This is truer for folks who join in early and join as part of the early management team (senior/middle). It is an opportunity for the brave, for the fighters and for a select few.

It offers an amazing opportunity to make significant contribution towards building of an organization in its formative period. The job responsibility is extremely demanding and challenging with relatively less support systems; a lot of untouched, challenging problems to solve; some of the most talented people to work with; a lot of energy in the air; a culture which believes it is fine to make mistakes. It offers an opportunity to rise fast, faster than most of your peers, provided you perform and live up to the challenges of the startup lifestyle, culture and speed at which things move.

People who can make a difference at this stage will be people, who believe in the success of the venture, the opportunity, the team, the philosophy of the organization. These are the people who will form the DNA of the company. People who will be hired or will join at this stage will not do so for the current financial benefits. That’s not the key decision making criteria. They know that they will be more than compensated financially, with the salary revisions and the stock options.

Along with all that comes career growth, various kind of learning, experience to go through the grueling startup pains and coming out a winner; a fighter.

Later on, when the company gets VC financing , though the challenges still remain the tone; the color; the intensity of the challenges change. The pace of evolution of the culture of the organization slows down. The number of ESOPs for similar positions reduces substantially. The opportunity to lay the founding blocks may no longer be there.