OnStartups

Why Your Startup Shouldn't Hire Seth Godin

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on January 25, 2008 in recruiting 10 Comments

A recent article by Zoli Erdos really got me to thinking about startup hiring. The article was titled "Startups: Executive Hiring Challenges or Beware of the Suits".

If you're a startup founder about to hire an executive (particularly if you're using an executive recruiter), you should really take 15 minutes out of your busy day and read Zoli's article. You'll thank me (though you should thank him).

I'm going to lead with a comment I put on Zoli's blog:

A startup should not hire Seth Godin for its VP of Marketing. It should hire the next Seth Godin.

Before I go on, if you don't know who Seth Godin is, feel free to replace with someone else you know who is really successful.

Here's why you shouldn't hire Seth:

1. Though past success is often a predictor of future success, it assumes similar circumstances. If you're hiring some hot-shot executive from Oracel to be your VP of Sales and that executive sold $300MM (or managed people that did), that does not mean they're going to be able to make a single sale for your startup. Or even find people that are going to sell for you. They may just not have it in them.

2. Even if they would be successful at a startup (because their prior success was a startup too), if they've been that successful, they're not going to be particularly hungry and aggressive. Yes, there's a certain floor of passion that some successful people are going to have (they're constitutionally incapable of working 40 hour weeks), but the fire is not going to be the same. They don't have a point to prove. They've already proven it. This is somewhat paradoxical. If they're really as successful and good as they look on paper, they're probably not going to be hungry.

3. Startups are an arbitrage game on many levels -- particularly recruiting. Any chump can pay $250,000 a year plus options and go hire a VP of Marketing with a pedigree. Show me a startup that can recruit world-class people at below fair market value (at least temporarily) and I'll show you a startup that has their head on straight. In the world of startup recruiting, you're playing a passion arbitrage game.

4. Beware the resource needs of executives from big firms. Though they may be great at turning a $20MM marketing budget into $2 billion, it doen't matter much if you don't have $20MM. They be a world-class player, but you may not have what they need to succeed.

Summary: Use your passion and instincts to help find the next Seth Godin, and then help them kick-butt.