Of Startup Hiring And Why Work Experience is Extremely Overrated

“You should sell on CPM/CPC”

Me: “..No. We only do fixed rates. No CPC/CPA or CPM.”

“But, that’s not how the industry works. You can’t charge fix rates. Nobody does. It just doesn’t make sense”.

Me: Really? Sure..so..what do you think of India’s performance in Sochi?


That’s part of my conversation with a senior sales person whom I was interviewing for a sales role @NextBigWhat

The Mental Block
The Mental Block

I often meet entrepreneurs who are planning to hire a senior role and the usual suspects are the ones who have already been there and done that.

So far so good, except for the fact that the ones who have already been-there-done-that come with a fancy salary package, which is mostly unaffordable for early-to-mid stage startups.

In most of the cases, the salary is almost 3-4 X of what a startup is willing to pay for. Is that worth it? Maybe, but what about the baggage they bring along? My guess is no.

Here is why

Ever noticed that all it takes is a thin rope to control an elephant? And elephants never try to run away, though they easily can? Well, that’s because these elephants are mostly trained from childhood that the rope can hold them and never try to break free from the rope.

The truth is that it’s not about the rope. It’s about the mental block.

A lot of experienced professionals come with such mental blocks.

If you are a startup which is attempting to disrupt an existing business practice/workflow (for e.g. SAAS startups are disrupting the way software is purchased/used), you are often told that ‘this cannot be done’. You are, in all possibility fighting against those who have developed mental blocks, those who know from an industry ‘best practices’ point of view that ‘this cannot be done’.

Just the way, Steve Ballmer laughed at Apple iPhone launch:

“$500 full-subsidized with a plan! I said that is the most expensive phone in the world and it doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard which makes it not a very good email machine. Now, it may sell very well or not, I, you know. We have our strategy, we’ve got great Windows Mobile devices in the market today, we, you can get a Motorola Q phone now for $99, it’s a very capable machine, it’ll do music, it’ll do, uh, Internet, it’ll do email, it’ll do instant messaging. So, I, I kinda look at that and I say, well, I like our strategy. I like it a lot.”

Ofcourse, we know the story that followed!

Does your startup need such experienced professionals? Bringing them onboard also brings a baggage and eventually the mental block. Experience brings a certain ‘this cannot be done’ emotion all along. With experience, people can turn into a fine wine or well..a smelly beer!

“Wisdom doesn’t always come with age. But age always comes with experience!” [Stanley Victor Paskavich]
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What’s With the Indian Market

Most of the industries that startups are trying to disrupt are fairly new (the business is not, approach is). Look at digital industry – there still aren’t more than 20 big digital media companies in the country.

How many of these 20 have scaled up? As a startup, if you are disrupting existing ones, do you really need their ‘mental blocks’?

Plus, the toughest question to all those who care about experience is whether the experienced folks have gone through atleast one disruption cycle or not? For example, if you were working with Digg.com in 2008-11, you’d know how difficult the disruption is!  Or working with Siebel during early 2000? Or with Sun Microsystems?

How many companies in India have gone through a success-to-survival phase (look at rediff – it still is making money!).

As a professional who hasn’t yet seen the tough side (discounting layoffs) and has never been part of pivoting journey, there probably is very little survival attitude left.

But that’s what early-mid stage startups need the most. On a daily basis.

A survivor who has eye of the tiger!

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