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Looking for tech talent? Pushstart mentor offers his advice

Friday, 14 December | By Michelle Hammond

PushStart mentor Alex North has offered some advice to start-ups looking for tech talent to build their idea, insisting every start-up must argue the case for why their business will be successful.


North, who previously worked for Sydney start-up Posse, is also a former lecturer at the University of NSW. He is now a mentor for PushStart.


He has written a how-to guide on how to find “someone technical” to build your start-up idea.


“It does depend, I think, on where your business is at or where your idea is at or whatever,” North told StartupSmart.


“A common mistake is asking someone good if they might want to work on your idea without paying them when you don’t have a lot going for it. That’s a good half of the people I talk to.


“What they need to do is suck it up and pay a freelancer to make a prototype or pay a designer to help them figure out how it’s supposed to work.


“A lot of people say they don’t know anyone who’s technical. That’s a common mistake people should fix.”


According to North, people need to “network like crazy” in order to find a great developer.


“Get in touch with engineers and developers you already know, go to developer meet-ups and hackathons, reach out to loose connections on LinkedIn, invite nerdy types to your parties, and meet with as many developers as you can,” he says.


“Ask them about their projects, both work and hobby. Get to know what appeals to them. Ask them about people they admire or enjoy working with.


“Tell them about your emerging business and challenges, ask for their advice.


“Don’t try to rope them in right away. Build relationships and become known as someone who knows what they’re doing, and is looking for someone great.”


Once you have a candidate pool, you must choose very carefully, North says.


“Sadly, you don’t have the ability to tell who is a great developer and who is average… So find an experienced engineering manager to help,” he says.


“Ask this person to give technical interviews to your candidates. Be clear about the level of ability, flexibility, technical leadership, etc. that you’re looking for.


“Once you’ve found and hired and are working with your first one or two 10x engineers, they will be highly motivated to find and recruit peers who are at their level of ability or better.”


As part of the recruitment process, you must be able to convince a developer why your business is worth working for, North says, particularly if you can’t offer them an impressive salary.


“Everyone thinks their idea is wonderful and special… When I was hired by Posse, they did a great job of convincing me the rest of the business has a lot going for it,” he says.


“Convince them that the rest of the business is covered – that you as the founder have everything else under control.”