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Desperately Seeking Startup Skills: Where Highly Sought-After Folks Hang Out

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woman_binocularsEditor’s note: Jon Bischke is a founder of Entelo and is an advisor to several startups. You can follow Jon on Twitter @jonbischke

It’s the New Year, which means setting new goals. For many startups, that means developing a new hiring plan. While the larger economy continues to mosey along, there’s high demand for a select group of individuals with skills that startups are looking for. We speak with hundreds of startups and recruiters each month, and here are five of the positions we see the most demand for, along with some suggestions for where potential candidates congregate.

Designers Who Code

Rebekah Cox from Quora was one of the first to popularize the notion of “designing in code.” Finding someone who can produce high-quality designs and write the HTML/CSS/JavaScript to bring them to life is something every early-stage company dreams of. However, these people are so tough to find that they often get slapped with the mythical “unicorn” label.

Where they hang out: Your best bet for finding people of this type is to look for designers with a Github account. Designers can be found in professional communities like Behance and Dribbble, but many of the people on those sites don’t code. However, if you can find designers on those sites who also have an account on Github, you have a lot greater chance of having found your unicorn.

Growth Hacker

If Rebekah gets credit for “designers who code,” Andrew Chen gets credit for introducing “growth hacker” to the lexicon. In his blog post Growth Hacker is the new VP of Marketing, Andrew characterizes a growth hacker as “a hybrid of marketer and coder, one who looks at the traditional question of ‘How do I get customers for my product?’ and answers with A/B tests, landing pages, viral factor, email deliverability, and Open Graph.” (Note: For more on Growth Hacking, check out Aaron Ginn’s excellent TechCrunch piece Defining A Growth Hacker: Debunking The 6 Most Common Myths About Growth Hacking.)

Where they hang out: Growth hackers tend to congregate in a few online communities. Many are regular contributors to Hacker News and Reddit (check the humorously named sub-reddit Web Marketing for Non-Douche Canoes). Quora has a Growth Hacking category, and the first-ever Growth Hacking Conference just ran a few months ago.

DevOps Borat

First off, if you’re technically inclined and not following DevOps Borat, consider this your nudge. Finding folks who can hold together your company’s cloud infrastructure is an important factor in growing a startup. It’ll sound strange, but the follower list of DevOps Borat and “fast follow” Borat is Cloud aren’t bad places to start looking. You can use a tool like Followerwonk to make that easier.

Where they hang out: Other places to find great DevOps people include Stack Overflow sites like Server Fault and Super User, LinkedIn groups on the topic (this one has more than 6,000 members) and meetups (e.g. the San Francisco DevOps Meetup).

Startup Sales Guru

Salespeople from big companies are often used to a defined process and lots of resources; early-stage companies typically have neither. If the startup is pre-product/market fit, it may be even more chaotic. Finding salespeople who can thrive in the startup environment is a challenge.

Where they hang out: At the early stage you’re often hiring more for attitude than aptitude. Someone who is high-energy, personable and persistent is a must. If you can find someone who previously sold in a startup, that can be a good sign. However, if the company succeeded then this person may have already made their money and not be hungry. If the company failed, it was quite possible due to low sales, which may make you question whether to bring their former salespeople on board! Look for a balance of some success selling in the early-stage with hunger to make it big this time around and you’ve found your fit (e.g. startup accelerator alumni whose companies didn’t quite make it can be great candidates).

Ruby, Python, iOS, Android, Etc.

At the end of the day we all need engineers to bring tech ideas to life. Ask any startup founder what their biggest challenges are and you will eventually get to some variant of “Do you know any good (fill-in-the-blank) engineers?” Ruby and Python are top skills for web development, and even more in-demand these days is mobile development, with iOS and Android expertise at a premium.

Where they hang out: Most startup folks are hip to the fact that all the cool kids in the engineering world are on Github. Github isn’t the easiest site on which to look for people (perhaps by design, as many from the Github community would prefer that recruiters stay away). However, a Boolean search of Github on Google could yield some interesting folks. If you’re not very technical, you can start by looking for people with at least a few followers and pass those to your engineers for the initial outreach. Engineers almost always prefer to hear from other engineers about potential opportunities.

Building a killer startup team is a big challenge, but it’ll do more to increase your odds of success than just about anything else. Best wishes to all of you in building your teams this year!

[Image via Flickr]