How to Grow a Startup
Earlier this year, our company, TickX – the UK’s leading ticket search engine to find the best tickets for events and attractions – secured £3million in Series A funding round, led by BGF Ventures.
We’re already live in the UK, Ireland, Spain and The Netherlands and, with the investment, we aim to expand into more European markets on our quest to become the global go-to destination for entertainment-lovers looking for the best tickets.
In just a few months, we have grown from a handful of people to a passionate team of 35, including hiring our first ever Chief Marketing Officer.
Here are my top five tips for growing a team quickly without compromising your unique startup culture.
Define your culture before hiring
You shouldn’t think about expanding your team until you have clearly defined your culture. Many companies dismiss the idea of company culture as being wishy washy, but without clarity on your values, you may struggle to get your team to working together in the way you want to achieve your goals.
One of the things we’re proudest of at TickX is the team culture we’ve managed to create. But with almost every job advert having a list of everything from free fruit to the clichéd ping pong table to sell the fact you should work for them; how do you compete?
Firstly, we do actually do some of this, namely: free fruit, soft drinks, pick ‘n’ mix, flexible working, Friday beers, monthly team activities and a basketball hoop (best £15 we’ve ever spent). Culture isn’t the free stuff though – it’s about the working environment you create and the character and personality of your organisation.
Most companies get this wrong so it’s a massive hiring benefit when you nail it. We talk about this a lot when interviewing and being the right ‘culture fit’ is a key test for all potential team members.
Don’t go it alone!
When you are growing a tech startup, you have a million things competing from your time and attention. You need to give yourself the space to focus on what you’re good at so micro-managing the entire recruitment process through every step often doesn’t make sense.
We have been fortunate to team up with an exceptional recruitment firm – Talentful – to help build our team. Talentful believes that the classic model of a recruitment agency is the wrong way to attract top talent and we agree.
Instead, by essentially becoming our in-house recruitment team, Talentful really took the time to understand our company culture and what we needed, which was important for us.
They worked on a retainer basis rather than commission per hire so their focus was firmly on finding the best person for the role and for the company rather than a quick-fix solution.
This was relationship was a perfect fit for us when we needed to rapidly grow our team to support our expansion into more European markets.
Get your tech hires in place first
Put any two tech leaders in a room and inevitably the conversation will turn to the nightmare of hiring developers. For tech companies, hiring the right developers to build your platform should be your number one recruitment priority.
Fundamentally, there are just not enough developers to fill the ever-growing number positions at the ever-growing number of tech companies. With the market this competitive, salaries are rocketing and finding great talent is hugely challenging.
Our cofounder and Chief Technology Officer Sam Coley says that a big positive for companies hiring is that many developers struggle with the concept of selling themselves in an interview.
You’ll get truthful answers to questions but you need to be prepared to help some people sell themselves and look beyond their sales ability. Doing this well you’ll find gems which other companies completely missed.
There are no hard and fast rules on what should be done when growing your team. Every business has different needs and one of the benefits of recruiting in a startup rather than in a traditional corporation is that you have more flexibility… so be creative with your recruitment methods when needed!
Not all of our roles at TickX are full-time so some of our team work part-time, 2 or 3 days a week, saving us money and allowing them the freedom to pursue other aspirations.
Don’t be afraid to lean on agencies either. Unless your business relies heavily on graphics, for example, then why hire a graphic designer when a freelancer can do a one-off job for a fraction of the price?
For us, we’ve found hiring a PR agency specialising in promoting startups – Slingshot PR – on a monthly retainer has really helped get our message across to potential customers, employees and investors by landing great media coverage for TickX without breaking the bank.
Once hired, trust your employees
Honesty during the interview stage is important. Something we always say in first stage of interviews is that they could earn more money working for a big well-established company.
This might seem counter intuitive when trying to convince someone to join your startup but it’s the truth so why shy away from it. This honesty will gain you trust, so when you go on to say the benefits of being part of an exciting company, the huge career opportunities, the fun culture, etc… they believe you.
We talk about this during our hiring process and you’ll find great employees are strongly attracted to getting responsibility to work on things with real impact straightaway.
You will lose some people here but that’s fine, the startup life isn’t for everyone. One of our developers turned down an offer of £8k more from another company, so it’s worth remembering that for most employees, it’s not all about the money.
And we deliver on our promise…. After a one-day induction, employees are trusted to dive into their work and build something real to progress TickX towards our goal of becoming the global go-to destination for entertainment tickets.
Our commitment of giving everybody a voice and fast career progression empowers the team and means our employee retention rate is very high.
There’s an abundance of A-list employees stuck in corporate hell waiting to be trusted to do great things. They are our future stars and they should be yours too!