Does Dropbox have a Secret Sauce for Hiring Top Talent?

Many may be under the impression that startup success stories have a secret sauce in identifying and recruiting top talent. Not so. They use the same common sense, tried and true techniques that quality recruiters use.

Dropbox founder CEO Drew Hustone and Sequoia Capital partner Bryan Schreier join TechCruch TV discussing how they work together on recruiting and retaining talent.

It’s a 10min interview. I’ve highlighted the good bits below (note doesn’t permit embedded media):

dropbox techcrunch drew huston

  • 2:50min Q: How do you make employee #251 feel like their employee #5?
  • 6:02min Q: For a key hire, how many times would you meet with a prospective employee?  A: “Several times”
  • 6:43min Q: How does a VC help Dropbox find employees? A: “I provide a service”
  • 7:50min Essentially the interviewer asks Sequoia’s Schreier, You worked for Google building their team in the early days. Do you use similar patterns to help hire top talent at Dropbox?

A Necessary Evil: SWAG

A 2012 Silicon Halton CEO Peer2Peer monthly meeting was kicked off with an interesting opener-topic, SWAG. You know, the often flimsy, cheap paraphernalia that we hope will shine a positive light on your company or products, but too often goes straight from the tradeshow bag into the garbage bag.

The CEO Peer2Peer (P2P) members are relentlessly focused on topics of business value. So why even spend time discussing the merits of swag, which is generally viewed as a necessary evil? The purpose of this opener was to learn from peers what their experience with swag is, what works (if any) and what doesn’t (likely all?). Perhaps we’d learn to abandon swag all together.

What is SWAG’s business purpose?

SWAG purpose is to extend your brand and assist in unaided recall of your company, products or service.

CEO’s report that swag that “sticks around” is what works best. Items that function in a prospects or customers business or personal life, or has a fun-component, will continue carrying your brand and assist in unaided recall. The more useful or more entertaining the swag, the more likely client will remember you on their own.

SWAG is commonly dispensed in two ways: at trade shows or while conducting normal business.

The Trade Show

I think most businesses realize their booth is a mystery novel to the vast majority of tradeshow attendees. Unless you have a new Telsa parked in your booth, how do you lure prospective new clients to your booth? The answer, Swag.

There is a certain expectation within the attendee population at tradeshows that swag can and will be had.

From the vendor’s perspective, for swag to be effective it must pass these 4 events we purchasers make before buying:

  • Be findable – The attendee first must become aware of its existence
  • Interesting – Now that the attendee is aware of your swag, are they interested in it?
  • Desired – As their interest increases, is the swag deemed a prize-worthy such that the attendee feels s/he must have it. We’ve all seen swag that is interesting, but we don’t want it.
  • I must have it – Lastly, interest grows sufficiently to compel the attendee into action. They need to have your swag and therefore make an unplanned stop at your booth. This achieves SWAGs mission.

The other 364 days of the year

Outside of the trade show, as procurers of product and services, it’s nice to receive small tokens of appreciation from our vendor. Resellers or ambassadors for a vendor also like receiving small tokens of appreciation of their efforts. This makes them feel good. They associate feeling good with the company that made them feel good.

The Best Swag

CEO’s shared examples of swag that is reasonably priced, is desired, and allowed them to realize a business advantage. Each of the items would have your company name and/or logo on them:

  1. Tee-shirts / Golf shirts
  2. Making custom swag with 3D printers, for example, memory sticks with the attendee’s company logo embossed on it.
  3. Pens
  4. Portfolio
  5. Silly Putty
  6. Business card holders
  7. Hand sanitizers (works particularly great at trade shows).
  8. Post-it notes
  9. Cell phone speaker
  10. Small screw driver set (ideal for engineers)
  11. Backpack
  12. Water bottles
  13. Items that can be thrown (football, soft frisbees)
  14. Lip-balm

Goes without saying all the above items have your company name and/or logo on them.

If you send me a picture of your best + unique swag, I’ll add it to this post.

Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers

A must read for anyone in the hi tech industry. Not just for sales and marketing folks, but for product managers and developers. This is an eye opener in how to best sell high tech products.  I only first read this a couple years ago.

Some key takeaways for me:

  • When the company is crossing the chasm, everyone in the company must be focused on crossing, not just the Sales & Marketing groups. You need company unity.
  • Have to show your new technology enables strategic leap forward for your customer.
  • Learned the term Whole Product, The minimum set of products and services needed to fulfill the compelling reason to buy for the target customer. Every high tech company needs to define their œwhole product
  • If the bug report and product enhancement list are not managed properly it will bring the entire development organization to it knees. The whole product manager needs to own the list. Everyday the enhancements list is in the hands of the original pioneers, the company risks making additional development commitments to un-strategic ends. I’ve seen this happen.”

Win – Language that works Today

One of the top 5% of the books I’ve read. Very timely book about the language of business that works today, not 5 years ago. Win is full of learning experiences. It’s a book I keep within reach. I review it often.

Words are a weapon. Used right, they greatly enhance ability to persuade the listener. Luntz provides examples of words & phrases that work today. He also provides popular words & phrases that worked pre-recession which are no longer valued with the post recession population.

One the better quotes I like from Win is “You can accomplish the right thing, in the right order, and the right time, only when the entire organization understands what is important and why.”

If the language your business uses to communicate matters, I highly recommend you read this.

Follow the author at @FrankLuntz

Is your business card a mystery novel?

This is an actual stack of biz cards that I collected.

It represents unrealized opportunities.

I recently unburied myself from all the business cards I’ve collected over the past few years. While filtering through the cards, two ~equally sized piles emerged. The first evolved into two categories of connections:

  1. People whom I’ve stayed connected with, and,
  2. People I see a potential future relationship

The latter is what I call “loose connections”. These are people I intend to stay connected with.

The second consisted of connections that did not evolve, I could not identify joint opportunities for us, nor did they. Any potential relationship has seemingly ended. Didn’t get to 2nd base.

But what does this mean? It’s not necessarily a bad thing, just reality of the networking world shaking hands around us.

While taking a second pass over the “did not evolve” stack, it became clear that many simply did not state the value of its owner, just name and coordinates, a mystery novel left for me to unravel.

How do you succinctly communicate your value prop on a biz card? How do you ensure that after the customary exchange of personal identifying rectangular coloured paper has long since past, that someone will actually remember you, what you do and what value you can provide?

Isn’t that what’s it all about?

What are my business card preferences? Beyond the mandatory name, company name & website, and email address, my preferences are:

  • Your twitter handle
  • Clean and easy to read.
  • A logo or style that resembles or embodies what value you provide.
  • LinkedIn URLs on the card if your profile is not easily identifiable (most people find me on LinkedIn by searching “stomphorst”), otherwise it’s clutter.
  • White space on your card so I can scribble notes on it. I need to write the date, location, and why & where we met. Dark cards or glossy cards that prohibit that.
  • Unique card stock size format.
  • I don’t need your street address or fax number.

One friend has a QR code on the back of their biz card, which takes you to a landing page that they can a) change the message as/when needed and b) track how many people arrived. The jury is still out on its effectiveness.

Through Silicon Halton I expect to gather about twice the amount of business cards over the next 2-3 years. How will you help me remember you? My job is connecting talent to employers, people to people, and business to business. I can help you if I clearly know who you are. Don’t write me a mystery novel.

Silicon Halton

A co-initiative of mine, Silicon Halton, launched it’s website, in March 2010.  Building the web site was a cool project and gave me the opportunity to work the very talented folks at MI6 and JellyBeanSolutions.  

The web site was completely built on-the-side, part time, by a handful of dedicated members at Silicon Halton.   As far as I can tell, the total capital cost to build the site was $0.00.   All the people costs were generously donated by the Silicon Halton players themselves.  A heartfelt thank you.

While I helped wireframe the site and brainstorm what we needed to go live, the design is clearly best left to the talented people who do this every day, JellyBeanSolutions.  I was happy to provide feedback, test, and produced lots of content for go-live.  Did we get everything in we initially wanted? No. We made some quick decisions to scale partially back the original scope because we choose to add other content, and therefore prioritized what content was needed for go-live.  Project Management 101 stuff.

I knew we could launch the web site as fast as we did.  We have the talent in our neighbourhood. We didn’t belabour what it was we wanted to build.  Just get started. In today’s world, if you spend too much time up-front planning out the details, you’ll miss the window of opportunity.

We now have an important stake in the Internet landscape,

Hot, Flat, and Crowded – pass the green energy please

I really enjoyed Thomas L. Friedman’s last book, The World Is Flat.  Friedman has a great perspective and way of stitching seemingly unrelated facts together to create a compelling argument.  Friedman has done the same in Hot, Flat, and Crowded.

For example, I learned that the CO2 emissions from Indonesia and Brazil (from clear cutting forests) account for 20% of global CO emissions.  This exceeds all the emissions from cars, trucks, trains, and boats in the world.  Even if we were to park every last car in North America, it seems like we woundn’t make a dent in reducing CO emissions.

The UN predicts by 2053 we will have 9 billion people on the planet.  That translates in to a lot of energy needs.  How much?  For example, at the time of the book’s writing, China alone is bringing online one coal fired powered electricity generating plant every two weeks.  That’s is 2GW of power, enough to power all the homes in Minneapolis, every two weeks.  It’s clear why air polution was such a grave concern during the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing.  If fact, Friedman sites a fact that 25% of the poluted air in L.A. comes from China.  Now that’s crazy importing.

At the time of this blog, the Ontario Government announced approval for a wind farm.  Obviously the wind farm won’t be located conviently beside where it is needed, GTA, nor likely be situated beside an existing hydro transmission line corridor, so we’ll have to construct everything.  Friedman sites a windfarm development in California that’s taking 13years from approval-to-supplying power.  That will bring Ontario’s 1st wind farm on-line in 2023.  We need the power now.

Friedman argues that by transforming the US in to green power leader, we could create a new economic engine.  However, Denmark has a high-efficiency policy for at least 2 decades (Gas is $8-9 gallon and 60% of their energy comes from renewables), yet what have I bought that’s manufactured in Demark because they have renewable engergy?  Nada.

Friedman argues a lot to reduce our oil dependency on middle-east countries as our dependency results with us indirectly funding the extremist’s war against us.  Seems logical.

Friedman made a convincing argument for what he call “electricity poverty”.  Peoples in development nations don’t have electricity, and therefore, simply, can’t learn after sunset.  No light, no reading, no learning.  It seems logical that that fact alone should significantly stifle their development.

Friedman made a convincing argument for what he call “electricity poverty”.  Peoples in development nations don’t have electricity, and therefore, simply, can’t learn after sunset.  No light, no reading, no learning.  It seems logical that that fact alone should significantly stifle their development.

What I learned

While one can’t watch TV, listen to the radio, read a blog or tech magazine without reading about greening something.  I wouldn’t consider myself a green-belt, and I’m still not after reading the Hot, Flat, and Crowded, but have a much clearer idea of what’s going on.  Lastly, I’m a big proponent of starting.  Too often we get bogged down in analysis paralysis.  Give me efficient and resonably priced tools to save energy, and I’ll use them, like my car that gets 35mpg.