One of the most important things I’ve learned in my 10 years as a serial entrepreneur is that winning top talent is the biggest challenge in creating a successful startup.
Trained as a lawyer, I quit the career path on day one upon the realisation that only entrepreneurship could fulfil my ultimate ambitions. Soon after I founded City Cakes, I have since gone on to launch an on-demand delivery platform Stuart that within five years grew to 500+ workers across Europe as well as an on-demand fitness platform Fithouse. Inspired by my experience as an individual user of investing apps, last year I founded Europe’s first integrated social and trading app, Shares which will launch next month.
In only a few months, Shares has gone from a concept to a fully social investing platform with an app ready to launch. The timeline is unprecedented and is only possible thanks to our startup and scaleup talent bench, which has grown from 0 to 95+ to date. There is no doubt that talent is the driving force to execute the vision of Shares to pioneer a whole new category of investing app, on track for consumer launch in less than a year in the UK, soon followed by Europe, in 2022. As such, great ideas alone are not enough to succeed. The key to stand out in a competitive market lies in execution and talent.
Here is what I’ve learned about hiring and working with top talent in the industry.
Treat hiring like marriage
The CEO of a fast-growing company is first and foremost Head of Talent. Most of my time after founding Shares was spent building an ambitious team which shared our vision for a new kind of investing app. In the wake of the Great Resignation, it has become more common than ever for talent to switch jobs and even careers. However, to ensure sustained growth of a startup like Shares, it’s crucial for our team to be committed and see themselves working with us long-term. For this reason, I treat hiring new talent like marriage – I want the relationship to last as long as possible – healthy and mutually supportive.
Besides a great team, we are pleased to have formed long-term connections with top tier VC backers, angel investors and business advisors who are also wed to the vision of Shares, even when it was just a twinkle in our eyes. Shares raised one of Europe’s largest-ever pre-product seed rounds of $10M, a boost that may have funded the journey, but we could only get where we are today with talent equally committed to the mission in order to execute, quickly, to make the potential of Shares a reality.
Build your foundation with A players
As a CEO, you have a certain vision of how you want your business to develop. However, the bigger your startup becomes, the less control you have over it. Building a start-up isn’t always smooth sailing, but the right team will make it much easier to stay afloat. Having A players and scale-up veterans as the foundation of your company will not only help to reduce the risks of talent discord down the road but also make the company more attractive to job seekers. Also, it is important to not limit the applicant pool by geographical factors. Shares, for example, opened an office in Krakow to grow the Customer Support team just to hire the best candidate who happened to live there.
Today, Shares has built an international talent pipeline directly tapped into the ecosystem, founding team and scaleup veterans from companies like Revolut, Just Eat, Morgan Stanley and my previous startup, Stuart, who may have seen joining Shares as risky, but also quite exciting.
Invest in a dynamic company culture
With job seekers in the driver’s seat more than ever, the key to making your organisation stand out in a crowded market is to maintain a dynamic company culture. In startups, healthy work-life balance has almost become a myth. However, there are still ways of making it happen. Whether it’s through the work of Workplace Manager or HR, introducing flexible and remote working has become one of the keys to ensure job satisfaction and wellbeing. As such, Shares lets the team choose where they work – whether that’s remotely or in our offices in Krakow, London, Paris or Toulouse.
Another fundamental element to ensuring a long-term relationship with employees is establishing a culture of transparency and empowerment. Building trust within the team will be easier if you’re open with them about numbers, growth metrics, and fundraising. It should also be common sense to offer stock options to all employees regardless of their seniority level – from the C-level Executives to Customer Support team. Since everyone’s efforts contribute to the growth of the startup, collective empowerment and meaningful ownership can be make or break.
There is no doubt that the biggest asset to any fast-growing startup is talent. It’s the key to success but remember – talent wins games, teamwork wins championships.
Benjamin Chemla is the CEO and Co-founder of Shares, a France-based stock trading app startup that comes with a social twist.