written by
Leonie Seifert

How to Successfully Recruit Innovative Tech Talents from the Startup Ecosystem

Technology & Innovation 4 min read

In order to successfully recruit from the startup ecosystem, companies first need to build internal innovation communities. Then, they can engage with the innovation scene and present their employer brand at startup events to attract tech talent.

Resulting from the automation of the industry, and the development of new technologies, the most required skills in the labor market are shifting. Machines and AI can automate and replace most jobs that require physical, manual and basic cognitive skills. Abilities that cannot be automated easily are higher cognitive skills. Especially social, emotional and technological skills. The following graphic estimates how the hours spent working with technological skills will rise until 2030.

Because of the increasing global competition and short innovation cycles, companies must digitalize their processes, adopt new technologies fast and drive innovation from the inside. The highly skilled and innovative employees they need to recruit and keep to survive are scarce. There is a tough competition for them in the labor market.

A reason companies should focus on attracting job candidates from the startup ecosystem is that traditional talent development does not foster innovative talent. Hierarchic organizational designs do not challenge employees to become proactive and creative. They train them to reactively accomplish their tasks. This operational approach is characteristic of many grown companies to ensure a structured project flow.

In contrast, a Startup has less structure. The environment demands flexibility, speed, creativity and proactive behavior of their employees to outperform the competition. That is why the startup ecosystem attracts and fosters innovative personalities.

The startup and innovation scene is very active in organizing and attending events, keynote speeches, hackathons, conferences and startup festivals. By attending these events, skilled IT talents get in touch with the startup ecosystem. This enables them to develop on a professional and personal basis. They constantly learn about the newest technologies, how to bring ideas to live and proactively create new things.

Employers need to position their employer brand within the startup ecosystem to become visible as an attractive IT employer.

The startup ecosystem and its events attract future founders and people that are looking for new challenges in their careers. Former startup employees whose business failed are looking for more security in their work environment. According to a study by Forbes, 90% of startups fail³. Employers should position themselves as innovative, empowering and secure workplaces within that ecosystem.

Corporate representatives engaging with the local innovation community at PunchOut.Tech in Munich.

But is not enough to make an employer brand visible at startup events. To recruit talent from the startup ecosystem successfully, companies need to treat this ecosystem as a community. They need to observe in what form this startup community can exchange social capital with the community of the company seeking talent.

Social capital is the positive impact that is derived from the interactions of participants in that community. The exchange of social capital strengthens the feeling of belonging, which is what keeps people in a community. Often this community at the employing company is being described as corporate culture.

The social capital of a workplace may be described as the exchange of labor for salary. However, when salary is the only form of social capital, communities become highly comparable and employees would simply search for the highest payment in exchange for labor.

By observing events and meetups for the startup community, social capital often can be found in the form of inspiration and innovation. The recruitable talent joined this community to learn about new technology, industry or business models. This intrinsic motivation to belong to a community that is accomplishing the most innovation clarifies that their driving force is not money. Therefore, companies that want to recruit such talent, need to find another currency of social capital that matches the needs of the members of the startup community.

A Community member presenting innovative ideas at the startup event PunchOut.Tech.

Organizing hackathons, hosting innovation awards are respectable efforts to engage in dialogue with the startup and innovation scene. But is not very credible when innovation events only happen in a small sub-segment of a corporate community.

An essential recommendation for hiring in the startup community is to first build a strong community around the shared social capital internally and then engage with other “tribes” in the startup ecosystem. This leads to more believability and tighter bonds and hence attractiveness for skilled tech talent.

A first step to recruit from the startup and innovation ecosystem is to define a subject that is at the core of the company’s development. For an insurance company that could be blockchain technology. In larger cities, they can easily find blockchain communities and meetup groups where they can send a representative to, who joins the events and searches for common topics with their own company culture. By sponsoring and hosting events or caterings for the community, corporations can enhance their visibility and increase communication with promising candidates.

Wirecard sponsoring the Founders Fight Night in Munich.
We should perceive the company as a natural extension of the community’s activities to be credible for the targeted candidates.

Then the synergy between community and company is established, and a constant inflow of highly qualified tech talents is resulting from the community building and communication activities of the corporation.

Corporate Challengers "punching out tech" with the local innovation community.

So, how can you do it? The Founders Fight Club designed a blended-learning program where participants can learn startup skills and techniques while working on real-life corporate challenges. This can be an internal program to realize your own projects, train current employees and foster an internal innovation community. Also, companies can give challenges into a public program to get new ideas, drive innovation, get in touch with the local innovation scene and source for promising employees.

You want to learn more about PunchOut.Tech? Write us an email to team@foundersfight.club or sign up here.

Startup Recruitment IT Employer Branding Startup Ecosystem PunchOut.Tech Innovation Culture Leonie Seifert Jan Küster
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