February 14, 2022

When it comes to startup talent, monogamy is overrated

Issah Abdul-Moomin
Co-founder of Passionfruit
When it comes to startup talent, monogamy is overrated
Table of contents

London’s restaurants have a dirty little secret.

Most of them don’t actually own any knives. Weird, right? If I was starting a restaurant, great knives would be pretty high up my shopping list. I’d also probably set aside a substantial budget for sharpening, repairs and replacement. So, what’s the deal?

Someone else can do it better. Specifically: Nella Cut, the leading knife sharpening company, which has been servicing London for 120 years. Because guess what? Restaurants have more pressing things to worry about, such as cooking for customers.

The same logic can be applied to startups when it comes to hiring.

We recognise the pressure on startup leaders to hoard talent considering how positively VCs are known to respond to hiring updates. Hiring independent specialists on a project-by-project basis may feel less sexy to VCs, who want to see a startup’s ability to attract and retain as a key marker of competency – particularly when London’s talent pools seem to be shrinking.

But, as London restaurants know only too well, there’s a smarter, speedier, and more cost-effective way to run a business, and that’s by outsourcing.

Allow us to explain:

You get to the talent you need, when you need it

How long did it take you to hire for your last role? Three months? Six? Nine? Hiring can be one hard slog of a process, and yet the roles you’re hiring for are changing on a no doubt daily basis. Can you truly recognise the start-up you were even just a month ago? Things move so fast that even the most diligent hiring plan can become redundant pretty quickly.

The problem is compounded by dynamics surrounding the fundraising process. Founders pitch a plan to investors, of which a central part is often the hiring plan. Once funding is agreed, founders feel compelled to stick to said plan, even if that plan no longer makes sense.

By using a platform like Passionfruit, startups can flexibly scale their talent up and down to suit the demands of any given period. The need for this flexibility was brought into sharp focus during the pandemic when many businesses were unable to operate, or demand for their services simply vanished. It made clear that staying lean beats the bloat.

It enables startups to operate like they should: with speed and precision

It seems odd that in a space that prioritises precision and speed, there are often job adverts gathering dust for months in the hopes of finding the unicorn who ticks every box. Given the sheer demand for high-quality growth marketing professionals and relatively limited supply, startups need to let go of the idea that they need to ‘lock in’ the best talent.

Not only is it an outdated concept, it suggests a misguided view of the type of work a startup needs to do. At a startup you are conducting a series of experiments in pursuit of the ever-elusive ‘product market fit’.  The traditional approach stifles companies. A flexible approach to talent enables a business to optimise the configuration of the teams executing on each experiment. It also forces you to be really clear about what you are trying to do. Rather than just throwing bodies at a broad challenge or opportunity that you are faced with, you must take some time to actually define what a great outcome looks like in order to effectively. With Passionfruit, you can be up and running with your new specialist in a matter of days.

Training and upskilling comes included

You can be sure that your talent will be as sharp as a restaurant kitchen knife. Freelancers spend on average 5 hours a week on training and upskilling. This is because freelancers recognise that in order to continue getting work they need to be up to date on the latest developments in their specialisms.

Independent work also allows for a domain focus and specialisation that is hard to get in an organisation where the practise of that specialism will be coloured by the organisation itself. For instance, a product marketing expert who has only worked at Uber will become a very good product marketing expert for Uber. Obviously the skills are transferable but it’s likely that they will be less flexible in their approach than a freelancer who has applied their skills across different companies and different projects. Then there’s the fact that you don’t have to pay directly for any of the training.

Flexibility and agility are often isolated as the key advantages that startups have over other businesses. It’s strange then that when it comes to talent, the approach is often anything but flexible or agile. The best startups recognise that things change quickly and being able to make the most of emerging opportunities is almost impossible if you are solely reliant on the skills and experience that sits within your business.

As the great resignation gathers pace, it’s clear that the talent market is moving in one direction and that power has shifted in favour of the best people. As a result, we recommend that startups adopt a more flexible, skills based approach to hiring.

At Passionfruit, we’ve enabled startups backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Seedcamp and IQ Capital to achieve game-changing SEO results, get a solid grasp on paid customer acquisition costs and begin building out a marketing function, respectively - all using top talent on a freelance basis.

Building a robust organisation is no longer simply a matter of hiring in bulk. The competencies needed to fully embrace flexible talent and fractional employment are the foundations of a scalable and resilient talent operations model. By embracing this market shift, startups can ensure that their approach to hiring talent becomes a superpower rather than an Achilles' heel.

We’re not suggesting that you do away with your head chef or hold out on that new fridge – but you might not need to buy all those knives.

Written by
Issah Abdul-Moomin
Co-founder of Passionfruit
Professor Passionfruit Illustration
Table of Contents

London’s restaurants have a dirty little secret.

Most of them don’t actually own any knives. Weird, right? If I was starting a restaurant, great knives would be pretty high up my shopping list. I’d also probably set aside a substantial budget for sharpening, repairs and replacement. So, what’s the deal?

Someone else can do it better. Specifically: Nella Cut, the leading knife sharpening company, which has been servicing London for 120 years. Because guess what? Restaurants have more pressing things to worry about, such as cooking for customers.

The same logic can be applied to startups when it comes to hiring.

We recognise the pressure on startup leaders to hoard talent considering how positively VCs are known to respond to hiring updates. Hiring independent specialists on a project-by-project basis may feel less sexy to VCs, who want to see a startup’s ability to attract and retain as a key marker of competency – particularly when London’s talent pools seem to be shrinking.

But, as London restaurants know only too well, there’s a smarter, speedier, and more cost-effective way to run a business, and that’s by outsourcing.

Allow us to explain:

You get to the talent you need, when you need it

How long did it take you to hire for your last role? Three months? Six? Nine? Hiring can be one hard slog of a process, and yet the roles you’re hiring for are changing on a no doubt daily basis. Can you truly recognise the start-up you were even just a month ago? Things move so fast that even the most diligent hiring plan can become redundant pretty quickly.

The problem is compounded by dynamics surrounding the fundraising process. Founders pitch a plan to investors, of which a central part is often the hiring plan. Once funding is agreed, founders feel compelled to stick to said plan, even if that plan no longer makes sense.

By using a platform like Passionfruit, startups can flexibly scale their talent up and down to suit the demands of any given period. The need for this flexibility was brought into sharp focus during the pandemic when many businesses were unable to operate, or demand for their services simply vanished. It made clear that staying lean beats the bloat.

It enables startups to operate like they should: with speed and precision

It seems odd that in a space that prioritises precision and speed, there are often job adverts gathering dust for months in the hopes of finding the unicorn who ticks every box. Given the sheer demand for high-quality growth marketing professionals and relatively limited supply, startups need to let go of the idea that they need to ‘lock in’ the best talent.

Not only is it an outdated concept, it suggests a misguided view of the type of work a startup needs to do. At a startup you are conducting a series of experiments in pursuit of the ever-elusive ‘product market fit’.  The traditional approach stifles companies. A flexible approach to talent enables a business to optimise the configuration of the teams executing on each experiment. It also forces you to be really clear about what you are trying to do. Rather than just throwing bodies at a broad challenge or opportunity that you are faced with, you must take some time to actually define what a great outcome looks like in order to effectively. With Passionfruit, you can be up and running with your new specialist in a matter of days.

Training and upskilling comes included

You can be sure that your talent will be as sharp as a restaurant kitchen knife. Freelancers spend on average 5 hours a week on training and upskilling. This is because freelancers recognise that in order to continue getting work they need to be up to date on the latest developments in their specialisms.

Independent work also allows for a domain focus and specialisation that is hard to get in an organisation where the practise of that specialism will be coloured by the organisation itself. For instance, a product marketing expert who has only worked at Uber will become a very good product marketing expert for Uber. Obviously the skills are transferable but it’s likely that they will be less flexible in their approach than a freelancer who has applied their skills across different companies and different projects. Then there’s the fact that you don’t have to pay directly for any of the training.

Flexibility and agility are often isolated as the key advantages that startups have over other businesses. It’s strange then that when it comes to talent, the approach is often anything but flexible or agile. The best startups recognise that things change quickly and being able to make the most of emerging opportunities is almost impossible if you are solely reliant on the skills and experience that sits within your business.

As the great resignation gathers pace, it’s clear that the talent market is moving in one direction and that power has shifted in favour of the best people. As a result, we recommend that startups adopt a more flexible, skills based approach to hiring.

At Passionfruit, we’ve enabled startups backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Seedcamp and IQ Capital to achieve game-changing SEO results, get a solid grasp on paid customer acquisition costs and begin building out a marketing function, respectively - all using top talent on a freelance basis.

Building a robust organisation is no longer simply a matter of hiring in bulk. The competencies needed to fully embrace flexible talent and fractional employment are the foundations of a scalable and resilient talent operations model. By embracing this market shift, startups can ensure that their approach to hiring talent becomes a superpower rather than an Achilles' heel.

We’re not suggesting that you do away with your head chef or hold out on that new fridge – but you might not need to buy all those knives.

Written by
Issah Abdul-Moomin
Co-founder of Passionfruit
Professor Passionfruit Illustration

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