Go read Steve Newcomb’s essay on building teams:

Cult Creation

Steve’s the founder of Powerset. This essay is very long and very good. It’s the best article I’ve read on building teams. And team building is 10x more difficult, tedious, and important than raising money.

I love/hate this essay.

I love the fact that Steve is open sourcing his secrets. I hate the fact that high-quality startup advice is the exception and not the norm.

I love that this essay was written in Silicon Valley. I hate that Silicon Valley dominates the world in quality startup advice.

Here’s a sample from Steve’s essay:

Engineers Suck at Negotiating, so Don’t Negotiate, Be Fair –from me, after being pissed off about hiring practices I experienced from bad founders.

Over the years, I have noticed some sort of weird inverse correlation between the talent an engineer has for coding and their ability to negotiate. I’ve seen people that could have hacked into NSA suddenly shit twinkies the second I bring up the topic of their salary. I don’t exactly get it, but it’s there.

Founders, on the other hand, are almost by nature programmed to negotiate everything. In some cases, I have seen founders take advantage of engineers who don’t negotiate well, or who simply hate to negotiate so much that it’s a near-phobic experience.

DO NOT DO THIS! If you do, you’re an ass-hat.

Besides being unfair and a dick move, it is also stupid and even worse yet in my book – it’s illogical.

What inevitably happens is that the engineers, who all have different deals, get drunk one night. Then the shit hits the fan when they tell each other what they all make and what equity they got. Come Monday morning, every engineer’s password is “my_founder_is_a_dick,” several viruses and backdoors are suddenly installed into the code base, and the founder gets the silent treatment – none the wiser of his impending doom. Way to go ass-hat!

If you can’t tell, this one pushes my buttons. I don’t give a frog’s fat ass how good a negotiator an engineer is when I’m interviewing them. I want them to have such pristine code that it makes my other engineers cry. I want them to have a beautiful mind that can use logic and reason to solve the engineering challenges that I hand them. It is completely irrelevant how good they are at negotiating.

Go read the rest.

Topics Recruiting

2 comments · Show

  • Lief Storer

    The comment about engineers being phobic with negotiating is HILARIOUS. This guy is funny…and true as ever.

    The reason engineers are incapable of negotiating is that they are trained to be calculating about everything that they do. Engineers perform a job and calculate an associated value for that job whereas entrepreneurs and capitalists often valuate on fantasy and perceived value of their idea and themselves.

  • Tom Hollins

    I agree that anyone who just wants to stick it to their employees and negotiate them down, is setting the tone for their own future. If you wanted the cheapest people, then look around the world at the tech cities springing up who are the receivers of outsourced work. Then the employee need not even care about those employees.
    Stupid. I call it 50’s mentality where people are cogs that can get replaced. The term that has me ruffled currently is “Human Capital Acquisition”. HUH?
    Stupid people needing something to do so they make up stupid titles.
    Nivi, you are correct about Silicon Valley. I’m in/near Cleveland. Nothing happening here. I’m about to work on a user interface that is patentable. Talk to people around here and they say “What’s wrong with your job? You get paid ok right? Why would you want to quit a Fortune 500 company?”
    I answer that I’m not quitting anything. I’m moving up. There is life after working for a large corporation. I have read the forums, and I have talked with people from S.F. and the valley and they all say that when someone fails, the question isn’t “So where are you going to get another job”, its “So what are you going to invent next?”
    Inventors and entrepreneurs will invent again and startup again.
    I’m not sure how this thought process matured in the valley, but its been nurtured and now its the norm. Its just the way that it is.
    We in the remote reaches of space, here in Cleveland, who have no access to the funding and encourage, will persist and eventually thrive.

    Don’t get down Nivi, just change it. One company at a time. Do your funding thing, and help us underdogs.