Connect with us


How To Get More Employees For Your Startup



Say you’re a startup founder or working for a startup and tasked to hire new employees. You’ve searched high and low for good people to work for you, exhausted your Monster résumé collection and tried scavenging LinkedInGoogle+, and even Facebook but you couldn’t find the high-quality engineers that you need for your venture. Sights of despair are glimmering. Then what?

Lets face it, working in startups as an employee has many downsides in addition to the usual downsides of any job. These are among those “extra” downsides:

  • lower salary or total compensation package (because you’re still not making money)
  • longer hours (because you’re pressed with time-to-market and/or investors breathing down your neck)
  • egocentric bosses cum founders (that’s normal for the typical entrepreneur since they see themselves as visionaries)

To make things worse, headhunters are often even more clueless about these downsides when promoting their vacancies. Here is an excerpt of one message I received recently – name concealed to protect the guilty.

“Dear Sasmito, I am a technologist recruiter at XXXXX. I have an important position for a Senior iOS Developer in an exciting and highly successful social media firm in Singapore that has the leadership of Silicon Valley veterans and the financial backing of private global investors and the Singaporean government. This is a unique position that will see you creating a brand new social media platform that will connect its 16 million+ users globally. If this is something you would like more information on, I will be keen to share more details. I look forward to hearing from you.”

Granted this e-mail doesn’t explicitly say “startup” – but to someone who regularly receives these recruiter pitches, it’s clearly visible that the vacancy is not coming from an established company. This recruiter even writes subjective superlatives like “exciting and highly successful” and “has the leadership of Silicon Valley … financial backing of government …” without quoting anything verifiable.

You should also see that the above e-mail doesn’t say anything that touches any of the three concerns I’ve said earlier. As Amy Hoy put it, startups are one long con – experienced engineers aren’t likely to fall to that trick again (because being experienced means that they’ve probably have been gullible before).

Then how can you attract good-skilled people to your startup? For a start, you’ll need to address the downsides of working for a startup. That should cover the hygiene part (of Frederick Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory). Then you should work on your unfair advantage, which will entice people to work for you (this is the motivation part of Herzberg’s theory).

Let me show you a framework how you can compete for employees with MegaCorps. Consider these four factors:

  • Your unfair advantage What can your company provide that other jobs and personal projects cannot? Is it working in latest technology? Access to eager early adopters? Deep-pocketed angel investors? If your tech is mostly open-source (or can be acquired with $2000 or less), then technology won’t be your edge in luring employees since they can use their personal time to work on those. What kind of technologies that will attract high-quality engineers that is an unfair advantage? Think the Large Hadron Colliderbrain-computer interface, or deep-sea exploration. If you’re not working in domains where the technology barrier to entry is high then you better compensate on the other factors.
  • How do you address life-balance issues? Remember that these people have other priorities than solely their work, otherwise they’ll run their own startups. When times are good, MegaCorps usually has excellent work/life balance. However we’re not completely out of the recession yet  thus some of these large corporations are deliberately understaffing their operations (which often strains work/life balance). Also I often see consulting companies (and companies that charges a margin of the employees’ time in general) are usually eating up their employees’ personal life. These are two opportunities that you can jump in to compete with more established corporations on work/life balance.
  • Boss’ empathy (or working environment) If you’re a startup founder, have you ever been an employee? Have the experience made you humbler? Can you emphatize with your employees? Never expect that a mere employee will be working as hard as you are since they don’t own the companyand can’t expect much capital payout. Sadly this problem does not solely belong to startups. Even MegaCorps has their share of overly-aggressive bosses. Remember that the boss shapes the culture of her division and thus her attitude will certainly affect how people that reports to her work and relate to each other.
  • Compensation Last but not least, can you offer a competing salary that they can earn (or currently earning) at a MegaCorp? If not, what other non-financial perks that you offer to make up the difference? (note: “working with you” doesn’t count as a perk – that’s just your megalomaniac voice talking). This is crucial since even though money is rarely a primary motivationsubstandard salary motivates employees to look for better pay elsewhere. If you’re paying largely below what your competitors are paying, even a slight dissatisfaction in other areas could easily crank up your turnover rate.

Competing with MegaCorps

You can plot the above four factors on a plane to gauge your position relative to your competitors. This is a radar chart of four dimensions with each dimension representing one of the competitive factors listed above. You mark a point in the middle of each dimension line as “average”. Going outwards of those “average” marks means that it is “above average” and inwards means that the factor is “below average”.

Then you draw your estimate of how each of your competitors fares in each factor. Plotting a large publicly-traded MegaCorp is easier since there is plenty of publicly-available data that you can find about such company. Then you need to plot your own company and see how it fares against your competitors in terms of hiring power.

In the example diagram I’ve provided a hypothetical large bank that I call ShittyBank. Being a financial company, they can afford to pay their employees at significantly above market rate, as shown by the “Compensation Package” axis in the diagram. However ShittyBank is known to have a predatory culture and need to do a lot of busywork, hence the low rankings in the “Boss’ Empathy” and “Life-Balance” axes. Since they have access to a large pool of customers, they have an above-average “unfair advantage” that smaller banks cannot match (think engineers interested in data-mining or large-data problems – ShittyBank’s large customer base offers the big data that they need to play with).  Similarly, I plotted “You, Inc” as an example of how you can analyze yourself to compete against ShittyBank.

Then, you’ll say, what if you’re trying to get hired by a startup? For tips on this other side of the bargaining table, you can read Jason Cohen’s How to Convince a Startup to Hire You post.


About the Author

This article was written by Sasmito Adibowo of is a portal that is dedicated to helping you get programming tips, bootstrapping experiences, dayjob woes, and bits of Apple stuff. Please see more if you found this article useful. 


“When Adam Draper does Crypto Standup, Singapore listens”



I live and work in Singapore and Santa Monica. Yes, I am blessed. However, my life has been by design, I think of what I want and so I make my life choices and make them happen in my life. Hence the bi-continent living and that comes with bi-continent and now global community living, being and ecosystems building. So I am now never surprised when one part of my world meets another.

I went to Wavemaker Partners venture capital event this evening, keen to meet Adam Draper, who is one of the many great presenters at Crypto Invest Summit, April 30- May 2 in Los Angeles.

Since I actively support leaders who are building scalable, sustainable businesses and movements for the betterment of many; of course I am learning about Blockchain and Cryptocurrency. I had been keen to report on the Crypto Invest Summit as I would be back in May to LA for my PhD programme. I was in communications with the organizers. However, I am being awarded an award at the Women Economic Forum in Delhi that same week and could not be physically present.

Still I wanted to report on the event, somehow.

I wanted to listen to the speakers and support some of the speakers who are already friends and experts I rely on for greater insights on cryptocurrency. I like learning and sharing with the greater audience, I have in Asia what I am learning from the US and vice versa. So I feel I had my chance tonight to do a bit of that.

I could not help but smile as Adam Draper shed light into his world of investing in more than 85 crypto related products because he was such a breath of fresh air to the last few Blockchain and Financial conferences I have been reporting on; especially here in Asia.

He just says it like it is.

He kept stopping the audience when they said Blockchain and he said, “You know you really mean cryptocurrency.”  He hit the nail on the head because I have seen so clearly how this phrase had been said in Singapore time and again – “I am not into cryptocurrency but I believe in Blockchain.”

When he said how there was an incongruity as he sat across bankers who personally invested in cryptocurrency and when faced with an inbound of requests from their clients on the same investment; are tied by regulations and are unable to respond.

Here’s some of his best lines. If you don’t laugh or “ah-ha” the way I did, you probably just had to be there. The truth is funny because it calls out for something we all see but sometimes just do not want to admit.

There is a growing understanding of the underlying thematics that the cryptocurrency world has been experiencing as the interface between centralize; de-centralize and personal autonomy becomes more and more apparent and lines get drawn.

Adam Says:

1) The newest phenomenon is that some of the ICO founders are now just so rich from their ICOs that they really don’t need to work on the project they asked for money for.

2) For the crypto-world, money doesn’t matter anymore!
They need talent

It’s so founder friendly now.

3) What Bitcoin made us ask is “What is money?”

The next question is “What is government and governance?”

He highlighted if an entrepreneur is looking for a problem to solve., then the entrepreneur is always looking for horrible industries with poor services and high costs. So yes – Governments are those horrible industries and they need to be disrupted.

4)  Any company who comes to an investor and leads with how much ICO has raised; is a red flag. Leave immediately and go read a Harry Potter book instead.
If they are leading with value and not the problem they are solving. Beware. (read more here

5) If you are going to invest in where the brains are. It’s in crypto.

6) Philosophically, Coinbase is against ethos of what Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency movement is trying to do. However to do such a move from fiat to digital currency, there would need a way to do that. So Coinbase acts like a browser does for internet. One day there will be no need to cash in or out as everyone is already there on digital. Cryptocurrency is the exchange of value. His advice and we know his bias as he is invested in  Coinhako; is to hold onto an exchange for 3-5 years since onboarding of all users to the new digital currency will take some time.

Adam met with many banks and government bodies on his trip to Singapore – I hope they got his truths.

I ended the night by thanking Adam for making me laugh. He reminded me of how much I miss LA.

Want more of this?

If you are in LA on April 30 – May 2.



Continue Reading

Callum Connects

Adrian Reid, Founder of Enlightened Stock Trading



Adrian Reid escaped the rat race and became a knowledgeable trader. He now shares his trading knowledge and empowers others to take control of their stocks.

What’s your story?
After working 12-16 hour days in the corporate world for many years I had a moment of realisation on the 1 hour bus ride to work. It was here at this moment in time, I realised that I felt trapped, desperate and isolated. Trapped in a job I hated, and a life I had not designed. I had long been interested in investing, but I made the decision at that point to become the best trader I could possibly be and escape the rat race.
My dream was to be free; free of the 9 to 5, the commute, the stress and the exhaustion. I threw myself into my stock trading research and study and emerged 3 months later with the trading rules that would ultimately buy me my freedom. I am now retired from the corporate world, I trade full time and share my knowledge with other aspiring traders through my online education program which puts them in control and empowers them to take control and accountability for their trading results.

What excites you most about your industry?
So many people are trapped in jobs they don’t like or are feeling immense financial pressure in their life. Trading education is typically done extremely badly today because of the conflicts of interest in the industry. Fund managers want to hold onto your money forever; brokers want you to trade more frequently; forex brokers want you to use more leverage. Why? Because that is how they make their money.
By teaching traders how to develop and test their own stock trading systems I am able to empower them to find trading rules which fit their own personality, objectives and lifestyle. This is the only way for new traders to be successful. This process transforms people’s financial future, their relationship with money and wealth and gives them hope. I love that!

What’s your connection to Asia?
I recently spent 3 years living in Singapore which I absolutely loved. This put me in a good position to observe the other Asian markets. As a stock trader I am interested in many markets and economies around the world, however the Asian markets have some of the best potential for trading profits. I have traded stocks in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo and I have developed trading systems that work in many other Asian markets as well.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
My favourite city is Singapore. After living in Singapore for 3 years my family fell in love with the city. Life is great in Singapore for the whole family and the pro-business and investing policies of the government make it a wonderful place to build your financial future as well.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
On a personal front: Find something you love, throw all your energy and passion into it.
On the wealth front: Spend less than you earn and invest the difference. Take control of your finances and always accept 100% responsibility for your investment decisions.

Who inspires you?
My wife Stephanie inspires me. Her commitment to everything she does, her compassion, her insights into people and her ability to uplift those around her, make me want to be a better person.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
No matter what we think we know, there will always be a different perspective that can change our opinion. In my own trading, I continually find that the truths I cling to are not absolute and they can be misleading if held onto dogmatically. Striking a balance between taking a stance and knowing when to change that stance based on new information is critical in all areas of life.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more action earlier on. My fear of mistakes (which still limits me on occasions, like most people) has always proven to be baseless. Playing small to avoid the embarrassment or pain of mistakes is very limiting and I would have taken more action earlier, if I had my time again.

How do you unwind?
To unwind I like to read, meditate, run and ride my mountain bike in the forest.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I just love the small island resort at Batu Batu. It is beautiful, isolated, quiet and surrounded by clean water, full of sealife. After a week at the resort I felt like a different person.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto. This book teaches the art of clear and structured communication. My time working as a business strategy consultant gave me a great appreciation for the importance of communication in business. Clear and effective communication can solve a myriad of challenges in your business and professional life, and as a strong communicator your employment prospects, business relationships, team performance and family life are all dramatically improved.

Shameless plug for your business:
Enlightened Stock Trading ( is the only stock market trading education business that empowers you, as an individual trader. It shows you how to design and test your own unique stock trading system that fits YOUR Personality, Objectives and Lifestyle. We have no conflicts of interest and we are focused on teaching you how to trade stocks profitably in a way that fits your life.
After working through the Enlightened Stock Trader Certification Program you will find yourself confident and empowered with your own battle tested trading system and trading plan to guide you through the markets.

How can people connect with you?
Email me directly at [email protected] or through my Facebook Page (

Twitter handle?

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
Download free copies of his books here:

Continue Reading