If you are a hiring manager for a tech startup, what is the one company you’d most like to see on the résumé of a prospective candidate?
A lot of people might reflexively answer ‘Google’ on the belief that it’s still the most interesting and profitable company in technology. While this isn’t as bad as saying ‘IBM’ or ‘Microsoft’ it’s still an undue faith in the benedictory power of large companies.
Not that there’s anything wrong with folks from IBM or Microsoft, mind you – I’ve worked with many and hired some, and don’t regret any incidences from either. However, as a statistical matter, you’re not likely to find the kind of employee that really thrives in a small startup if they’ve spent a ton of time working in longstanding behemoths.
Doesn’t mean that big companies can’t innovate – in fact these days some say that only big companies can innovate big. Of course, it may be that the people saying that tend to reap consulting dollars from big companies for advising on innovation . . .
Anyway, Google is a slightly different case than IBM and MSFT, in that it hasn’t been around as long and is not quite so large in terms of revenue and employee base. However, because of the neck-crimping trajectory of Google as a company, I think it might be hard to get startup-ready employees out of Google: the good ones that are still there are engaged on the big premium projects, many of the not-so-good more recent vintage are as big-company-minded as anyone, and the truly great early employees who departed are retired or VCs – too rich to be enticed into a little startup unless they start it themselves, which they rarely do as it distracts from counting the money. Even if you follow startup news, you don’t hear so much about Google guys leading startups, with the notable exception of Paul Buchheit at FriendFeed.
So, if not Google, what company should be the most desirable to see on a résumé, all other things being equal? I think I’d pick the one company that spawned founders and early investors and employees at YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, Yelp, Slide, Zinga and Yammer: PayPal.
See, the ideal company – at least in terms of educating talent for the next venture – doesn’t have a Googlerian or Microsoftesque trajectory. From founding to acquisition by eBay for $1.5 billion, PayPal lasted about four years and grew to a profitable company with over 600 employees, having been through a lot of growth, innovation, regulatory challenges and corporate evolution. People in key positions through the bulk of that time saw the whole arc of company development, but never got so fat and happy that they didn’t want to do another startup. Yep, if you’re hiring for a startup, the name you’d most like to see on that résumé is PayPal, pre-acquisition by eBay, natch.