Three Thirty Five

Teams – The New Unit in the War for Talent & Innovation

With the deadline to apply for GCT’s next class only two days away (!!), we’re seeing applications come in at a breakneck pace. It’s humbling to be on the receiving end of this enthusiasm and really exciting to see just how far the NY tech ecosystem has come in such a short period of time.

By any measure, the NY ecosystem has grown materially since we started GCT, if you look at things like VC funding, new company formation, great exits, etc. We’re never interested in another “Alley vs. Valley” discussion. Instead, we think this activity is indicative not only of just how deep (and growing) the bench of talent and expertise is here in NY, but also of how strong the pull of building something truly is. Here’s the thing: building a company is one of the hardest things you can do; we know it first hand. Having an awesome team comprised of people who are not only experts, but who care is both the only way to really survive that kind of stress and to actually enable something to take flight.

So it’s no surprise that when we’re reviewing applications, one of the things that we look at is the strength of the team. That doesn’t mean just looking for a collection of sector experts with great backgrounds and skills — it also means looking for people that want to work together to build a shared dream. Because when the glitz and glam of your launch or seed announcement is gone, the only way you’re going to joyfully work until 3 AM is if you believe in and trust each other. Is it really any surprise that a team built like this can outperform a larger, better funded corporate army?

But not every team is out in the world as an established startup. We can all probably think about jobs we’ve had where we loved our team but hated management, or at least thought management wasn’t taking full advantage of the collective potential of the group. And really the choices have been to stay and endure, leave as individuals, or launch a business. (This last option may have been particularly attractive over the last ~5 years when it seemed anyone who could write a line of code was able to raise a cool million, but those days appear to be drawing to a close and there’s good reason to question whether all this venture activity hasn’t had a net negative impact on economic output.) To date, the wholesale recruiting/movement of teams has been relegated to some areas of finance and costly acqui-hires – a very risky goal for any startup to aspire towards outright. So when Stripe, a company we really admire, announced their “bring your own team” initiative last night, they pointed the way to a new alternative that we’ve often thought of here:

The benefits of this approach are clear — chemistry, familiarity, and shared vision are already assured within a team. There are certainly potential downsides to this approach, including the danger of simply promoting the “in crowd” at the expense of diversity, and of course the risk (and increased cost) of an entire team not working out as opposed to just one individual. But it’s precisely this kind of creative thinking that represents a competitive advantage for companies that are bold enough to act. It also happens to be one area where a corporation with deep pockets can flex their muscles to gain a real, sustainable competitive advantage against startups.

And if this new kind of recruiting works at scale, we’re confident that it will have an unintended positive effect on the ecosystem in general: channelling and activating the efforts of committed and gifted people (specifically engineers) toward ideas with demonstrated scale and opportunity (therefore accelerating that growth). This means cutting down on the creation of frivolous or derivative/duplicative businesses that may just be a result of a frothy market for funding at the earliest levels, AND reorienting corporate dollars from a “spray-and-pray” approach to identifying entrepreneurial talent and “innovation” to a targeted mechanism by which vetted ideas AND proven skills can be absorbed wholesale.

Facilitating this level of efficiency and growth is core to what we are building at GCT. Are you a part of a team that you think fits this profile? Are you a hiring manager that wants to explore more? Let’s start a conversation.

And don’t forget to apply by THURSDAY!

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