How Do I Recruit Great Talent for my Startup: When I can’t pay the same as (Insert “Big Rich Tech Giant”) here

Marvin Liao
2 min readFeb 3, 2021

I hear this question all the time from my founders. My answer is you can’t beat them on salary or with your “at present somewhat worthless” equity. Especially when the big tech cos or well funded later stage startups can beat you 3–10X whatever u can offer pay & benefits package wise.

But what you can beat them on is the offer of ownership, responsibility and mission. Your job as founder is to sell the adventure & excitement that your startup represents. You are giving them the opportunity to join you on a “Grand Expedition.”

You are also selling learning. The ability to touch different parts of the business and have influence on where the company goes. Everything that happens at an early stage startup really matters. Contrast this with a big company. I remember when i was at Yahoo!, making the company an extra few million dollars a quarter. As awesome as it is, really did not really matter to a company making over $1 Billion dollars a quarter.

You are ultimately selling IMPACT.

And if you do a great job, the opportunity to maybe make some money. It is that simple.

If they are not interested and prefer to take the money and relative safety of a Big Tech Co job, then your startup (or any startup frankly) probably is not a fit for them. Better to find out NOW than 3 or 6 months down the road. Move on to the next candidate who has the appropriate risk profile and more into you!

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Marvin Liao

Ever curious: Tsundoku, Reader, Aspiring Shokunin, World traveller, Investor & Tech/Media exec interested in almost everything!