Founder Circles: Founders Helping Founders


At TheVentureCity, we've launched a new initiative called Founder Circles. Our newest support resource for entrepreneurs. Founder Circles are small intimate groups of 5-6 founders from our portfolio who, from around the world, gather monthly via zoom to address relevant topics. They discuss their successes, challenges, brainstorm together and truly support each other along the way. TheVentureCity portfolio is a vast community of 100 global founders in a wide range of industries who each bring unique perspectives to help each other build stronger companies, faster.

As many of us know at TheVentureCity - most being former founders ourselves - the founder journey can be a rocky and often lonely one. It's therefore crucial to not only help our founders in tactical areas like product, tech, and data, but also in the human aspect, on how to become better leaders and how to scale their teams in challenging times.

When asked what they took away from the sessions, we found one clear collective sentiment: "I'm glad to know that I am not the only one facing this challenge." It comes as no surprise that knowing that others are in the same boat as them, clearly brings founders some peace of mind. All that was needed was a little communication!

In this first rendition of TheVentureCity Founder Circles, we focused on the topic of hiring and retaining talent. Here are some of the key insights that surfaced:

Finding Talent 

  • Referrals are the most effective way to bring on capable talent, particularly if you have strong talent on the team already. People will typically recommend others of a similar caliber.
  • Reference checks are very important during the hiring process, as are several rounds of interviews with different members of the team to get a good feel of the candidate.
  • Hiring an HR personnel in-house once you reach 15 people is a strategic way to help you expand.

The Hiring Process

  • If both your company and candidate don’t say “hell yes” (cultural fit, skills, etc.) during the interview, then it’s inevitably a “hell no”. In a world of much needed data-driven decisions, this is the time to listen to your gut. Keep in mind, skills can be learned or acquired, passion cannot. You want to ensure that they are aligned with your mission. 
  • Companies should determine not only if the candidate has the passion for the industry, but also the stage that the startup is in. Sometimes more experienced people aren't necessarily better because they may not be as willing to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty in the early phase requirements.

How to Compete for Talent

  • In an extremely hot tech market, where competition swoops in quickly with big pockets to pick up talent, culture is king to stand out. Startups may not have as many resources to offer, but can compete on culture. It's important to find people aligned with your vision, who are personally interested in the company's purpose. 
  • Equity shares should be used to attract top talent. 

Retaining Talent & Filling Gaps

  • Current senior members should be responsible for training and upskilling junior positions in the company as an alternative to hiring new individuals.
  • Get members involved in decisions, even small decisions to increase engagement. 
  • Make it fun! Provide prizes, gamification and acknowledge hard work.

Managing Remote Teams

  • Company offsites and time together create culture and are even more necessary for remote-first teams. Frequent offsites boost team morale, increase personal connections and foster a supportive culture.
  • Setup coffee chats where team members meet 1:1 to create personal bonds.
  • Leverage tools such as daily check-ins on how employees are feeling to check the pulse of the company.

Making Tough Decisions

  • Far too often, founders said that they waited too long to let go of someone they knew was not a fit for the company. Difficult decisions should be made fairly quickly to avoid any toxicity to the rest of the company.

We are looking forward to our next round of Founder Circles where we will discuss the investment process, as well as the highs and lows of each founder from the previous month. It's exciting to see founders reach out to each other for new opinions, to see them form new partnerships together, use each other's products and celebrate each other's wins on communications channels, such as LinkedIn and Twitter. 

There is so much talent within the portfolio and through these initiatives we aim to create space and opportunities for these relationships to develop further. The founder journey is a lonely road, but does not have to be with a supportive community behind you!

As an entrepreneur, what is your biggest challenge in hiring & retaining talent in today's job market?