Auren has a good post on the difference truly outstanding people make in an organization, and emphasizes that this is especially true in start-ups. I could not agree more. I find that talent often provides the greatest bottleneck in technology start-ups and this is the single most important point in every investment we consider in the Turkish market.
In the process, Auren goes on to identify the only way a start-up can ensure hiring great people:
To me it is amazing how some start-ups choose who they hire – many seem to hire anyone that went to MIT. That means they are outsourcing their hiring to the $40k/year admissions officer at the college who evaluated the person when they were 17! Do you really want to entrust your hiring to a bureaucrat? This is an extremely bad strategy. Of course, many people who went to MIT are real rock-stars and people who went to MIT might be more likely to be rock-stars than people who went to a lesser-known school, but most are only good … you need to work to find the great people.
By asking pointed questions and giving tough exercises, you can determine with high accuracy if someone is really amazing. In fact, I make it a point not to ask questions like “what do you like to do outside of work?” It’s better to ask them to solve tough problems and get to understand their thought-process. Great people have interests that often converge with what they do at work. At Rapleaf we do at least four rounds of interviews and we take our time. This means we occasionally lose some great people, but we err on not having false positives.
Focusing on assembling a team of great individuals is the single most important area an entrepreneur can focus on.