Life after startup – The joy of hiring Pirates

Me and Rebeka, the pirate intern

I love it”

We are nearing the end of the working day when suddenly our normally quiet events management intern Rebeka pauzes, looks at me and says: “I love it.”

I look at her confused, and ask: “eh.. what do you mean?“

A shy smile appears on her 21 year old face, and she continues: “it’s really cool to be present at such an early stage of a company.

Back in my country I was never really aware of what startups looked like and what they went through, and now I get to experience everything from really up close”.

She started just 2 weeks ago but she is already on a roll.

She is recruiting her soon to be marketing colleague, organizing our operations, configuring our software and coming up with her own objectives and key results.

When selecting interns I really made sure to give them an important disclaimer, which would typically filter already many of the candidates:

If you are looking for a place where a manager is going to guide you step by step on how a specific job works, then please do NOT apply to this job.

We are building a pirate ship, meaning we need pirates: people that can think fast and learn from their own mistakes, and that dare to make them.

But how do you get pirates?

About hiring pirates

Ernest Shackleton was most famous for assembling the expeditions in 1914 for his Imperial Trans-Arctic Expeditions (ITAE), basically getting 50 sailors to go to Antarctica.

He chose these 50 sailors out of 5000 men that applied at the time by looking very specifically for the misfits.

Ernest believed that 4 qualities were necessary to be an explorer:

⁃ Optimism

⁃ Patience

⁃ Imagination

⁃ Courage

Looking back at my experience when recruiting the first employees of a startup, I can say that these were definitely the qualities we automatically were attracted to.

I would also say that once you have found a group of pirates, it’s important to give them the following:

⁃ Pirates need a clear mission

For superconnectors we are on a mission to engineer breakthrough moments.

In order to do that we need to find the very best Critical asks and put them in front of the 1000 best superconnectors in the world. Our starting place to look for them are the 20 top conference in the world. Only then can we aspire to produce the quality level of conferences like TED.

⁃ Pirates need ownership

I want to spend 90% of our time together discussing what challenges we are facing, and the other 10% giving them a clear task based way to solve for it.

⁃ Pirates need to keep being challenged

Pirates love solving a problem at the very root. Meaning that it can easily happen that if they solve something, they will solve it for good. So make sure not only to have a backlog of tasks, but to actually have a backlog filled with problems with increasing levels of difficulty.

Real pirates can’t wait to be the first to try

For most people, an internship is just something they need to cross off on their curriculum, so they can get a job.

Typically these people will get scared by the prospect of landing in a place where there is nobody to take decisions for you except for yourself.

Real pirates however can’t wait to be the first to try. To them being the first in a team is a privilege.

They appreciate that nobody else will have the same opportunity to shape the way all the future generations of employees will get to do things.

They don’t just like to see a company slowly come to life, they Love it.

Our new intern Rebeka gets it, but that’s because Rebeka doesn’t aim to become a pirate, she is one.

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