Tag: startups

Most entrepreneurs will tell you that the team around them makes all the difference in the world. They’re looking for smart, energetic people who can provide value from day one—people who can sell, acquire customers, design, engineer, improve a product or process, or create compelling content to help drive the business forward.

As a career advisor at Olin’s Weston Career Center, I help students understand the possibilities of pursuing a career path in entrepreneurship, providing them with tips and insights and connecting them with startup ecosystems nationwide. I founded PluggedIN HQ, which is an online matchmaking platform for emerging talent with local startups, and the Startup Talent Showcase, one of PluggedIN’s product offerings—a live matchmaking event set this year for February 23 at CIC at the Cortex Innovation District.

As this year’s showcase approaches, here are insights on what startups need, the difficulties they have recruiting talent, and tips for job seekers and startup founders.

Startups globally tend to have issues preparing job descriptions, identifying talent pipelines, recruiting talent, etc. What are the issues—and why?

Most early-stage companies don’t have a talent function—HR department, internal recruiter, hiring process. Often, founders struggle with developing a hiring plan or prioritizing the kind of hires they need to make to drive their business forward, partly because they haven’t hired for particular roles/functions and partly because they have so many things on their plate while running and growing a business.

While there are some job boards where they can post openings, doing so will almost always inundate them with a surplus of passive job candidates who don’t even remember applying to the job, not to mention, know anything about the company. The process takes a lot of time and has questionable results.

Recruiting talent takes resources and startups are resource-strapped. Most can’t afford an agency recruiter, which costs 20 to 30 percent of the candidate’s initial salary. It also takes time, a founder’s most valuable asset.

At the same time, there is no clear pathway for job seekers and students to a city’s startup ecosystem. With the exception of some notable entrepreneurship programs at universities, the majority of college students interested in pursuing careers in entrepreneurship (working at a startup, launching a company or working in VC) don’t know where to look or how to navigate a city’s startup community.

The good candidates who want to be involved in the startup scene simply can’t find their way in. It’s difficult for startups to compete with corporations, consulting firms, and large tech companies (Google, Amazon) that have enormous recruitment budgets and are able to recruit students with irresistible job offers.

What roles are most often “up for grabs” at the Startup Talent Showcase?

In short, all of them. Startups need people who understand the startup environment and can hit the ground running and provide value from day one, whether it’s through building (software development), designing (product development, marketing), selling (business development and sales), growing (strategy), improving or optimizing a product or process using data analytical skills (operations, data analysts), or ensuring customers are deriving value from the product or service (customer success).

Attitude, aptitude, experience—in that order—is what savvy startups look for in a great candidate.

Skill sets, job descriptions, and experience aside, they need people with an all-in, can-do attitude who will commit to the company’s vision and success, develop the necessary skill sets along the way and become experienced contributors to the business.

Why did you start the Startup Talent Showcase in the first place? Tell us a success story.

I led recruitment and hiring for venture fund Cultivation Capital and its portfolio of firms. In this role, I saw first-hand the pains of hiring for startups at various growth stages. At the same time, I received multiple emails daily from college students and job seekers desperately seeking an entry point in the St. Louis startup community.

Rather than serve as a gatekeeper, I wanted to create a space where job seekers and startups could connect (physically) in a more systematized manner.

The format for this event was designed with a few things in mind: minimized risk, cost, and time for the founder; pre-vetted, talented folks who were prepared and ready to pitch to companies; a safe, fun environment for job seekers to learn about the startup community and learn what it takes to be a sought after employee.

WashU senior Devin Goodkin attended the 2016 Startup Talent Showcase, where he landed a summer internship as a data analyst with Gainsight. After completing his Gainsight internship, he networked and navigated his way even further into the local startup community and landed an internship the following summer with Venture Cafe as a special projects and data analysis intern.

He then went on to intern as a venture analyst for Stadia Ventures and venture consultant for local startup Tallify. Since his pitch at the 2016 showcase, he’s been very proactive in his approach for finding a job, with both a great attitude and startup mindset.

Attendees were expected to give a short speech about their background and what career path they were looking for,” Goodkin explained later. “The event concluded with catered food, drinks and an opportunity to network. It was a creative and fun approach to a career fair.”

What are your top tips for job seekers or startups at the showcase?

For job seekers:

  • Create a profile on PluggedIn.
  • Do your homework on the companies that will be there. They’ll be listed on the event site.
  • Craft a killer pitch that is totally “you.” Lean on your strengths and what makes you unique. Don’t stress out about what a company may or may not want to hear.
  • Relax, have fun, and let yourself shine. Remember, all of the founders in the room were once in your shoes.

For startups:

  • Post your open job reqs on PluggedIn.
  • Think about the kind of person you want in your firm more than the role you want them to fill. If they will fit your culture, you’ll be able to find them a role.
  • Brush up on your company pitch. It’s the most important recruitment tool you’ll have at the event.
  • Be open-minded and prepared to meet some awesome people. You might even decide to create a job/internship/project at your company because you just clicked with the right person for your team.

One more tip: For graduating students who want to work at a startup, check out Venture for America.

Click here for more details about the Startup Talent Showcase on February 23.

Students in the CELect Entrepreneurship Course, held at the T-REx startup accelerator, are sharing their team projects with the Olin Blog. Student team Brittainy Cavender, Jinsoo Chang, Masa Ide, and Jenny Kronick describe the experience of consulting for their client, FocalCast. 

St. Louis-based FocalCast is a live collaboration software that allows audiences to connect and interact with presentations. By providing features like live annotations, digital whiteboards, and polling, FocalCast turns standard presentations into engaging dialogues.

Since its founding, FocalCast has provided an easier way for people to communicate, collaborate, and conduct business on the go. Now it is looking to expand into new markets.

As part of the Fall 2017 CELect class, our team is developing a comprehensive marketing strategy to propel FocalCast’s product into new market verticals. Our approach focuses on researching potential clients and developing leveraged distribution and direct sales strategies to target a variety of players within those key verticals.

Our research emphasizes bottom-up approaches—specifically, interviews with current and prospective customers. The interviews help us determine customers’ current needs and pain points, which will guide us in developing a strategy that addresses these consumer interests. The strategy utilizes both traditional and digital marketing, including organic and paid marketing, to create an optimized plan for lead generation and awareness. The goal is to provide FocalCast with a strategy that will allow them to take the next steps in growing their business and create a strong foothold in the targeted verticals.

Guest Bloggers: Brittainy Cavender, Law ’18, Jinsoo Chang, MBA ’18; Masa Ide,  MBA ’18; Jenny Kronick, PMBA ’18 

Students in the CELect Entrepreneurship Course, held at the T-REx startup accelerator, are sharing their team projects with the Olin Blog. Student team Logan Bolinger, Alex Clouser, Myiah Johnson, and Chad Littrell describe the experience of consulting for their client, TechArtista. 

The co-working space trend has been continuously growing over the past few years. Over the years, consumer interests and expectations of those spaces have evolved and co-working spaces have evolved with them. TechArtista in St. Louis has been at the forefront of developing a unique cultural experience for its customers to address these demands.

TechArtista is not just a co-working space. It is a community of art, culture, and innovation. As TechArtista sets its sights on expanding to a second location, they turned to the CELect program to help execute this task.

During this project, our team has gained great insight on how TechArtista’s differentiated culture creates value for members. When a plan and process are developed around that culture and replicated, it becomes even more valuable. Through our research, we have found that the most successful spaces are the ones that have been able to grow while still remaining true to their brand. TechArtista’s culture is well-positioned for growth. We plan to add value by proposing a plan that helps them leverage and replicate that culture by instilling new processes.

This CELect experience has been valuable because it has demonstrated how effective an actionable plan can be in the execution of a company’s vision. We have also been taught the importance of staying true to the established values and mission of one’s company. The reasons people have for joining an organization and the organization’s own values can be more significant and more catalyzing than what the company actually does.

Guest Bloggers: Logan Bolinger, Law ’18; Alex Clouser, MBA/Architecture ’18; Myiah Johnson, PMBA, ’17; Chad Littrell, PMBA ’18

Startup founders and angel investors are invited to a free webinar on the kinds of metrics they need to navigate their roles in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Ron King, the Myron Northrup Professor of Accounting at Olin, will introduce the latest research on metrics and why standard measurements for established companies are very different than those needed for a startup.


Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017

12 p.m.- 1 p.m. CT

“A startup company is not just a small version of a large company,” says King. “In this webinar, we will provide a framework for thinking about the metrics that startup founders need to manage and the metrics investors need to evaluate startups. It’s important to understand how these metrics relate and which of them may be more valuable in guiding your decision making.”

King has been on both sides of the startup equation as an investor and an entrepreneur and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to this webinar. “Founders generally use metrics for their internal decision making: how do they design their marketing, their product, their target market, to scale their business,” King explains.  “On the other hand, an angel generally thinks about valuing companies by using metrics that are more appropriate for established business. So the intersection between an angel’s interest in data and the founder’s interest in data for their internal decision-making are really quite distinct.”

This webinar is targeted to practitioners. King recommends that participants bring their inquisitive nature to the webinar. “All you need to benefit from this webinar I think is the natural curiosity about a very complicated problem. The problem is how do we efficiently an effective go from an idea to a business model that has recurring revenue.

Register today.

The 6th annual Real Elevator Pitch Competition is open for submissions. Sponsored by Saint Louis University, this contest is open to all college students. Two cash prizes will be awarded to the best business plan pitches.

The Real Elevator Pitch competition takes place on real elevators in the second tallest building in Missouri: One Met Square in downtown St. Louis. Real students deliver real startup pitches to real investors while riding up 40 stories on the building’s elevators.

Submissions are due by Nov. 7, 2017 at 11:59 CST

Saint Louis University staged the first Real Elevator Pitch six years ago and it has been a successful competition ever since.

Startup business pitches can be submitted in two categories: for profit ideas and nonprofit ideas.

To enter the competition, you must submit a 30 second pitch:

1.) Record your video and upload it to YouTube.

2.) Fill out the SUBMISSION FORM

A blue-ribbon panel of judges will select the top 18 that will move on to the Final Round.

The 18 Finalists will be invited to One Met Square building in downtown St. Louis  to pitch to 30+ wealthy judges while riding up and down on 12 elevators.

See the ‘Real’ Elevator Pitch FAQs to help answer any questions you might have or email ecenter@slu.edu for more information.