Announcing Work at a Startup | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Announcing Work at a Startup".


Note: This transcription is split and grouped by topics and subtopics. You can navigate through the Table of Contents on the left. It's interactive. All paragraphs are timed to the original video. Click on the time (e.g., 01:53) to jump to the specific portion of the video.


Intro (00:00)

All right, guys. So we are here today to talk about work at a startup. Let's really quickly do some introductions. So Jared, why don't you start? - Hey, I'm Jared. I'm a partner here at YC. The way I got into YC was I did a YC company in one of the earliest batches. It was a company called Scribd. And then I joined YC three years ago as a partner. - Cool. Matt. - Hey, I'm Matt Long. I was a co-founder of a company that went through a Y Combinator back in winter 2010 called Crocodoc. And now I'm a software engineer here at YC. Been here for a little over a little under a year now. - Cool. - And you guys, in addition to a few other people at YC, have been working on a product called Work at Startup. So Matt, could you describe what it is?

Detailed Insights On Startups

Work at a Startup (00:42)

- Yeah, so Work at a Startup is a common application for engineers that were interested in working at a startup and in particular a YC company. They'll go through a lot of kind of typical biographical questions about themselves and their experience and background. And then they're able to kind of choose their preferences for what sort of company and role they're looking for. We make all this information available to the founders of all of our YC companies who can then kind of browse and search through them to find what they're looking for, kind of indicate their interest and start conversations with them that will hopefully lead to some hires. - Cool.

Why work at a Startup (01:19)

And yeah, so why make this? Why make this instead of just relying on the existing infrastructure out there? - Yeah, so I guess hiring is notoriously hard among startups and in Silicon Valley. You know, it's just so much intense competition, you know, the more established players in the tech industry. And sure enough, you know, just like internal surveys we've done with founders of YC companies kind of confirm that we're overwhelmingly hiring and in particular hiring engineers is kind of the number one problem they face following going through the YC program. So we, YC decided we should take the same approach we've done with everything and try to apply software to this to help scale, find a nice scalable solution and just another way that YC can kind of help out our portfolio companies and kind of made our own kind of hiring portal that's a little bit kind of particular to the way and the types of companies that go through YC. - Mm-hmm. And so Jared, do you have experience with this directly having hired quite a bit at Scribd before? And you were also part of the work at StartUp before it was known as work at a StartUp conference in 2010, right? - Yeah, so it's actually not a new idea per se for YC to try to help its companies hire. Hacker News, from the very beginning when we first created it back in, I think 2009, part of the goal was to help companies hire. And so it's had a job section from day one. And when I was at My StartUp, I used the Hacker News job section a lot and it was incredibly helpful for hiring. I think probably half the engineering team that we hired came through Hacker News. And that's not a typical for YC companies. So we have sort of a long history of this. We've also long had an internal forum for YC founders where they share candidates that aren't right for them but could be great for somebody else. And that's also worked extremely well. And so the origins of this project were kind of like, we saw that this was working and that there is tremendous demand for it and everybody wanted us to do more. And so the work at StartUp product is trying to build just a better, more efficient, more sophisticated version of the Hacker News jobs board and the internal forum that we've had for a long time. - In particular, what are the additions that differentiate it from HN job posting, for example?

Differences from HN job posting (03:47)

- Yeah, absolutely. So the way I think about hiring is like, it's fundamentally a matching problem, right? There's a great company for everyone and for every company. There's a set of people who would be perfect for them but it's really hard to make that match happen. And it's especially hard for startups. For large companies like Microsoft, they hire people of all kinds. And so the matching just becomes easier because they're hiring for so many roles. If you've played a Microsoft, there's a good chance. There's a role there that could be a good fit for you. But with startups who are only hiring for a couple of roles that don't have brand names, you don't know who they are, what they do if you'd be interested, what roles they're hiring for. And so the matching problem is particularly hard for startups. And that's why we've been working really hard on it. Matt would be a great person to talk about some of the ways that we're trying to solve a matching problem. It's still early days, it's a really hard problem but I think we have some interesting ideas. - Cool. - Yes, I think kind of the main thing we're gonna be looking at is just kind of around kind of what sort of culture and company feel and potential employees are kind of interested in anything from kind of more objective measures like size of the company, number of people in it, whether or not they're profitable or not, like how important is that to a potential new engineer? And then also kind of course kind of ranging in the what's sort of like skills and technologies the engineers have mastered the various degrees and kind of lining that up against the tech stack of a given company is using. And then again, going more into the culture thing is kind of looking for kind of what's more important to them just in terms of, excuse me, are they interested in solving more kind of like product focus questions or really digging in the like deep kind of hard technical problems? Kind of just things like that kind of just what's most important to them or what they're looking for. And then of course we can get all this information because that kind of sort of information from all the companies that are gonna be in the system as well. So that will kind of give us kind of two sets of data to kind of match against each other. And we think we're pretty confident there's this will be a nice way to kind of filter out the most interesting and the best matching companies to the top for these applicants and the founders as well of companies just kind of show them which applicants might be right for them. - Yeah, how do the companies report and measure their own culture and these engineering problems? Like what questions exactly are they answering? - It's a good question. We actually haven't put these questions direct in their final form in front of founders just yet but really you could go like kind of like the application that's on and you know, go through like the career and culture section. And then you can imagine that they're like I have fairly similarly worded question that we're gonna pose to our founders and just to start with, you know, it will kind of be kind of trusting them to answer them honestly, you know, about what the conditions are like at their office and just kind of like the state of their company, whether or not we're gonna have to sort of like editorialize that or curate it all or, you know, make sure everything lines up for their ality is kind of yet to be seen. But certainly like the star will little let's be self-reported from the founders themselves. - I'm curious about how you guys have been doing the matching thus far 'cause this product has been around, when was the initial like early beta launch?

Early Launching to Now (07:08)

- So the very first beta was in the middle of December 2017. So just around six months ago. - Okay. And what did it look like back then? 'Cause I think it might be interesting for people to find out like how this has evolved to this point. - Yeah, so back then it was just the data we're gathering from after-occurrence that wasn't nearly as much as we have now. And it's kind of pretty simple, watered down version of what you might be asked on other kind of hiring portals like hired or AngelList. Back then it was pretty basic stuff, you know, just kind of who you are, you know, what you're email address, a few free from questions, like why do you wanna work at a startup? Things like that. And kind of purposefully we steered away at that point from asking people for like a resume. Just 'cause there is a lot of kind of thoughts internally that it may not be the best thing or the best way to kind of judge someone based on where they worked before and kind of look at them more holistically. Just especially true at startups, you know, it's kind of finding someone that's gonna be kind of aligned with your mission and can get on board with that kind of like the goals of the company. Much more we think than, you know, that might matter at a larger company with a much bigger head count. So yeah, it's kind of like a smaller and kind of different set of questions than you might normally see. Yeah, we didn't really focus on work history at all or even education, especially. You know, what school you went to shouldn't matter nearly as much as kind of like what neat stuff you've done as an engineer, you know, more recently. And it certainly has evolved a lot since then. We actually now do ask you for a resume just because, you know, after not having it for a long time, a lot of times the first thing founders would tell us, you know, when we asked them how, you know, how they were liking the product is, well, this is great, but I don't know anything about them. And kind of the first thing I have to do all the time is just go look at their LinkedIn profile. Okay. I kind of learned a bit more. So, you know, we're taking that feedback and kind of iterating on that quite a bit. Any other surprises that you've learned from founders who are getting, you know, all these applications come through their door?

Surprises and Results (09:14)

One surprise is actually the diversity of candidates that companies are looking for. You know, when we first started, we worried that like, it might be hard for us to find great companies for people who are not in the Bay Area, 'cause so many of the companies that we have are based here. Turns out, not the case. We actually have companies now hiring in over 12 countries. We have a ton of companies who are hiring for remote-only roles and just the range of like the different skill sets that people are looking for, everything from full-stack web to data science to DevOps and sort of a whole range of experience levels as well as meant that we're able to find good matches for almost everyone who signs up. - Hmm, okay.

Hacker News Thread (10:07)

So, I'm curious about, before we talk about the conference, I'm interested in talking about the recent HN thread and what were the learnings from that. So, earlier this week, you, I think Jared, I think you posted it, right? Basically a question to the community, right?

What are the pros and cons of working at a startup in 2018? (10:24)

What are the pros and cons of working in a startup in 2018? What were the takeaways? - Yeah, so it was a pretty amazing Hacker News thread. We got about a thousand comments in response to the question. They were really insightful, like people shared some amazing experiences of working at big companies, of working at small companies, of founding their own company, of being a consultant and how all of them compared. And the reason that we did it was we wanted to really understand what people liked and didn't like about working at a startup. And in particular, what do I see could do to help? Because I think we're in a position to be able to help with some of the things that aren't working as well as they could be. So, some of the things people really like about working at a startup is for sure the autonomy, the feeling that you're able to really move the needle on an organization that like the company that you've worked at, like, the company that you've worked at, like, might not have been successful if you hadn't taken that job. The ability to bond with a small team, the ability to work on like really interesting problems and with the newest technologies, the ability to have control over the technologies that you use rather than just inheriting a tech stack that's already set. So, certainly some interesting pros. And then on the cons, the most prominent one was companies that were around and around was compensation. And what we heard is compensation is important to people. If you're going to take a job, you got to feel like the compensation is fair. And startups have to be paying fair compensation in order to attract the best talent. And that's always been true. I think it's gotten a little bit harder recently as compensation for engineers across the industry around the world has gone up. But what some people on how could use may not yet know is that the compensation at startups has gone up a lot as well. And so I think we may be closer than they think, but there's still more that startups have to do on that front. Transparency is also very important where people need to feel like if a big part of their compensation package is equity in the startup, that they really understand how to value that equity and how to compare it against other offers. That's, I think, a basic thing that all startups can really do better when hiring people. Job security is very important to people. Sometimes when you're working in early-stage startup, it can feel less secure than working in a big company. The startup can go out of business. I think this is actually something that YC and Work at a Startup can help with a lot because while working at any individual startup may not be as secure as working in a large company, hopefully working for startups in general can be even more secure. Because if the startup that you're working at now doesn't work out, there's going to be 20 other startups who are going to value the great work that you did there and want to hire you immediately. Especially within a network such as the YC community. Another thing to be clear about, I guess, if it hasn't been mentioned, Work at a Startup is working at YC companies. Startups around the world, just in general.

Brainstorm (13:55)

Matt, did you learn anything from the thread? I think just that compensation came up so frequently was a bit surprising to me because, I guess, for me, that was kind of already a known quantity that going to Work at a startup, you're probably, in the general case, going to be taking a somewhat lower salary than you might get at one of the larger fan companies. Just that there is so much, it's very black and white around that. Some of the comments are like, "Why would you go Work at a Startup when you can make double the amount at a large company?" It just doesn't make sense. To me, yes, a face value, that might be true, but there's other non-financial reasons you might choose or want to go Work at a Startup, which I think is really important that you have to have these other issues. Like Jared mentioned, this forming these close bonds of the small team can be really appealing to people. Certainly, that was one of the big things I looked back on from my startup experience. Me and my co-founders, Gran and I, I was an employee, I was a co-founder, but just the bonds I formed with them, they're still, to this day, some of my closest friends. It's just things like that, I think, are one of the unique things that startups have to offer. Just so that wasn't kind of got brushed over a lot and a lot of the comments was a bit surprising to me. It makes sense again because finances are important, and if you're a software engineer right now, it is possible to make a pretty nice salary at a lot of places with relatively low risk. For sure. Did remote work play a big role in the thread? Were people looking for that? It did, yeah. I mean, a lot of the feedback centered on the insane cost of housing in the Bay Area and in a few other large cities and asked the question why tech is so concentrated in this area. A lot of people suggested that one way that startups could compete with big companies for talent is to be more flexible on that to allow remote work to have offices in other markets where the housing is not so insane. I think that's really interesting feedback, and it's definitely a trend that we've seen among the YC companies.

Introduction (16:01)

More and more of them are taking advantage of that. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think Zapier is a great example of one of those companies. They were paying people to delocate from the Bay last year, which was interesting. I think they got a couple people to do it. Let's talk about the conference. So you guys are doing a work at a startup conference in July. Correct?

The Details (16:34)

Yep. What are the details? Cool. So the work to startup conference is actually not the first time YC has done it. We did it a long time ago back in 2010, and I know because I presented it. And it was great. And the only reason that we didn't keep doing it was that it was a lot of work and YC was very short staffed at the time. And so we just sort of like paused it for a number of years, but I'm really excited that we're going to bring it back. And YC has grown a lot since then. We're 10 times the size. And so the conference is going to be about 10 times the size. How do I expect that? It's going to be really big. And so how it works is it's similar to YC's demo day, but for employees instead of investors. So we're going to start with a keynote. Justin Kahn and Sam Altman are going to give keynote talks about working at a startup, why you should work at a startup, how to judge startups, what kind of compensation we should be looking for, how to negotiate an offer. And then we're going to have 35 rapid fire pitches from the founders of YC companies. We've got an extremely broad range of companies coming who are hiring a very broad range of roles. We have everything from like established successful companies like Instacart, DoorDash, and Plangrid. And the founders are going to come and give a personal presentation. And then we have a whole bunch of really small companies that just raised a seed round and are looking for engineers number one or two and are giving out large amounts of equity in return and then sort of everything in between. And we have companies who are hiring for roles. The most common are probably like full stack web and back end web and front end web, but there's a whole range of other roles as well. We have companies who are hiring for co-founder CTO roles. We have companies who are hiring for machine learning and AI and DevOps and robotics engineers and embedded system design. So I found that particularly cool just how broad the range is. And what's the experience going to be like for an attendee?

Attendees Video (18:42)

What can I expect? So I think the most compelling reason to go as an attendee is if you think you might be interested in working in a startup, but you're not really sure which one or how to think about it. If you come to the Work at Start with Vent, you'll get in a short period of time, like a really compressed view of what's out there on the market, what your options are as an engineer right now in 2018. And you'll get to talk to the founders because after the talks, we're going to have just like a mingling session where you can just walk up to the founders of any company. And head to know them.

How should an engineer prepare to attend the conference (19:14)

Okay. And so as an engineer, you're a mat, you're an engineer right now, how do you think someone ought to prepare themselves to attend the event? Or should they not worry about it and just show up? I think it kind of depends on your background, where you're coming from. If you're an engineer that's already worked at a startup or might be kind of familiar with what's going on and what employment might look like at a startup, then you probably don't need to do much. You might want to research the list of companies that are presenting. Anyone should do this, I guess, just so you kind of know what to expect and which ones you might be interested in listening to because I believe there is going to be a separate track of other talks going on at the same time. So sometimes you have to pick and choose between, you know, if you're going to be listening to the presentations or something else that's going on. So, you know, familiarize yourself with the companies. And then for someone that hasn't ever worked at a startup before, you probably have a set of ideas like what it would be like to work at a startup, you know, based on what you've read on Hacker News or elsewhere on the Internet. So, I would say kind of try to push all those out of your head and kind of come with it open mind because, you know, we like to think that especially YC startups are going to present you with like a kind of a nicer all around kind of like employment. Offer and, you know, kind of try to ignore any like horror stories you've kind of heard before and how bad it might be. But also, you know, kind of recognizing like we were talking about earlier that, you know, you may need to take a kind of hit on salary if you are coming from a larger company and, you know, everyone else, everyone's going to have their own kind of take on whether or not that works for them in their current situation. I think I just kind of coming with it open mind and kind of being willing to think about working in an industry or for, you know, a size company that you haven't ever thought about before will be the best way to get ready for it. Cool. And just in practical terms, like, should they bring a resume with them? That's a great point. That's a great point. I guess we didn't mention this, but actually there is going to be sort of a selection process for who gets to attend since, unfortunately, we don't have unlimited space. At YC's office at Mountain Views. And so everyone will be required to kind of fill out the normal application that's on right now, as if you're going to be using the site online. There will be a special section where you can indicate that you're interested in attending the conference, which will kind of treat your application a little bit differently. And, you know, it'll just kind of tell us who's all interested. So we can then kind of go through where we're going to have the very difficult job of selecting who gets to attend. So that's the main thing. Whether an IED, they bring paper resumes, you know, like, if you really want to, we're not going to stop you from doing that. But we are going to try to have a little bit of a technological approach to just kind of making it easy for people at the conference to kind of indicate interest in companies. And is it open to people not currently living in the Bay Area? Yeah, anyone that wants to come, I think, you know, we're not going to stop you. Of course, you'd have to pay your own way here and all that. But, you know, I think it's more about if you're willing to work in a location where most of these companies are located. You know, if you're willing to relocate there, then that'll probably be the bigger kind of, we'll drive the decision a bit more. But certainly, anyone thought from the Bay Area is very welcome to attend.

Online Streaming & Startup Terminology

Live-streaming the conference online (22:46)

We are also going to livestream the conference online for anyone who can't make it out here. And I wanted to mention one other thing that I'm very excited about for the conference, which is for the first time we're going to have hardware demos. So we do this for demo day for investors. And back in 2010, when we did the first work at a startup conference, we didn't have really any companies who were building hardware. But now we have a lot of companies who are building all kinds of cool stuff. So at the conference, there's going to be a full-size self-driving truck from Star Ski Robotics that will hopefully be self-driving itself around the parking lot. Nice. We're going to have an actual satellite from Astronaut, which is a replica of the one that's currently in orbit around the Earth. We're going to have, well, we're working on getting permission to land a giant industrial drone in the parking lot of Mountain View. That's a drone that's made by a company called the Lonsie. And it's so large, so we need to get permission from the city of Mountain View to have it land there. Wow. Cool. Yeah, I think that reframing just the term startup to be much broader than SaaS companies is an important thing that you guys are doing. Yeah.

Refining the term startup (23:58)

I think that's a great point. I think a lot of engineers don't realize just how many options there are in startups these days. We have several companies attending who are doing really hard science stuff. They're doing autonomous driving and mapping and hardcore machine learning computer vision kinds of things. Yeah.

Getting traction on the site (24:18)

You guys have been working on this now for over six months. What are the metrics you've been tracking and how is it going? Yeah, so so far it's going, I think, extremely well. We haven't really announced it at all. We've just been running it very quietly. We added a link on the Y Comimeter homepage. And so far we've already gone over 3,000 engineers to sign up and fill out a profile. More exciting to me is that of those 3,000 engineers, the vast majority of them have gotten at least one message from a YC company. So companies are actually really using the product. And if you are an engineer and you sign up, the odds are good that you will get in touch with the company. Over 80% of the YC companies who are hiring engineers are already on it. They filled out their own profile files. There's a directory on the site where you can browse all the companies who are hiring engineers. So the response from the YC community has been great.


Outro (25:11)

Awesome. All right, guys. Thanks for making time. And so what's the URL if people want to sign up or apply to go to the conference? Yes, you can find all this at work@a Great. Thank you. Thanks, great. Thanks.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to Wisdom In a Nutshell.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.