How to hire a nerd?
Two weeks ago, I wrote an article about lean distributed startups. The past months, one of the startups within our company that has taken most of my attention is ‘hire a nerd‘. The main goal of this project is making a product out of our current core service (building offshore and nearshore dedicated teams for software firms and departments). Yes the name is provoking, we’re also contemplating launching a second version under our Bridge brand. We try to achieve two things for our customers:
A. To make it incredibly easy to find your next favorite remote developer
To achieve this promise, we have created a vast database of programmers from Ukraine and India. These programmers are either ‘candidates’ or ‘qualified developers’. The qualification is done by us (we do extensive interviews and coding + analytical tests). It is easy to search the database for a programmer that you need. Having found someone, you can schedule an interview or ask us to qualify the person. The system will also provide overviews of availability and reviews from previous customers for the person.
B. To create a collaboration that feels as if the person is sitting next to you
This is a future part of the system. The vision here is to create a dashboard with easy access to tools that give you ‘control’ on the collaboration. We’ll use third party plugins for the core tools such as project management tools, time trackers and version control. And we’ll build tools to give you an overview of your team (hours billed, invoice overviews, availability), the communication process, access to trainers and coaches, a best practice area to share experience with other remote team managers.
We have tried to follow the lean startup method as much as possible in this project. And having said that, I must admit that we deviated wildly. First of all, we have built the first version of the platform (partly) for internal use. In the first version, we enabled our sales people to search and share cv’s of our talent through a central database. Next, we made many iterations to support what we call the ‘search process’ (where recruiters and sales people cooperate closely to find the right person for a customer). And now we have reached the stage where the rest of the world can use our platform.
And here’s the main challenge we face today: how to gather useful feedback. This challenge has two parts: where to find the people that can provide you with feedback and what to ask/do. There are two main ‘forms’ of getting feedback:
1. Ask someone ‘can you give me some feedback’ (as an open question or supported by a survey or interview)
2. Observe behavior of users (and measure using smart metrics)
I have found that asking ‘open feedback’ (please check my system and tell me what you think) doesn’t elicit useful information. It only generates lists of features as people start thinking what could be added to your product. Using a survey or interview with specific questions may work, but limits the feedback to the questions you ask. We are trying this now, so I can tell you more in a few weeks.
The second feedback mechanism is observation. Most teams use google analytics, kissmetrics or some other tool to gather data. But to gather relevant data, you need to first get people to use your site (and so you need something that works in most cases). And you need to define what behavior you want to measure. An interesting case is described in the lean startup book, about Dropbox. The founder actually only launched a site, described what he was building using text and a simple video and got thousands of potential users to subscribe. This feedback tells you ‘my idea has viability’. But it doesn’t give you insight feedback on what exactly users value and what they don’t.
We are experimenting with generating feedback, so I will write more in the weeks to come. If you have some similar experiences, it would be great if you can share them as a comment (and feel free to submit a guest blog article for this blog, just email me at email@example.com).