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Hiring: big financial firm vs. startup?

I'm talking to someone who's a great fit for one of our positions at our fintech startup but he's only worked for big financial companies like Goldman Sachs etc and I'm worried he won't be able to make the transition from the big company infrastructure and support to a startup. Is it a good idea to take a chance and hire them given it's fintech?

15 Replies

Melissa Skehan
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Melissa Skehan Advisor
Passionate, Mission Driven, Strategy, Growth & Impact Leader - Founder, CEO, President, Executive Management
If you think he's a good fit for the position and culturally, I would let him know upfront of your concerns about the start up environment. I have definitely hired people who said they could make the transition to startup - who struggled. But I think you can assess this in the hiring process by having a frank discussion.
Kate Brodock
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Kate Brodock Advisor
CMO at untapt & President and Co-Founder at Women 2.0.
Make sure to have an honest discussion with him on environmental and work changes that come with the shift - positive and negative. The more "heads up" you can give him about what he's going to get into, the better prepped he'll be. And share your concern with him honestly. There are plenty of blog posts written out there that discuss moves like this. Here's one we recently featured on our blog, and you can find dozens of similar ones: https://www.untapt.com/blog/2015/08/21/technologist-developer-moves-from-bank-to-startup/ Sent from someplace other than the office.
Michael Brink
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Michael Brink Entrepreneur
Founder at StayHub
I think it largely depends on the role itself. If you're hiring someone who was a theoretical buyer of your product, they can be great in either a senior product or evangelist type role. But if you're hiring someone who is coming from a sales/biz dev role with comfort around lumpy/long sales cycles and the associated cash flow implications and moving them to a low touch, high volume driven, low price point ASP then you could have a clash on strategies or or personalities.
David Still
1
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David Still Advisor
Founder of Start-ups, Entrepreneur, Financier and Advisor
Years ago, after raising up to $250 million for a finserv startup, I hired top evp professionals from Citibank, Bank of America, First Union and Solomon to be executive managers in the startup - with equity. Not one of them could make the transition from a regulated, risk-adverse, change adverse, large institutional environment to a high growth startup environment with very aggressive institutional investors. I am not sure why, but it is a definitely a profound issue to process.
Douglas Kuhn
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Douglas Kuhn Entrepreneur
CTO, Strategic Development Engineer at Greenwitch Productions LLC
The transition from a major corporate environment into a start-up environment may not flow as well as a start-up environment into a major corporate one. Both have advantages and disadvantages, the trick is to apply the strengths of each into you particular needs.

Major Corporate, Goldman Sachs, AIG, etc.
Strengths:
  • Nice rolodex of contacts and investors
  • Global Strategy Mindset
  • Has pedigree and fraternity sorority contacts
Weaknesses:
  • Weak technical "front-line" chops
  • Does not roll-up sleeves to git-r-done
  • Banker's hours only
Start-Up

Strengths
  • Deep knowledge of the technical "front-line" details
  • 24/7 problem solving
  • Pivots on a dime, without red-tape, formal meetings, etc.
Weaknesses
  • Not quite an influential rolodex of contacts, code over golf with VIPs
  • Local Strategy Mindset, immersion in and for the immediate needs
  • Often lacking in pedigree, but has connection to their IRC
Depending on the goals of your company you will need to weigh your options on these.
Gloria Luna
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Gloria Luna Entrepreneur
VP Marketing - Brand builder and creative problem solver
I think the critical difference between people that excel in a startup after they've worked in a big firm, is the understanding of how to execute without the intricate network of resources that exist in a big company. I find that either you're a "roll-up-your-sleeves" person or you're not and that is critical to success in a small firm. That would be something worth probing in the interview by exploring how they would respond in different scenarios.
Gisela Macedo
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0
Gisela Macedo Entrepreneur
Business Development Manager at PeopleHedge Corp
I've seen this work and I strongly encourage you. I'm an example myself and I know a host of other friends that worked great. I wish you success!
Juan Ramon Zarco
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0
Juan Ramon Zarco Entrepreneur
Managing Director, Silicon Valley Ventures Growth Partners llp
There is a great line in "Liar's Poker", when the Managing Directors started their own firms after decades in a large investment bank, one of the foudners had to figure out how to use a calculator. SO it depends on the role, the sector, and years in the institution. An operational person might not fit well in a startup since they are used the large infrastructure. On the other hand, many investment bankers and traders really work individually and are responsible for bringing in the bacon -- a needed feature in any startup. And if the guy did do a lot of deals, all these bankers have huge rolodexes -- that will help in further financing and M&A. I did work in that space, merchant banking.
Peter J Accorti
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Peter J Accorti Entrepreneur
Director of Sales Engineering at Resonate
I'd agree with Douglas Kuhn here; it depends on the role. I sell software to all of the big banks and (on average) senior people there have very little technical knowledge and often struggle to understand concepts (are you doing batch decisioning, realtime, are you connecting to point of sale systems, are you an aggregator, etc.) If you want them for a sales role then perhaps their rolodex would come in handy but a role like a product manager would be a mistake. Feel free to reach out if you want to discuss.
Kate Hiscox
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0
Kate Hiscox Entrepreneur • Advisor
Boss at Venzee
We've ran into this at Venzee.com and its a problem for sure. My COO came up with a fantastic way to tackle this and that is to have your team members look at your company's goals and have them create their own based
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