Practitioner-Led Education Leads to Startup Talent for Hire


We “help grow companies through great people.” – Aaron O’Hearn

I was fortunate enough to accompany Startup Institute’s CEO Aaron O’Hearn to his talk on startup education at Xconomy’s XSITE 2013 hosted by Babson College. Among the wide-range of topics addressed during the conference, building a great team stood out as a theme, and Aaron touched on the problem startups have finding and on-boarding talented new hires. Hiring seems to be a prevalent concern in the startup community – according to a Silicon Valley Bank report, “Nine in 10 startups plan to hire new employees, but an equal number say it is challenging to find workers with the skills they need.”

This pain is felt by all organizations during the hiring and acclimation processes, but as Aaron explained, the problem is compounded for fast-paced, high-growth companies: “no one company can solve this alone… Startups just do not have the bandwidth.” When it comes to small teams, it is crucial any additions are well thought out and that each new member meshes with the culture.

One highlight of Aaron’s talk came midway through, when he queried as to whether Startup Institute alumni were in the audience. As a number of hands raised, Aaron could not hide his excitement, which prompted his request to use profanity. He followed through.

Aaron next went on to outline the benefits of learning both relevant hard skills and the soft skills needed to be successful in a team-based culture while highlighting Startup Institute’s practitioner-led approach. Asking the audience, nearly all of whom acknowledged that they ran and/or managed a company, to think about their co-workers back at the office, Aaron drove home the point that “[those] are the practitioners who are best to train people in their craft.”

As he fielded questions from the audience, Aaron concluded by taking the perspective of a company contemplating the ideal hire. “I have this particular thing that needs to get done. I need somebody who I can give direction to, not give tasks to.” These days, even when companies are flashing the cash with acqui-hires and higher education students are concentrating on more career-focused majors, finding and incorporating fresh talent into the startup ecosystem remains a concern.

Aaron will also be speaking this Thursday (June 27) at Bostinno’s State of Innovation event. Get tickets here.