In an industry where top engineers are treated like precious commodities, the cash in the startup cow, attracting talent can seem like all-out war.
This has at times inspired unusual strategies on the part of would-be employers, such as the small e-commerce company that stalked the shuttle bus stops frequented by employees of companies like Facebook in an elaborate recruitment effort. Or a recently settled lawsuit accusing four tech giants of conspiring to avoid poaching each other’s prized engineers.
ThoughtSpot, a Redwood City enterprise startup, has a different approach: cash.
Lots of it.
ThoughtSpot is offering a $20,000 bounty to any employee or “friend of the company” who tips the startup off to a new hire.
That’s right. You don’t even have to work there to cash in on the bonus benefit – you just have to know someone who does.
Think of it a black market for recruiting.
“We want the best of the best,” said CEO Ajeet Singh. “We thought $20,000 was an interesting enough number that a lot of people might actually refer people to us.”
ThoughtSpot, which produces a data search engine for businesses, on Wednesday announced a $30 million Series B funding round, led by Khosla Ventures. The company is looking to quadruple the size of its team during the next year, from 25 to more than 100. And as the kind of technologically sophisticated but fundamentally unsexy startup that doesn’t typically attract loads of attention, sometimes it can be difficult just to get people in the door.
“The biggest hurdle is the first meeting,” Singh said.
Top engineers, he said, are fielding so much interest from recruiters they often ignore offers from lesser-known companies.
“Our thinking was people don’t listen to recruiters,” he said. “But they listen to their friends.”
Singh pointed out that the prize, while steep, is actually less than the cut many recruiting companies take. And current employees and their pals seem to have better connections to the networks ThoughtSpot would like to hire from, like Google engineers and doctoral grads from MIT.
Robert Half Technology, a tech recruitment firm, said $20,000 is unprecedented as a reward for recruits. Such incentives typically fall in the $3,000-to-$5,000 range.
A newly hired employee needs to last just three months at ThoughtSpot before someone can cash in on the referral prize.
So far, the ploy has netted the company three big hires.
Gimmicky as they are, headline-grabbing recruiting efforts such as big cash bonuses or bus-stop poaching seem to be a new normal in the tech landscape. The promise of pingpong tables, catered lunches and free laundry service is no longer enough to get potential hires in the door.
“If you want to go after the very best talent, it’s always rough,” Singh said.