MassChallenge Top Prize Winners (2012)
Things are going great here at RallyPoint, and wed like to share some lessons weve learned since winning the top prize at MassChallenge in 2012.
In this piece, well reflect on our own experiences to describe the hard yet crucial task of hiring the best talent to join your team. Great talent is the marrow of a successful company, and without it your business model and pitch decks hardly matter.
Hiring only A+ talent is tough, but its the only way to go
Some MassChallenge companies likely are near or post funding. At RallyPoint, we raised our first round of $550K while still participating in the MassChallenge program. Then after winning top prize, we raised another $1M. And just a few months ago, we raised another $5M. In between each of these funding events, we faced the challenge of how to best grow our team: what positions to hire for and why now, what specific credentials and experience levels to pursue, and how compensation could optimally align new employees and the company.
Hiring the right team members and I mean absolute A+ team members is as important as it is tough. A bad hire is worse than a non-hire; a bad addition to a small company will quickly blister into bigger problems for an already-busy management team.
Our most important hire to date was for our VP of Engineering (VPE) role, as we would lean on this person to lead and grow our engineering team. We set out to make this hire immediately following our $1M round.
We spent three hard months evaluating many B, B+, and A- candidates until finally arriving at a candidate named Michael Yankovski who would be, for the second time, leading at a successful Boston-area software company as its VPE. We interviewed Michael for long hours on multiple weekends, had trusted technical advisors vet him from different angles, and engaged with individuals who had worked above or alongside him in his previous companies. Michael was and continues to be a clear A+ hire for us.
(RallyPoint stayed small for a very long time, as it was looking for the perfect people to add to their team. Photo one year after winning MassChallenge. Not shown: Brandon Charters and Nick Dreckshage.)
But make no mistake about it: during those three months, we had tempting opportunities to hire many other qualified candidates for our VPE role. However, we waited until finding the absolutely ideal fit. Sometimes you dont have the luxury of waiting to make a hire, and operating a company without a key role filled can be painful. Therefore, a proper plan for how and when you will make your key hires is an incredibly important component to a startups success.
This was an instructive experience for us, and weve applied this same intense rigor for the other hires weve made since then. Its taken us almost a year to hire the right five engineers, but those five A+ engineers are exactly what we needed.
RallyPoint is a venture-backed professional network for current and former members of the US military. Forbes calls RallyPoint ‘LinkedIn on steroids for the military.’ The company has raised $6.6M in funding since 2012 and is rapidly consolidating one of the hardest-to-penetrate verticals in the US: the Department of Defense.
RallyPoint was founded by two military veterans who first met at a combat outpost near Baghdad, Iraq and later reunited at Harvard Business School. RallyPoint first launched in Nov 2012, the same year it won runner-up at the Harvard Business School Business Plan Competition and won top prize at MassChallenge. RallyPoint initially grew out of the Harvard Innovation Lab and is now headquartered in Watertown, MA.
Aaron Kletzing, one of RallyPoints two founders, wrote this piece. He can be contacted at: email@example.com