Hey Josh – A rival startup working in the exact same space just closed a big round and is trying to woo away our lead developer. Aside from just offering more money, what’s the best way to convince our superstar to stay with us?
Thanks, Tech Talent Crunched
Your lead developer’s lookin’ good. She is probably asking herself the same questions as you and your management: which of the two companies is going to win? Why didn’t my management get their own big round, after all, the financiers must have looked at both companies? How much ($$$) do they need me? Should I focus on cash or stock?
The issue at hand is not so much about how to keep your “superstarlet” but rather how to optimize the situation. As a rule of thumb you should presume that talent will make self interested decisions that will balance your increased incentives (cash, stock, title, your corner office) with opportunities elsewhere.
So the negotiation is actually a discussion that includes her possibly leaving. In this instance you want to make sure nothing else leaves with her: intellectual property and/or personnel. Make it clear to your talent that good behavior in these instances by all concerned is good business (everyone takes careful psychic notes including the winning company’s management who raised the “big round”).
Without the capital to outbid the other guy, you need to get creative. If there was a way to fast track her pet project or put her in charge of rival employees, you might appeal to her ego. Personally I have no qualms about going over the top to keep key talent. Knowing a staffer was a big video gamer, I once arranged to have John Carmack, creator of the classic shooter Quake, show up at our office and pal around with the guy.
Or you can get on your knees and beg.
Josh Harris is the founder of JupiterResearch and Pseudo.com and the ceo of The Wired City, a web tv network in New York.
Need some advice? Email Josh at askjoshharris at gmail dot com.