Mike Henry | Crain's Austin

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Mike Henry

Background:  

Based in Austin and San Francisco and born out of the Integrated Circuits Lab at the University of Michigan, Mythic has developed a local AI platform, comprised of both hardware and software, that turns devices into secure and trusted intelligent assistants. Unlike traditional cloud-based AI solutions, Mythic leverages local AI to enable consumer electronics, wearable and security and monitoring manufacturers to deliver availability, responsiveness, seamless integration and privacy. The company's investors include DFJ, Lux Capital, Data Collective and AME Cloud Ventures. 

The Mistake:

Underestimating the significance of the recruiting process.

As many other first-time founders, I spent so much time on the fundraising process. At that point, I’d already established a vision, our market and the product. You spend so much time thinking about all those pieces and all of those challenges. Then all of a sudden you have all this money in your bank account and need to bring in really great people to execute.

This can catch some first-time founders off guard after spending so much time fundraising. You don’t always realize how long of a process it is to recruit and also how the recruiting process needs to be very well defined. Even after advisors and mentors warn you that it’s going to be really tough, you think it’s going to be fine.

When you’re a small company and spend all your time talking to investors, you tend to get really good at pitching to investors. But it’s the not same pitching as to candidates for a job. Sometimes they can be financially motivated. Most of them are not. Since investors are mostly financially motivated, you need to be able to recraft a message and explain why this is an exciting and important place to work.

It comes down to the fact great candidates like solving very challenging problems. When they work at companies they want to believe they are making a big impact. They want to see their work making an impact on the world. Those are the best candidates. Typically those that solely care about their financials end up at bigger companies. Recruiting really requires a refocus of messaging.

I think first time entrepreneurs get so fixated on investor pitches they lose sight of that. And really, ultimately that message to candidates makes your investor pitch even better.

An intense focus on recruiting separates great companies from mediocre ones.

The Lesson:

I learned that once you start getting the pipeline of candidates, it’s good to have not just a difficult interview process but a really technical one. You need to take an analytical approach. When candidates are looking at companies, they want to see that. They want to know that the only people who got to that stage are very strong and that they’re going to be working with the best.

People sometimes worry that if they make an interview too hard it will scare candidates away. But I think it has the opposite effect with the good ones. Plus, with a difficult interview process you end up eliminating a lot of waffling. It makes it easier to tell who will be able to find a home within the company based on how they handle it.

In our case, re-crafting our message maybe took a couple of months longer but I believe we were in the same boat as other venture-backed startups. It takes a long time to build a good team. Maybe if we’d been more realistic about the complexities, the process might have been a bit less stressful. We identified pretty quickly what we needed to do and we have really experienced investors on our team who gave us a lot of great advice.

In the end, I think not refining your recruiting process can be costly if you let it drag on. An intense focus on recruiting separates great companies from mediocre ones. It separates strong startups from the ones that don’t make it.

 

Follow Mythic on Twitter at @MythicInc.

Pictured: Mike Henry | Photo courtesy of Mythic.

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