Startups live or die by the quality of their teams, and competition -- especially for technical talent -- is beyond fierce. Everyone is looking for new ways to meet, attract, and retain the best people. And preferably ways where you won't have to elbow your way through a crowd of better funded and more buzzed about competitors to get attention.

Emmanuel Nataf thinks he's found one. Co-founder of London-based media startup Reedsy, which matches would-be authors with professionals like editors and marketers that can help make their books a reality, Nataf faced the same talent crunch as every other entrepreneur. Spammed by dubious recruiters and disappointed by LinkedIn, he turned to a different platform to build out his team -- AngelList.

Since 2015, all but one of the folks hired to his growing (and entirely remote) team of twelve have been hired through AngelList. He reached out to me to sing the praises of this method of hiring. I called him up to learn why he was so enthusiastic and ask him for his secrets of success.

Low hassle, high reward hiring

Nataf reports that he receives roughly 200 applications a week through AngelList and that somewhere in the neighborhood of five of those are good, i.e. people he would like to meet to discuss their applications further. That's not the highest conversion rate, he admits, but it's higher than anything else he and his co-founders have tried, and he insists that "a startup that doesn't have a dedicated HR person can easily build a simple workflow within AngelList."

Why is AngelList so low-hassle compared to other hiring methods? By its nature, AngelList does a lot of the filtering for startups, according to Nataf, as those using the platform are already fans of a startup environment and can easily see basic information about a company's niche and growth stage from their profile. Many unsuitable candidates self-select out.

Another advantage, Nataf says, is that the platform is hackable. Not in a malicious way, but simply in the sense that a few thoughtful tweaks and a little bit of effort makes it possible for even the smallest startups to stand out and compete with more well known companies. He offers three quick "hacks" to other startups looking to replicate his company's success on AngelList:

  • Keep your listings extremely current. "We noticed the more you update your job offers, the more visible they get," so don't just post and pray. Keep modifying your profile and listings whenever anything relevant changes.
  • Don't narrow the pool. AngelList asks you to tick boxes to indicate who you're looking for (i.e. a growth hacker, marketer, content creator, etc.). Unsurprisingly, clicking more boxes yields more applications, and Nataf claims his company has benefited from keeping their options as open as possible. The same can be said of geographic location, obviously, if you're willing to work remotely. So don't let fear of a flood of irrelevant applications deter you from clicking liberally.
  • Consider making a video. Reedsy recently added a funny little video introducing the team to their AngelList profile page, and it seems to be attracting more quality candidates. "People often mention it," according to Nataf.

These might seem like modest tips, but Nataf actually expressed some hesitancy about sharing his secrets and killing the goose that laid the golden egg for his startup.

"I think [AngelList] is completely underutilized," he told me. "We're getting more applications than [ high-profile Europeans startups like] Deliveroo or Citymapper. It's a matter of supply and demand, so at the moment there's more supply than demand on AngelList. Hopefully, it will stay, but I'm guessing that at some point people are going to realize they're wasting money and time on LinkedIn and that kind of thing."

Move quickly enough to test out his tips and his loss could be your gain.

Published on: Feb 16, 2017