(Editor’s note: Steve Fredrick is a general partner at Grotech Ventures. He submitted this story to VentureBeat.)

Working at a startup should be a labor of love. The hours can be long and the pay can be modest, but for many people, the culture can’t be beat.

Most startup founders are incredibly passionate and dedicated – and these qualities permeate the entire organization. In fact, startup companies often engender an entrepreneurial culture that lives long after the early days, inspiring employees to spin out and create entirely new companies with what they have learned.

A key challenge for startup executives, though, is filling their staff with competent, motivated employees that share their vision and passion – and not people who want to punch in at nine and punch out at five, with a two-hour lunch in-between.

Contrary to popular belief, youth isn’t a critical factor in the process. For a team to operate at maximum efficiency, there has to be a constructive mix of different experiences, complementary skill-sets, industry relationships, ages and personality types. Every new hire brings a balance of skills, traits, experience and relationships. Finding the right balance (or compromise) is the key, and this needs to be done in the context of both the specific job and the broader organization.

The requirements matrix for any one job may contain binary criteria like cultural fit, passion, intelligence, integrity, etc. The subjective criteria vary by position, with relevant experience being high on the list, especially for more senior roles.

Time, of course, is a scarce resource at emerging companies and speed is critical to success – speed to market, the agility to change direction on the fly and the ability to iterate faster than the incumbents. To quote Rupert Murdoch, “The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.”

The implication for startup hiring is that there is little- to no time available for on-the-job training, nor room for rookie mistakes. Good ideas and ripe markets get competitive very fast, thanks partly to the flood of venture dollars (but that’s another story).

While every hiring need has its own prioritized criteria, relevant experience will invariably rank towards the top of the list for those with speed in mind. Experience is, not surprisingly, well correlated with relationships. The right relationships provide tremendous leverage and the ability to move that much faster.

Times of economic uncertainty are often the best times to take risks. Maybe someone who was laid off after decades at a Fortune 500 company is ready for an exciting new challenge. Maybe a recent college grad wants to gain varied, hands-on experience instead of fetching coffee at a big firm. Or maybe a mid-career employee is sick of the daily grind and wants to find more passion in his or her work.

Startups can be a great fit for all three of these people, as well as many others. Now is the time to think outside the box. Tap your network, rebuild old connections and seek out your passion. You might be surprised where you end up.