Bitcoin might not yet be as ubiquitous as its advocates would like, but there is a rising tide of startups wanting to build products and services for it.
And where there are startups, there is recruiting. We caught up with Derek Minter, who cofounded Honeybadgr with Ryan Peterson (who’s since moved on), a company helping Bitcoin startups build their teams, and more broadly, a community of startups, professionals, and investors involved with the cryptocurrency.
Honeybadgr recently graduated from Bitcoin-focused accelerator Boost.vc and is working to create an efficient marketplace that matches the best candidates with great Bitcoin startups. Currently, it sticks to startups that have raised at least $2 million in seed funding to ensure that they’ll be stable fits for candidates.
Since Bitcoin is still a new topic and startups are only beginning to get into hiring, we chatted with Honeybadgr’s team about building teams for Bitcoin startups. However, there are plenty of lessons for non-Bitcoin startup founders, such as balancing direct job experience with a candidate’s passion, for example. And if you’re not working in Bitcoin yet, you might be someday, given the pace at which these companies are raising funds despite Bitcoin’s recent price drop. Investors don’t seem to be deterred and are pouring money into it.
(If you’re a Bitcoin startup, make sure to check out their top questions you should ask candidates, at the bottom of this post.)
Is recruiting for Bitcoin startups different than for other kinds of tech companies?
“Frankly, a lot of the problems are the same — recruiting for startups is just tough, especially in the Bay Area,” Minter said. “Because it’s so new, there’s not really much out there to [be able to] say ‘I need, like, three years of Bitcoin experience’ [in candidates],” he said.
So, Bitcoin startups have to look for other things — in this case, passion and interest. And yet, that, too, is a challenge. “How do you find the indicators that people are passionate about it?” Minter said.
Luckily, much of their interest has been in-bound. “We’ve almost become this flytrap … the people who are interested hunt us down instead of us hunting them down,” he said.
What is the first thing you do when you start working with a new startup?
“One thing we’re pretty big on is getting to know the company beyond the shitty job descriptions… What problem are they solving?” Minter said. They also look into the startup’s funding, roadmap, and so on.
The startup’s culture is equally important, and especially having flexibility. “The best teams will work with anyone and will take them from anywhere,” he added. Culture fit — another thing Bitcoin startups need just as much as any other company.
Where would someone find candidates for Bitcoin-related jobs?
“We’ve had more interest than we can handle on both sides,” Minter said. But the team has also proactively used tried-and-true method of going to meetups, especially ones focused on Bitcoin and open source.
“It helps that we’re kind of obsessed with the space ourselves so we enjoy talking to people about this stuff,” he added.
Is Bitcoin-related experience important?
Because the industry is so nascent, there simply aren’t a lot of people with Bitcoin experience. More often, they find people from the finance or other industries that haven’t been able to find ways to incorporate their interest in Bitcoin into their jobs, and are now looking to just join a company directly dedicated to it.
What are the key skills Bitcoin startups look for?
“Obviously, cryptography is a huge plus,” Minter said. “There’s more emphasis on someone who started in math and [expanded into] engineering.”
Among the specific skills engineers should have — because Bitcoin startups need them — are C++, Node.js, Ruby, and algorithms. But all in all, they’re fairly similar to the engineering skills lots of other startups look for, including the hot skill set of the moment: “The idea of a ‘full-stack developer’ is pretty big,” Minter said.
Is there a lot of turnover?
Not really, Minter said, largely because the companies are so small that folks who are there are committed. This isn’t just another job for them.
But perhaps it’ll start to be more common once Bitcoin startups have become bigger operations. “Coinbase is at that transition point: They’ve got 50 people working there. People don’t feel like they’re a founder,” Minter said.
Minter could only think of startups running out of money and laying people off as a reason folks have changed jobs.
Salaries — how much does Bitcoin pay?
Salaries are on par with the average funded startup, Minter said. Bitcoin startups that have raised a sizable seed round, or their first institutional round, pay their engineers about $90,000 to $130,000 per year, according to Minter.
Honeybadgr’s top questions Bitcoin startups should ask candidates:
Why are you interested in Bitcoin despite the risks? Why do you choose to spend your time on this?
What is the largest issue holding Bitcoin back from mainstream adoption? How would you address this problem?
How would you explain Bitcoin and the Blockchain to your grandma?
What do you think Bitcoin’s “killer app” will be? (i.e: Bitcoin Tipping, Smart Contracts, Decentralized Cloud Storage, Micropayments, Remittances, Voting)
How did you get involved in Bitcoin? Are you working on any related projects?