Why startups need to focus on resources other than money

Capital and value are about more than just money. Here's how you can make the best of your other resources as a startup.

Image: Conner Forrest/TechRepublic

In the startup world, there's a lot of talk about value. With many companies recently reaching beyond the billion dollar mark in terms of their valuations, the question to ask is what is truly valuable about a great company.

One of the go-to answers is money. A big part of the startup process revolves around making and raising money. While money is a great tool, it's only one of many a company needs to be truly valuable.

At the 36|86 conference in Nashville, a panel of experts took on the topic of Non-dollar Capital and Culture. One of the core focuses of this discussion was on the capital resources, outside of cash, that startup founders should be thinking harder about and spending more time on.

Here are some of the top, non-dollar resources that startups should be leveraging.

SEE: How to nail startup branding from the get-go


As many startup founders and investors will tell you, your people are your most important resource. More important than the idea your startup is built on, your people are often referred to as human capital.

One of the first considerations to make around human capital is hiring. Whole companies, such as San Francisco-based Hired, exist for the sole reason of helping tech companies find talent -- it should be a major interest of startup founders.

When you're looking for new people, it can help to think outside of the lines. Milena Berry, part of the panel at 36|86, is the founder of PowerToFly, a platform for connecting companies with women all over the world for tech jobs. The idea is to open a new talent pool that is not restricted by geography.

Berry is a firm believer that employees don't have to live in New York or San Francisco to be a major talent resource and presence in their workplace.

"The idea is that, for a company, you can attract the best wherever they are in the world," Berry said. "So, you're not restricted by only the population of people living in your city."

When hiring, you have to help people see what value they would add as an employee. According to panelist Chris Murdock, of IQTalent Partners, when you are speaking with engineers, especially, "they have to understand what problems they'll be solving."

But, once you've found your people, the work doesn't stop. You have to take care of your team as well. There's a reason major tech companies are known as the top destinations for new graduates.

In fact, Berry said she spends 90% of her budget on people. For her, people are the driving force behind a company's success.

"I truly believe attracting the right human capital is 'make it or break it' for a startup," she said. "And, I think that any company that is not competing on the global remote market is losing nowadays."


Another aspect of your company's inherent value is the culture you have built around the brand. You want to make sure that culture is understood by everyone in the company.

"It's really important that, at the core of what you're doing, everyone is one the same page," said Andrew Wyatt from Shyp, another panelist.

Startups are known for their culture, often for the bizarre perks and fun office environments. Culture is about more than that, though -- it's also about how employees work and how they view their ownership of the company's goals.

According to Murdock, his company actually uses culture as a part of hiring and recruiting. They have a big Lego table where meetings are held that has actually led to more productive meetings, and some potential employees are driven to that kind of work environment.

When it comes to scaling your culture and making sure it is a part of every employee's experience, make sure you are pushing and evangelizing the culture from the beginning.

"The first two weeks are the most crucial time for culture building when someone is being onboarded," Wyatt said.

If your company is planning on expanding internationally, culture will be an even more sensitive issue. Make sure your startup's culture and mission are presented in a way that meshes with the culture of other countries and doesn't fall flat or offend any cultural sensitivity.

Something that can speak to both people and culture is human resources. Wyatt said that, while HR likely won't be one of the first hires for a startup, hiring proper HR employees will help you understand when you are making a mistake. Or, as Wyatt said of his main HR person: "She calls us on our bullshit."

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