The Startup Early Engineer Cooperative

The Startup Early Engineer Cooperative

Using an old business model to kickstart the newest businesses in their quest for talent.

Daniel Nolan · 4 minute read

In my work and friendships with early stage start up founders, the most common refrain I've hear is "I'm spending all of my time hiring engineers, do you know anybody who'd be interested?" Truth is, I don't know anyone. Most engineers, save those who've chosen to make a career of consulting, are happily employed for the long term at companies they believe in and have more opportunities than they can shake a stick at if they decide to leave.

In general, the founders are looking for a handful of experienced engineers to form the core of their team and want to supplement them with more budget friendly junior engineers -- often those straight from college. The first set, my best advice is to offer both good pay and generous equity to compete, look at startup focused job boards and try your best to probe your network. For junior engineers, there's a method and a rythm to the recruiting process you can rely on to give yourself a shot. Go right to campus, show your culture, make the process fast and painless, make an offer quickly, and show your genuine interest in having them join the team.

Campus recruiting; however, has some serious barriers to entry for a very small team looking to hire only a handful of campus candidates. These range from, staffing time commitment for career fairs; information sessions; and first round interviews; lack of brand awareness to draw applications from students; needing to develop a campus friendly screening and interview process or setting up an intership program to keep the pipeline going.

These thoughts were what brought me to the idea for The Startup Early Engineer Cooperative. Here's how it works.

A handful of early startup technology leaders band together to form a buyers-coop, working together to identify and source campus talent, before ultimately competing with eachother and the bigger players out there with their offers. Candidates get the chance to interview with multiple early stage companies they might not otherwise get the chance to meet, get to take advantage of a streamlined process and set of standards that reduce their risk in joining such an early stage company, and reduce the total number of interviews required to land their offers as feedback from early rounds is shared among them.

Draft Company Benefits

  • Early stage screening and feedback shared among Co-Op members, reducing the amount of time you spend looking for candidates even interested in joining something so new. Take advantage of economies of scale.
  • Utlitize a standardized technical screening process appropriate for early career talent.
  • Team members access to interview shadowing, trainings, and mock interviews to hone your skills.
  • Access curated data on school selection criteria and accepted offers data from school career centers to inform your process.
  • No fee for interns hired through the coop until they convert to full time employees with your company.
  • Share internship program events with other coop members.
  • Share training resources with other coop members to bring candidates up to speed on your tech stack.

Draft Company Requirements

  • Must have a VP Engineering, Head of Engineering, or CTO in place to support technical career development of hired engineers.
  • Must have fewer than 10 engineers on staff.
  • Pay a nominal cash yearly fee to particpate in the coop. This covers job postings, career fair and on campus interview fees, the cooperative ATS, and are shared among participants.
  • Contribute time in the form of campus visits, technical interviews on behalf of the coop, or tech stack trainings after graduation.
  • Pay an additional success fee for each candidate hired through the program. This pays for administrative expenses and buys down the participation fee for everyone. It can be paid in cash, time, or equity.
  • Agree to abide by a minimum viable offer in cash and equity to protect the reputation of the coop and ensure the candidates time is well spent.
  • Agree to abide by standards of conduct related to equity, diversity and inclusion, and the provision of benefits to employees.
  • Abide by all school mandated requirements for offer and interview timing.

Draft Candidate Benefits

  • Interview with many startups at the same time with a standardized first round. Choose among multiple offers.
  • As an early employee, you'll get to see a new company go through many stages of growth and will learn a ton along the way.
  • Participating companies agreed to a set of standards of conduct and offers, so you know you aren't wasting your time.
  • If you join a startup through the coop and it fails, get a warm introduction to current coop members and skip the initial screening process.
  • Try out a paid internship at a startup before graduating where you can see if the start up life is right for you. Join interns from other startups at events hosted by coop members.

The Interview Process

  1. Candidates meet the Coop at career fair (virtual or in person)
  2. Candidates apply to online job posting for the Coop and are invited to interview based on career fair feedback and resume review.
  3. Candidates complete technical screen using an online tool.
  4. Candidates review technical screen results in a first round interview with a Coop member and feedback is shared with the Coop.
  5. Candidates and Coop member companies match with eachother after reviewing feedback and company profiles.
  6. Candidate completes additional technical rounds with predetermined topics with the matched companies and feedback is shared to the coop. Exact number of interviews completed will depend on the number of matches the candidate has.
  7. Coop member companies invite candidates for additional founder led interviews.
  8. Coop member companies make offers.
  9. Candidates accept, reject, or negotiate offers.

Founders, would you join a coop like this? Students (and recent grads), would you apply to something like this?