Recruiting, hiring, and engaging top talent is always a challenge, but when it comes to startups, it’s another thing altogether. But that’s where Toronto-based Drop Loyalty shines; the financial technology company (and creator of a mobile rewards program) is growing its team at a staggering pace since its inception in 2015.
To learn more, we spoke with CEO Derrick Fung about finding incredible employees, scaling culture, setting up the workplace like a trading floor, and more.
DF: We have a couple of ways but really what works best for us is keeping a network of great people around us at all times. We do this through hosting events, and making sure we’re active on social channels so that we’re constantly engaged with the best and brightest tech talent in Toronto.
We’ve tried to really be active in building our name in the community as an up-and-coming consumer app where, whether you’re an engineer or you’re sales or in marketing, it would be a great and exciting place for you to work at. So, it’s having this network and it’s having also a network of people that are constantly referring us to the best people in the industry.
Do you follow your gut when you’re looking at a resume, or is your hiring process fairly data focused?
It’s definitely something in between. I find that you can always look at the resume, look at their marks, and that will only tell you so much about the person. I think for us the big part of it is gut, and do they fit within our values.
We have a values pyramid, so from bottom up is hustle, humility, grit, and passion. Does this person have all of these elements, with passion being the most important? What are they passionate about? Can they stick through the various ups and downs of the startup life cycle? And will they will they hustle, and are they humble, and is humility important to them? These are all things that are very important to us. And we look for them through gut and through reference calls and really interacting with them in person.
You still interview every single candidate. What’s your go-to interview question to get at who a candidate really is?
I really like to understand where they see themselves in a couple of years, why they’ve made certain career moves, and why a startup.
I also like to understand what are some of the biggest risks they’ve taken, both in their career and in their life. I also like to understand their view on products. You know, how do they use their products, how would they grow the user base, what are some improvements they’d make around their product. These are all things I tend to ask to really gauge how committed are they to those companies, to startups, to tech. And often times for those that are leaving big companies to join us, why are they leaving the steady paycheck to join a high-risk startup?
Yes, a number of your employees have come from larger companies, like Facebook and Airbnb. How do you attract this talent to your startup?
There’s a couple of answers. The first one is impact. As an early-stage company, every single thing you do, every pixel you push, every line of code you write, every marketing ad you roll out, will be impactful on the business, the product, the future of the company. I think number one is impact.
Number two really is our big bold vision of completely overhauling a traditional loyalty industry. I mean the culture, the team, the perks of a startup, the t-shirt and jeans you get to wear, are also all great perks, but I think ultimately what makes us stand out is we have a big mission, you can have massive impacts, we’re backed by some of the most prestigious investors in both US in and in Canada, and we’re a team of people that have done it before.
So, couple that with the fact that were a cool millennial consumer app, I think makes it very appealing for a lot of a lot of people looking to get into the tech startup space.
You’re going to be doubling your team in the next eight months. Do you think your hiring process will change at all as your numbers grow?
I mean, I might have a much harder time interviewing every single person but I will definitely do my best. Even at 50 people I would love to interview every single person. The culture of the company will change with that scale of new hires and people, and I think one of the most important things to myself is maintaining that culture. So, I don’t think anything will change. I think it will be more efficient, and we’ll have a more structured process, but I think the way in which we do it has really it worked for us.
Speaking of culture, how do you plan to scale your culture as you grow?
We started with a very young team. Most did not have families or children or large commitments. And I think as we hire more and more senior people, we definitely will encounter and hire more people in very different life stages.
So I think it’s the ability to maintain the same culture while promoting work-life balance and encouraging people to spend time with their families, their kids. Recognizing that, while at the same time maintaining the culture I think will be the toughest part. But I think the first step is acknowledging that, then addressing it firsthand – that’s something we definitely will be doing.
You previously worked as foreign exchange trader, and you brought that trading floor approach over to Drop Loyalty. Can you tell us about it?
Often times what kills startups is the lack of momentum. Of course lack of money, but I think momentum is one of the most important things. I think it’s getting off the ground running and getting investors excited, getting employees excited, getting everyone excited.
And when you look at some of the fastest-moving cultures and work environments, I think it’s the trading floor: TV screens around the office, open concept, glass-enclosed boardrooms. So high transparency, highly collaborative task-based communications, and real-time access to information that you need to make real-time decisions.
Those are all things that we took from the trading floor and really ingrained in our culture, and it’s worked in a very successful way for us.