The Pmarca Guide to Startups, part 1: Why not to do a startup.” Though I’ve never hired anyone, I found Marc’s reason number 4 interesting — hiring is hard.

Fourth, hiring is a huge pain in the ass.

You will be amazed how many windowshoppers you’ll deal with.

A lot of people think they want to be part of a startup, but when the time comes to leave their cushy job at HP or Apple, they flinch — and stay.

Going through the recruiting process and being seduced by a startup is heady stuff for your typical engineer or midlevel manager at a big company — you get to participate vicariously in the thrill of a startup without actually having to join or do any of the hard work.

As a founder of a startup trying to hire your team, you’ll run into this again and again.

When Jim Clark decided to start a new company in 1994, I was one of about a dozen people at various Silicon Valley companies he was talking to about joining him in what became Netscape.

I was the only one who went all the way to saying “yes” (largely because I was 22 and had no reason not to do it).

The rest flinched and didn’t do it.

And this was Jim Clark, a legend in the industry who was coming off of the most successful company in Silicon Valley in 1994 — Silicon Graphics Inc.

How easy do you think it’s going to be for you?

Then, once you do get through the windowshoppers and actually hire some people, your success rate on hiring is probably not going to be higher than 50%, and that’s if you’re good at it.

By that I mean that half or more of the people you hire aren’t going to work out. They’re going to be too lazy, too slow, easily rattled, political, bipolar, or psychotic.

And then you have to either live with them, or fire them.

Which ones of those sounds like fun?

Though I know many people are always casually looking for jobs because they don’t truly love their current job, I guess I didn’t realize the complexity “window shoppers” add to the hiring process for businesses, particularly small companies without full time recruiters. It does make sense — people love to feel wanted. The recruitering process is much the same as “Rush” process that takes place at fraternities. Rush chairmen (the people in charge of signing pledges) have to deal with the numerous window shoppers that just hang out in the Greek system, going to every party, getting free beer, and looking for girls. It’s the rush chairs’ job to weed out the casual rushees from the serious potential pledges.

The post hasn’t changed my mind — I’m still an entrepreneur, even if it is hard.


  • I’ve been a practicing entrepreneur most of my adult life. It’s not for the faint of heart. There are plenty more reasons not to become one than there are reasons to take the plunge. The hardest part is Leadership. It’s doubly hard when you’re asking people to hitch their star to your dream, make it their own and take risks with their future. I’ve had the privilege to work along side some people who stuck with me when the odds were against us and took the ride all the way to a destination that left us with only memories and some nice office chairs. Those people are still my friends today, some of which would jump ship from comfy day jobs with big salaries and juicy perks, just to try it all again. Drew, you’re a sharp young guy that I have come to admire and would hire in Seattle second, but with all due respect, you haven’t earned the title of entrepreneur yet. When you do, you’ll probably not wish it on anyone, nor will you will relinquish it easily. The definition of entrepreneur in the dictionary should include love/hate and masochism as answers. Some advice; If you decide to become a full fledged entrepreneur, do it while you’re young and get counsel from people you can trust.

  • I imagine one of the first start-ups was the first ship to sail out to prove the earth was not flat. Imagine the caploss had they been wrong- but the gains the world received when they were so right.

  • No hard feelings Michael. It’s only a matter of time before I start my own venture. I think I’ll know when the time is right. I still feel I’m learning a lot and getting to take on quite a bit of responsibility in my current position.

  • I wasn’t giving you a hard time. I think you’re on the right track. It’s a tough row to hoe, but worth it if you have the right mindset. I think you do.