How to find the perfect blend of talent for your start-up’s R&D team

20 Dec 2016

People are everything, particularly when you’re a start-up. Having a small team means high demands on your staff at your business’ most critical time, when you’re walking the tightrope between success and failure. The people you choose to found your business can make or break it, but those who become your first employees hold a lot of influence too.

After a whirlwind year, securing a RAEng 1851 Royal Commission Enterprise Fellowship and attracting £400k of investment, we reached an exciting time where we could build our team.

Initially we conducted market research and reaffirmed the demand for our technology. In doing so we identified that the real value of our business lies in the quality of the technology itself, because making sure it’s of the highest standard is one of the most important factors for success. Unsurprisingly then, our first step in getting our product to market has been putting our R&D team together.

Our technology, a new sensing technology based in a uniform malleable material, with the potential to replace conventional electronic controls like console joysticks and car dashboards, is far from simple – and so the staff we employ have to be the best. Finding people with the right skills has not been easy, but sometimes the long road is the best one.

To build our team and find the very best staff we took a very direct approach. We approached potential candidates through a wide variety of platforms including online recruiting websites, academics we knew and other personal connections. This meant we had good confidence in their skills from the outset, and also helped to build a team diverse in both personality and experience.

We actively looked for people who have an intuitive response to our technology. Getting to grips with a whole new mechanism for sensing and control doesn’t come naturally when you’ve spent your life learning to use another system. People who quickly grasped the technology, and became quickly adept, were top of our list.

We also searched for people able to connect their previous knowledge to novel ideas. Continuous innovation is the lifeblood of small businesses, so even though the idea for our technology was already established, we knew this creativity and free thinking would be important for us long-term.

This search has given us a team of five, with mixed R&D backgrounds covering algorithmic software, hardware, material, design, and manufacturing. We spent around three months assembling the current team and, as this is such an important stage in any start-up’s life, I would recommend taking extra time and care when hiring staff and assessing candidates. Apart from coffee meet-ups or formal interviews, we ran a workshop around new ideas to get a glimpse of how we might work together as a team on a daily basis. Going that extra mile when acquiring talent will not only give you peace of mind that you’ve hired the right candidate but will also help them decide if your company is right for them.

I’m also pleased that our team is incredibly diverse, with a range of experiences and hailing from different countries and cultures including England, Spain, Mexico, China and Taiwan. The diversity in our team means everyone brings their own different experiences to the table, helping to boost creativity and innovation within TG0. I myself am the proud holder of a Tier 1 Exceptional Promise visa. Access to the brightest and best global talent, regardless of nationality, can help start-ups to grow and prosper.

This team was made possible by raising the £400k investment – coming from Amadeus Capital, Chinese VCs, and private angel investors. I’d like to thank these investors for having faith in us as we continue to build the foundations of our company and move to market next year, in what we anticipate will be a very exciting 2017!

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