Have you ever heard of Shel Kaphan?  
17th November 2021

Shel Kaphan was employee number 1 at Amazon. Without hiring Shel Kaphan in 1999, Amazon, by Jeff Bezos’ own admission, doesn’t become the thing it is today; a $1.7 Trillion giant.

The story of Shel Kaphan and being Employee #1 is repeated over and over in technology. The perfect symphony of ideas from entrepreneurs and practicality from brilliantly talented employees, blended to create incredible products and businesses. Apple, Google and pretty much any major tech company that you care to name, has a backstory littered with anecdotal stories of the integral role that Employee #1 takes in the success of the business.

Often a soundboard for the founder, a filter for terrible ideas, a leader for people, a shoulder to cry on, a support system to keep things on track, their role is greatly under-appreciated by those on the outside but never the founder themselves.


So, how is this relevant to you in the here and now of 2021? Why am I telling you this? 

Whilst having a brilliant idea is absolutely key, along with having the capital and funding in place to get this off the ground in the first place, the role of Employee #1 cannot be overlooked. It’s imperative that Employee #1 is right, is the fit you need to be successful, is the Kaphan to your Bezos, is the Lennon to your McCartney, the Robin to your Batman…

This is what history and successful companies are telling you. As a Recruitment Expert with 15 years of experience hiring into Scientific R&D, Technical and Defence companies, I can tell you that finding the talent you need has never been harder than it is today. In fact, I’m willing to bet finding your sidekick will comfortably be one of the top three challenges for you as a founder, whilst probably having a longer-term bearing on your venture’s success than anything else.


Why is it hard?

There are loads of startups with great ideas in the tech space. Loads. The demand for technical talent has never been greater. The shortage of technical talent has never been more acute than it is today. The long term prognosis for the supply of talent is poor. This isn’t a short term market “blip” or correction in a post-pandemic world. This has been this way for years and is here to stay for years more.


So? What can we do? 

Get your sh*t together when it comes to the recruitment of staff. The third hardest thing you’ll do and the decision with the longest consequence on the success and failure of your business is normally written in one line on a business plan:

“Hire staff.”

This is not a plan! How are you going to stand out in the market to attract the best talent? Where are you going to source these candidates? What will your process look like to keep them engaged? How many people do you need to hire? How quickly? What do you want these people to do for you? How do you put that into a job description?  What’s the budget for hiring? How much are you paying these people? Is that market rate? What benefits are you offering? Are they competitive? …The list goes on.

This isn’t us being demanding to make our lives easier – we’re seeing this increasingly come up on funding applications. It doesn’t matter how good your idea is – if you don’t know how to staff it, it’s not going to be a success, and investors know this.

There are LOADS to think of in finding your Kaphan. So many facets to weigh up to put your company at the front of the queue for the right talent, for the best talent. How can you be competitive?

TOTUS RPO – Giving Start-Ups a chance: This is why we’ve created TOTUS RPO. We’re the experts in building strategies for Start-Ups when it comes to finding talent. We’re not Recruiters…we’re the people that know how to find you your Kalphan. Your Employee #1.

About the author

Jonathan is the Owner and Founder of thriving Oxford-based Technical recruitment SME; Corriculo and TOTUS; an RPO solution that sets and manages recruitment processes for small companies that want to grow quickly.

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