Building Your Blockchain Team

By Brittany Laughlin from Lattice Ventures

$5B+ was raised for blockchain projects in 2017, and now there’s a shortage of people to build them.

As more blockchain projects build teams, the demand for experienced blockchain talent has surged. There is demand but only a small supply of experienced candidates. So what should blockchain companies consider when building a team?

At Monday’s Lattice VC BlockTalk we sat down with with a panel of experts to find out what blockchain companies should consider to build their teams. Whether you’re making plans to build, or are in the process, finding talent is a big part of your project’s success.

Here are the key takeaways from that discussion:

  • Plan for the talent that you need. Most protocols only need 1–2 protocol engineers to start, the rest of the team is usually working on the go-to-market strategy, marketing, smart contract structures, and traditional web development.
  • Great talent may follow the money, at first. There are a lot of great protocol engineers working on terrible projects, or more politely stated, projects with less feasible long term potential. With ICOs, cash may be the driver for many top engineers. Understand what is motivating the candidates you interview.
  • Experienced protocol talent is scarce, look for parallel experience. Engineers with experience building on lower level tech infrastructure are a great fit, for example MongoDB builders. Engineers who spend time learning new languages have potential. If an engineer is learning Elm or Rust for fun, they shouldn’t have a problem picking up a new language.
  • Before you ship code, you need a solid plan. Creating a new smart contract is likely 90% planning on whiteboards and 10% code pushed to production. Hire for the stage of your project, scoping and making smart decisions first before code needs to be created. Especially given constraints for blockchain technology: lack of testing, flexibility, rollbacks.
  • Educational blockchain engineering programs are a good place to look. StanfordMITColumbiaNYU, and Coursera are just a few places with dedicated blockchain education programs. Coding bootcamps are good but not all are created equal. Unless engineers came in with engineering experience, they will likely need an apprenticeship first.
  • Expect to pay the same for engineers. Engineering talent is in high demand and can be very expensive in competitive markets. The good news is that you don’t need to pay a premium for good talent, the bad news is that you’re competing with every other company for talent, big and small.
  • Go-to-market strategists are the hardest hire. The blockchain ecosystem has a lot of hype, scammers, billions in cash, regulation, and can’t advertise on most large platforms. Web 2.0 growth can’t be replicated for blockchain companies. Finding talent to bring your product to market is harder to find than experienced engineers. A reason why we’ll be hosting experienced go-to-market strategists at our next BlockTalk on May 21st.
  • Open source and enterprise blockchains need different types of talent. Depending on whether you’re using a closed permission blockchain or not should have an impact on the type of experience you’re hiring for. Relevant engineering experience is still required to serve startup vs. enterprise.
  • Diversity matters for all startups, blockchain cos are no exception.Building more diversity of thought on your team creates better outcomes. Panelists have met incredibly diverse talent in engineering and other fields, it’s reasonable to build a diverse team from the ground up. Don’t wait past your 20th hire to start considering this, it only makes it more difficult.
  • A well structured hiring process will help you win better talent. Plan on how do you win on hiring. Moving fast and decisively is important. Confidence in your hiring process and evaluation is king. If you can win on speed game, thats something larger companies can’t do. Advice ranged from first contact to offer in 2 weeks, or first contact to start date in less than 2 months. A solid hiring process is key.

Thinking more about the demand for blockchain talent? Here is an overview of the trends Vanessa presented that we’re seeing in the current market: