Prior to 2018, start-ups could not compete against big tech companies’ notoriously high salaries and other benefits designed to retain talent.
That has changed, according to conversations with half a dozen start-up execs in the health and education space.
“We’re definitely getting more people in the pipeline from these big tech companies,” said Ryan McQuaid, CEO of Plushcare, a health-tech company that recruits with the slogan “delivering health and happiness.”
McQuaid’s company aims to reduce the barriers for people to access the medications they need. One of its focus areas is PrEP, which is designed for people who don’t have HIV but are at a substantial risk of getting to it.
“In Silicon Valley, every company tries to position itself as doing amazing things for the world,” said McQuaid. “But employees are starting to realize that not all of them are actually doing that.”
McQuaid’s company can’t compete on cash compensation, but they do pitch potential recruits on a large equity stake and an opportunity to work on challenging technical problems. They also emphasize the company’s social mission.
Color Genomics, a Silicon Valley-based health-tech company that specializes in helping people understand their medical risks, has also seen an uptick of interest from engineers, designers and product managers at the large tech companies.
Othman Laraki, the company’s CEO, who previously worked at Twitter and Google, said that a few months ago he hosted an engineering recruiting event in Burlingame, Calif., a stone’s throw from the big tech campuses. More than 200 people showed up.
“It was on a Wednesday night, right when all those big storms in the Bay Area were happening, and yet we saw so much interest from engineers who wanted to tap into the opportunity to make an impact in a more direct way,” he said.
Health insurance start-up Clover Health has found that there’s a steady chunk of people who want to work at mission-driven start-ups. “Clover tends to attract a specific type of person who wants to work for a company with a mission-driven culture and business model,” said Bob Huynh, Clover’s vice president of talent, adding that he hasn’t seen a recent uptick in engineers from big tech companies interested in joining the team.