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Level Up, Network, Automate: How The Swarm Will Change the Recruiting Game for Startups

February 7, 2022

By David Connors, Founder & CEO at The Swarm

The Swarm will be the operating system that early stage startups use to find and hire top talent. Here is what led me to start the company and why our platform could lead a transformation in startup recruiting.

The challenges of startup recruiting

The number one challenge for young companies is finding and hiring their founding team.

In many cases, founders take on the entire work of recruiting these critical team members all by themselves. There’s simply no one else to do it.

As a second-time founder myself, I have a lot of empathy for early-stage ventures and the difficulties associated with recruiting. Before forming The Swarm, I ran a recruitment startup called During this time we managed the top-of-funnel recruiting for founders. In doing so, I noticed common challenges startups faced with recruiting, macro trends that were impacting their success, and the imperfect toolkit they had at their disposal.

Challenge #1: Limited time

Founders often find that recruiting is taking up a huge chunk of their time (40-60% of their week). Some feel they are spending most of their time simply trawling through LinkedIn searching for potential candidates. For founders, already facing an enormous amount of work, this is an unacceptable time drain, effectively taking their attention away from other critical product- and company-building activities.

While partnering with external agencies and vendors is an appealing shortcut and a definitive time-saver, the cost is high and their incentives aren’t always aligned.

Challenge #2: Increased competition for talent

With the vast amount of resources available on the internet, accessing customers and connecting with investors has become easier than ever before. In many ways, there has never been a better time to start a company in certain industries.

However, the above conditions have given birth to a huge wave of startups, flush with cash, competing with established tech giants for a relatively small pool of talented engineers, designers, product experts, and marketers. Connecting with the right talent is now harder than ever before.

Challenge #3: Imperfect tools

As far as technology is concerned, the growing number of HR Tech or recruiting tools is hiding a lack of focus in creating truly purpose-built technology solutions for startups. I found that most tools help with one aspect of recruiting but there wasn’t anything available that provided the full picture.

The road to The Swarm

I ultimately sold Automately to Sequoia Capital and joined them as Director of Recruiting Operations. I led a team that built and tested a series of recruiting tools for our early-stage portfolio companies. Our goal was to facilitate connections, referrals, and tap into the Sequoia network to give them an unfair advantage in building the right team.

I realized the potential of harvesting individual team members networks into a collective aggregated hive, something that traditional job boards, platforms like LinkedIn, or even the latest applicant tracking or interviewing solutions were never intended to do.

Beyond technology, working with the best recruiters in Silicon Valley, I realized there was a method to startup recruiting. Yet this knowledge was decentralized and hidden in the ocean of various content on the topic, leaving it to chance to find it.

I decided to leave Sequoia last year to put my learnings to work and build The Swarm around three pillars:
- Facilitating learning for founders with plug-and-play, top-notch playbooks
- Making the most of your own network
- Leveraging automation to streamline routine tasks.

Solution #1: The Playbook

We’re now building a blueprint for what a world-class recruiting function actually looks like. The top quote I heard from founders is “I don’t know what I don’t know”, so our platform's first key component is compiling the knowledge and resources of top recruiters and teaching founders how to use it with short-form playbooks and ready-to-use templates — focusing their time and resources on the activities that really work.

For example, our playbooks will show founders how to develop a referral network, then focus on doing outbound work in a more automated and efficient way. We are already partnering with vendors to equip founders with specific solutions for these tasks.

This will also allow founders to build a recruiting knowledge base their team can rely on as they grow.

Solution #2: Mapping your network

Our goal is to help founders bring together relevant connections from a wide range of platforms and enrich their profiles with relevant recruiting data. The Swarm will lean on the concept of network-based hiring to help founders connect the dots and uncover the right candidates. Unifying a company’s connections will be an antidote to the siloed, fragmented nature of individual networks that we inherited from how social media came to be in the first place.

Solution #3: Automating the boring stuff

We plan on creating automations for routine tasks and recommendations of next steps. Automations will also help bring more candidates into view and surface relevant information for our busy founders.

Let's form The Swarm

Recruiting remains a people business. It’s all about building relationships and networks, working together to draw on each other’s skills, experience, and knowledge.

The Swarm Community is being built to tap into that spirit and create a decentralized collective of people that come together to help early-stage startups recruit all the right talent in the most productive ways.

It will be composed of recruiting and talent leaders, founders, and startup builders, as well as advisors and investors engaged in the topic of startup recruiting. The goal is to build a community that’s a source of free helpful advice and guidance.

I’m truly excited about what we’re building here at The Swarm. It’s based on years of experience working with and talking to founders, finding out what they struggle with, and helping them fix it.

Stay tuned for more updates and news as we build the platform. Make sure to join the waitlist to be among the first to know when we go live this year!