Sunday, June 24, 2007

Three Waves of People

When we make hiring decisions at Xobni, one of the things we look at is how well we think a candidate fits into our environment.

I’ve often found myself referring to candidates as first-, second- or third-wave. I believe I stole this categorization from Bob Cringley’s Accidental Empires.

  1. First-wave people want to create success from nothing. They are the entrepreneurs, the founders. They see an opportunity, create a product, and yearn for success.

  2. Second-wave people want to make something popular more successful. These are the people who take an established idea and scale it up to fulfill its promise.

  3. Third-wave people want to join a successful environment and preserve the status quo. These are the operators who make sure business run smoothly.

This is not a measure of smartness or competence – we’d find similar levels of IQ and education across these groups. Instead, it’s an estimate of their appetite for risk and their payoff expectations. Entrepreneurs have a higher hill to climb, but treasure awaits at the summit.

It’s important to hire the right kind of people at the right time: Google and Microsoft are sourcing from the second or third waves. As a startup that has yet to release its product, we want to hire from the first.


Thanks to Adam Smith for discussions.


David said...

These ideas were bouncing around in my head, but you did a much better job of articulating them.


Zoli Erdos said...

I like that categorization, but I think 2nd wave starts earlier, typically for most startups that have a product and now have to make it to the market. Google, Microsoft and the like are at the third wave.

Startups typically get into trouble when the Founders realize they need 2nd-wavers, work with "pro" recruiters and end up with a bunch of "big name" expensive 3rd-waivers.

Reinhard said...

Ok, I don't get it.

So, if a business is mature, people from the second wave do not seem to be a fit any longer, because preserving the status-quo is the primary focus? What about constantly reinventing your business? You could of course claim that reinvention means that your business was not mature yet, but then, no business would ever be, and so, this whole graph is based on a rather idealistic condition. On the other hand, reinvention also collides with the intend of the third-wave candidates, that is, to preserve the current status-quo, which leads to wave four, the disgruntled candidate.

When will you be coming to San Francisco by the way?

AetherX said...

really like your blog

Christian said...

thanks for this interesting classification!
i somehow feel that i would like to be in the first wave but most of the time i `live' in the second, which i think is true for many people. really building something from scratch is very hard. most people somehow combine existing techniques and ideas in a proper way to make something better. i actually believe that you might be in the first wave only for very few times of your life, if at all...
anyways, nice thoughts! good luck with your hr at xobni!

Anonymous said...

namespace collision with the 1980 book "the third wave" that describes eras, not individuals.