Jeremy Jaech helped build some of Seattle’s biggest software companies, including Aldus (sold to Adobe) and Visio (sold to Microsoft).
But the serial entrepreneur — known for building loyal teams — struggled when he hit the recruiting path two years ago for his latest company, SNUPI Technologies.
“It was hard to find young talent,” said Jaech, speaking at the Museum of History & Industry’s “Anti-Freeze event in Seattle Thursday night. “I went through a lot of trouble to find the right people… I was in the same pool as everybody else who was looking for talent around here — and I was using recruiters and LinkedIn, and just scrambling to try to find people. It was much harder this go around, in part because I was a little out of the game and I was looking for a little different skill set.”
So how did Jaech succeed?
Responding to an audience member’s question about the traits he looks for in employees, Jaech said he’s typically relied on people who he’s worked with in the past. But there was something else that usually resonated, too.
“The kind of people I would like to hire were people who had something besides code writing in their background,” said Jaech. “I like people who have multiple interests, and think about the intersection between what they do and other things.”
One of those folks was Clyde McQueen, now a senior engineering director at Google. When Jaech hired McQueen at Aldus as a young programmer, he remembers being struck by McQueen’s love of brewing beer.
“I always look for people who have other stuff, because I have found in my own life that the best ideas come from bumping up against people with different perspectives,” he said.
In that vein, Jaech also noted how it is important to embrace serendipity when it comes to finding talent, or in the case of SNUPI his next opportunity.
“It is a little bit of serendipity, and that’s a lot of what happens,” he said. “It is events like this. Getting people geographically together, as much as computer technology has taken distance away, there is still a lot of value in that accidental rubbing up against people and sparking ideas that way.”
Jaech also took a few moments to answer an audience member’s question about venture capital opportunities in Seattle versus Silicon Valley — certainly not holding anything back.
“Venture capital in Seattle is not nearly as good as venture capital in the Valley,” said Jaech, whose raised money for SNUPI from Madrona Venture Group and pulled in capital from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, August Capital and other Valley investors for past companies.
Pressed by the audience member what he meant by “good,” Jaech elaborated.
“By good, I mean willing to take risks, and helpful,” he said. “We have a pretty narrow ecosystem here, and it is broadening, but there is a lot more diversity to the things that are getting funded down in the Valley than here. Also, I think part of the mentality of Seattle VCs, frankly, is that they are happy hitting a lot of singles and doubles, as opposed to swinging for the fences. There’s a much more competitive space for venture money down in the Valley, and you have people who are much more aggressive about going after big deals. There’s a whole bunch to say about it, but I don’t want to say too much.”