Belly founder and CEO Logan LaHive doesn’t need much in the way of an introduction. The Bay Area native helped get Redbox off the ground as the director of new business before taking off to spend six months as a founder-in-residence at Lightbank, the Chicago venture capital shop founded by Groupon’s Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell.
While at Lightbank, LaHive devoted much of his energies to building up Belly. Since its launch in summer 2011, the customer rewards program has signed up more than 6,000 businesses and now has more than 100 employees.
LaHive talks fast and doesn’t split hairs. Having built out his own organization, LaHive reflects with us on how he assesses talent. It starts with an applicant’s email address.
If you have a Yahoo, Hotmail or AOL email address, get out
If people are applying for tech and startup jobs in Chicago, this is the flat-out truth: We will not hire anyone with a Yahoo, Hotmail, or AOL address. Update your online profile. That’s just a bare-level requirement. And it happens more than you’d think that people apply with those addresses.
Don’t be “the best fake version of yourself.”
I see hundreds of articles on “how to get hired,” cover-letter/no-cover-letter, thank you note, how to act in an interview, answer questions. It’s all bullshit. The worst advice people are listening to is, generally, advice. The key for me is, you never know going into a company or an interview who you’ll be talking to or what they care about. Research what matters, understanding the landscape, product, customers, doing research on who you’re talking to and the culture at the company.
Taking too much advice, practicing how to interview or what to write, that time would be better spent improving your skill set and doing research on the company and the role. It’s about being the best version of yourself rather than the best fake version of yourself.
It’s better to hire slow that to work with an asshole
I learned a lot about hiring processes, how to go about hiring, from Greg Kaplan, the founder of Redbox who had very strict policies about how you hire. Minimum six interviews, each candidate was required to have unanimous approval. If anyone was a no, you wouldn’t move forward. We don’t follow those policies exactly — having a requirement for six interviews is stringent for an early-stage, high-growth company. At Belly, it’s a balance. Many people in tech companies live by “hire fast, fire fast,” and while aspects of that that have a lot of truth, a lot of it is fairly unrealistic — the performance of a hire is realistically unknown. Parting quickly with key players because you need elite talent, that’s true. But in terms of hire fast, I’d rather have a hole than an asshole. We look to move fast, but only hiring people we need to be great. We don’t settle ever on a hire.
It’s not just about personality fit
You can’t build a company surrounding yourself with friends or yes men. I like to hire people who’ll be the absolute best at what they do. That isn’t necessarily the person that just looks like me or I think is funny or has the right culture fit from a personality standpoint. That’s the easiest way to hire — and at Belly we certainly have a lot of it, have a team that hangs out and spends time together and has beers together — but ultimately hiring for culture, here it’s not based on any sort of friend set, it isn’t a fraternity or sorority. We’re looking for people who express same values in helping small businesses build world-class loyalty programs.
Know how to handle a building full of angry tenants
I always start with personality, then get to the case-study at some point. Like how many golf balls can fit in a 747 — not the one I ask, but I’m always interested in identifying how people think, solve problems, the information they gather and the way they respond.
Answering fast is the absolutely wrong answer. I absolutely do not care about the end result of the answer. The most simple ones are golf balls in a 747, manholes in New York City; for us, we typically ask questions about the loyalty program, try to get to number of restaurants that Belly works with. In some more analytical interviews, it’ll become more structured, like the elevator case study: a simple question about a crowded apartment building, angry tenants, and elevators that take too long to get up and down in rush hour. Two elevators, angry tenants: How do you think about solving that problem?