How to Get Good Talent -- Before You Have Funding

Last Updated Apr 4, 2011 8:50 PM EDT

The Question: I need to find core team members. How do I find experts and get them involved with my pre-funding stage startup while they are still working their day jobs? Once I find them, what can I offer them? -- Martin, AZ

The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council, an advocacy group founded by serial entrepreneur Scott Gerber that works to take action against youth unemployment by teaching young people how to build successful companies. The council's members include Generation Y entrepreneurs and experts in a variety of fields.
1. Start an advisory board
"The best way to get experts involved in your business is to build out an advisory board that's compensated with shares or options in your business. Many industry leaders, CEOs, and entrepreneurs will join advisory boards and make introductions, offer advice, and promote your business if they have an ownership stake and are interested and passionate about what you are creating." -- Matt Mickiewicz (@sitepointmatt), 99designs
2. Be social
"Go to MeetUp.com groups, network on Twitter (search hash tags that apply to your work), search for Facebook Fan Pages & Groups where the experts you want hang out. You just have to be genuine -- if your project is solid, well-developed, and you're passionate, you'll attract the team naturally. Offer them a creative outlet and leadership experience; be upfront about hours needed. Just be authentic!" -- Tammy Tibbetts (@tammytibbetts), She's the First
3. Put the computer down and look outside
"My current partner and I connected at a conference. But it wasn't at that conference that we formed our business relationship. It was over time. Over lunches, some afternoon beers, some business ideas, and even just talking about life. It was at this point that I knew I could work with him on any project and be happy with where we are at. Partners on a 'need right now' basis have never worked for me." -- Greg Rollett (@gregrollett), Radically Ambitious
4. Build your street cred
"You need to figure out a way to make working with you seem less risky. You say that you're looking for experts, but YOU need to be an expert, too. Focus on building your credibility as a thought leader. Blogging about your industry is a good place to start. Also, get involved in communities where people in your industry are interacting with each other. Start talking and see who talks back." -- Ryan Paugh (@ryanpaugh), Brazen Careerist
5. Compensate them when you get funding
"It's time you start joining meaningful networks in your new industry. Find sub-groups on LinkedIn, join associations, and ask friends for referrals. If you don't have cash to offer for compensation, you'll have to offer equity. Another option is to offer these experts deferred payments, which you'll pay immediately upon funding." -- Tina Wells (@fashiontw), Buzz Marketing Group
6. Show them you have a concrete plan
"You are going to have to work out an equity or compensation plan. The more concrete the numbers and percentages, the better. This will allow people to see the big picture. Have a clear vision of the future and a specific game plan to make it a reality." -- Nick Friedman (@NickFriedman1), College Hunks Hauling Junk
7. Pay on performance
"If you believe in your idea and can't pay them as employees, then treat them like partners and pay them performance-based equity compensation. Once they achieve certain milestones with certain time periods they will receive x shares in your company." -- Lucas Sommer (@audimated), Audimated
8. Passionate people get better access
"If you really believe in what you're doing 100% and have a plan of attack, it's hard to ignore passion. Start by reaching out to experts and commenting on their blogs. Then go to industry conferences and introduce yourself to them afterward. Experts are busy so you have to do more than just send an email. Be persistent but not annoying. -- Adam Gilbert (http://www.twitter.com/mybodytutor), My Body Tutor