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Ankur Gupta
Jan 29, 2020

Startup Hiring — Smarts vs Fools

Ankur Gupta
Jan 29, 2020

There is a saying that fools attract fools and smarts attract smart. I didn’t necessarily believe in it till recently. One of the reasons was nobody gave a logical proof for it (or at least I am not aware of it) and as an engineer that was super important to me. Today, I am gonna prove how this is actually true.

Let's put our logical hats on and prove it by proof by contradiction. 🤠

Theorem: Fools mostly attract fools and Smarts mostly attract smart people.

Proof: The proof follows immediately from the two Lemmas below. I will use startups and their founders as the context here. One can easily generalise it to any other context.

Lemma 1: Founders are smarter than the people they hire.

Proof: Suppose this is not true. Then the employee must be a fool that he/she chose to join the founders. Since no one will claim he/she is a fool, hence the founder must be smarter than the employee.

Lemma 2: Employees are smarter than the founders

Proof: Suppose this is not true. Then the founders were a fool that they chose to hire a fool. Since founders aren’t fools, hence they must have hired smarter people than themselves.

From Lemma 1 and Lemma 2, it is clear that founders and their employees are at equal footing and hence it should be true that fools attract fools and smarts attract smart people. Now founders can make mistakes and similarly employees can mistake too in choosing the wrong founders. Such relationships are toxic & unstable and either founders exit such relationships by firing the employee or the employee leaves the company. This was the reason why I said mostly in the above theorem.

Now that we have established this theorem, there is a message both to the founders and the employees. Assuming the relationship is not toxic, founders must believe in their employees and continue to hire folks smarter than them. As the company grows, founders must stop being the hero of the story and let their employees shine. Founders role should change to more of a mentor/coach where they help their employees achieve their dream. Likewise, employees must have faith in their founders even when things seem to go south and help the founders steady the ship. Employees must actively seek opinion of their founders when they (employee) are stuck and need direction. Employees must demand a mission and a vision from the founders. In fact, I would go on to say that during hiring, prospects must first demand the mission and vision and see if they believe in that.

As a founder, once I realised the above theorem and really got it in my blood, I started trusting and believing in my employees more often. I started delegating things more often and I stopped being the hero — instead I help them succeed. Earlier, I was drowning and the employees didn’t feel like they were growing. With the shift in mindset, now I am thriving as well as my team feels more confident and committed to deliver. It is a win-win situation for everyone in the company. Regret that as a founder, I missed the obvious earlier. Nevertheless, I am glad I got it and optimistically look forward to our collective future at Clarisights.

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