Back to Company Hiring Series

Part of the Evolutions in Talent Strategy series. See the previous article here.

A compound startup

Rippling Co-founders Prasanna Sankar (Left) and Parker Conrad (Right)
Rippling Co-founders Prasanna Sankar (Left) and Parker Conrad (Right)

Rippling won G2’s HR Product of The Year. With over $1.2 billion raised to date, they’re a formidable new entry to the Human Resource Information System (HRIS) market.

Ben Thompson, writer of Stratechery said, “Rippling paints a vision of a single source-of-truth for everything employee related in a company.”

From basement to billions. How did Parker Conrad find and attract the world-class talent necessary for this journey?

The art of bundling

Rippling is an unusual SAAS company. They are like a Proctor & Gamble – a wide range of product lines, each acting like its own venture.

“Only two ways to make money in business: one is to bundle; the other is unbundle.” - Former CEO of Netscape, Jim Barksdale.

Coordination happens at two layers. First, with data. Coordination of the back-end layer. All of Rippling’s products have a shared data storage center.

This quietly eliminates loads of complexity, which is great for customers. But the second layer of coordination is far more interesting.

Each of these sub-organizations needs to acquire a great leader. Not only that, but Rippling hires people with wide peripheral vision. These employees are the catalyst that enables coordination at front-end layer: where problem-solving happens

Jet fuel for startups

Compound startups require compound talent. Rippling is targeting a whole family of pain points, not just one or two.

This requires people with ambition and range. And Parker Conrad knows just how to attract them:

  • Master the basics of HR.
  • Craft a grand narrative.
  • Embrace scope creep.
  • Delegate aggressively.

Getting these strategic elements right allowed Rippling to headhunt the talent it needed to build an empire founded on innovation, not incrementalism.

Master the basics of HR

A great human resources team is one that moves fast. That means getting your processes fine-tuned before incorporating new tools like generative AI.

In other words, winning companies are masters of the ‘boring stuff’. Onboarding and contracting should feel smooth, if not be almost unnoticeable from the perspective of a candidate.

Craft a grand narrative

Adventure is a great selling point. Compound startups promise not only an interesting career, but a chance to be a part of something big.

Rippling’s vision of integrating the full HR stack into one high-performance suite is ambitious and obviously challenging. But it’s a chance to do something impressive and good for the world.

A grand narrative is a flywheel. It attracts interesting people, who tend to have plenty of ideas of their own. This leads to the next element of Rippling’s hiring strategy.

Embrace scope creep

Every organization faces the choice between hiring for people and hiring for roles. Rippling is winning because they do the former. Prioritizing potential over focus.

The defining feature of a compound startup is an ability to solve an increasing range of their customers’ problems. When you hire top performers, they will find new ways to add value.

This explosion of ideas is excellent for your clients in the long-run. You should embrace it. But how do you grow the breadth of technical expertise required to succeed?

Delegate aggressively

This is what makes Rippling unique in the SAAS world, with only a few peers (PostHog, Hubspot). They offer multiple product lines with a shared ‘manufacturing center’ on the backend.

Each product line is run like its own company. Rippling hires an ex-founder to run each new line and delegates them a ton of authority. These new ‘mini CEOs’ are competing in their individual markets, but have support from the rest of Rippling.

Putting it all together

Rippling’s hiring strategy is simple, but comprehensive, and – if you’re part of a compound startup – worth taking note of. They’ve removed obstacles to onboarding talent (Master the basics of HR). They’ve created a gravity well that draws in talent (Craft a grand narrative). They’ve given that talent freedom (Embrace scope creep). And they’ve empowered their lieutenants to explore new ways to deliver value to customers (Delegate aggressively).

Part of the Evolutions in Talent Strategy series. See the previous article here.

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