Using niche technology as a hiring advantage

Selecting a niche technology for your startup is risky, but along with enabling innovative breakthroughs, it can be a unique advantage in hiring.

Using niche technology as a hiring advantage
Photo by Johannes Plenio / Unsplash

In Dan McKinley’s article Choose Boring Technologies he introduces the idea of innovation tokens, which are a handful of bets you can make to power your startup using technology that hasn't been production tested for years.

You have a limited number you can spend and still actually advance as an organization, and the budget is almost certainly less than you'd like.

Your innovation tokens ought to be used to power your startup in a way that wasn't previously possible. That's the first consideration, which he drives home in the article, and I agree with wholeheartedly.

But, one thing this overlooks is that there is the possibility that you can use your innovation token for a dual purpose.

You can use it to do something previously hard or impossible and as an advantage while hiring.

Look for individuals that are enthusiasts in a technology that is extremely promising, and a critical differentiator for your success, but not yet mainstream.

In that community there will be individuals that are enthusiastic about the technology, but due to the fact that it hasn't entered mainstream adoption, aren't yet able to use it in their day to day work.

This is something I’ve been able to leverage personally working in the Elixir ecosystem. The folks that have come to the language historically are generally more senior and are looking for tools that make soft real-time and distributed systems easier to create.

They fall in love with the language and what it makes easy for them to accomplish, but because it isn’t mainstream, hiring for it when few others are makes your position compelling.

Giving them that opportunity is your hiring advantage, especially if you or your startup don't have a meaningful brand yet.

Leverage it.

Hire from the watering holes, move quickly, and maintain a good reputation in them. You'll have an advantage over your competitors in your most important technology asset.

Your people.