How to find global talent for your startup

We’re beginning a global war that has nothing to do with Russia or lost Malaysian airplanes. This war is over the growing competition for startup talent.

Last night the SoHelpful and Collabspot (one of my Angel investments)  teams exchanged recruiting tips over dinner in Manila, Philippines. Both Jeremi Joslin, Collabspot’s founder and I are building our teams globally in emerging economies.


Here’s how we’re finding great people – I hope it helps you.


It’s not 2013 anymore … global talent is harder to find every day

Anyone recruiting globally will tell you that competition for talent is growing, rates are going up, and you need to prepare for a sustained, long-term search. The people you want are not looking for work – opportunities are finding them. They are not on Odesk or

The days of recruiting top developers from emerging markets for practically nothing are long, long gone. You’re no longer competing with outsourced sweat shops for talent – you’re competing with entrepreneurs like Jeremi and I.


Start by using hometown relationships to build bridges

Every tactic below is easier if you get warm introductions – start by contacting people in your meetup groups, schools, etc. Looking for Python developers in Poland? Find the Polish developers in your city and ask them for advice, introductions. Tell them why you want to hire people in Poland and ask for their advice on how to meet the influential people.


Next contact startup/tech event organizers and volunteer to help

Before my first trip to Manila I contacted the Startup Weekend organizers and asked if I could come and give a free Lean Startup workshop. I now had a reason for going and got connected to influential people before I left Beijing.  I met some great people and we had a lot of fun.


Give help before asking for it

You may see a recurring theme in my writing – the first step to winning trust is being helpful. Recruiting talent globally is no different.

I planned on 6 months and multiple visits to find my first hire in Manila (it took 7 months). Since I didn’t know anyone in Manila I decided to start helping people to build relationships. In the past 8 months I …

  • Gave a free Lean Startup workshop at Startup Weekend Manila
  • Gave a free Lean Startup workshop in Cebu City
  • Did Lean Startup training at
  • Helped teams at a pitch competition
  • Coached startups at LaunchPad event
  • Helped 10+ entrepreneurs in Manila over SoHelpful or in coffee shops

Today Jeremi Joslin (Collabspot’s founder) is flying to Cebu City to meet Python developers. I’m speaking at the conference.

In retrospect, being helpful was the single most important thing I did to find talent. I now know hundreds of people in the tech/startup community here – people who will help me because I’ve already helped them.


Get on a plane – it saves money in the long run

80% of life is just showing up

Woody Allen

Before my first trip to the Philippines a friend remarked, “isn’t it a lot of work to fly all the way to Manila just to find a programmer?” I explained to him that I wasn’t looking for someone with general skills – I was looking for the first members of a world-class product development team. You’ll need to win trust to find the best people.

If you’re worried about cost, travel is a lot cheaper than wasting money & time hiring the wrong people. Buy discount air tickets, rent a rooms on AirBnB, and buy food from grocery stores – you can keep most trips in the same hemisphere under $1,000.


Learn cultural career aspirations

People in different cultures have different aspirations. Some want more money, some want to have fun. The best way to find out is to ask them. Whenever I met a talented developer working at a startup in the Philippines I asked them, “why did you take this job?” I usually heard:

  • To learn how to build a startup.
  • To learn new tech skills.
  • To travel.

Knowing this, I actually have a lot to offer – by working for me someone will learn how to do Lean Startup. So I started looking for people who had this same aspiration. This isn’t true in other Asian cultures where money is often a bigger priority.


Be different – give first before taking

The leaders of emerging tech communities are bombarded by foreign entrepreneurs who want introductions to great people … for nothing. Send them a cold-call email and you’ll get … nothing.

Dare to be different. Give first. Show up. Be helpful. You’ll be surprised how quickly they return the favor. Jeremi and I are building world-class teams worldwide and you can too.


Photo credit: Startup Weekend Damascus


  1. Igor Aleksic April 1, 2014 at 2:50 am #

    Hey Kevin,
    actually im looking for developers for my startup and this article is amazing! Just one question though, why in Philippines?

    • kevindewalt April 2, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

      Hey Igor,

      Just my situation.

      1. Same timezone as Beijing. Only 4-hour flight.
      2. Most of my customers are Americans – Filipinos have excellent English & understand US culture.
      3. I personally believe the country will become an innovation powerhouse because of the reasons above + the country is very, very young. Median age is 22 – China, Europe, US are much older. So I want to invest more time (and $) there.

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