Kipsu’s Entrepreneurial Hiring Approach Is Scaling

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Minneapolis startup Kipsu is ramping up with a novel approach towards hiring and training in an otherwise challenging labor market.

Clinically called the “Entrepreneurial Leadership Rotation Program” and unofficially abbreviated from this point forward as ELRP, the full-time employment opportunity targets entry-level workers seeking to join a growing Minnesota technology company:

“The Entrepreneurial Leadership Rotation Program is a highly selective program that provides talented individuals with a platform to experience various functions within a high growth environment. Over the course of a year, you’ll rotate between and play an integral part in multiple teams, learning new skills and honing your interests along the way.”

Instead of hiring for one specific role in a given department, as 99% of companies are trained to do, Kipsu’s ELRP is deliberately different to provide newcomers with exposure to the company from multiple perspectives, each lasting 3-4 months at a time.

Kipsu CEO Chris Smith says the over-arching goal is to create an easier way for employees to experience his company from the various domains and to understand how Kipsu functions wholistically as a company of parts. Kipsu, like every company, consists of different components — from customer success, to sales and marketing, even technical capacities such as engineering and product development are part of the one year rotating role.

Smith, who happens to be a reformed venture capitalist of ten years, feels that this not only helps train new employees with more appreciation and understanding for how the business works, but also to prepare them to think beyond just their role or department.

As a point of reference, Kipsu’s 2017 ELRP first year is underway now with just three participants, while considering 6-12 more individuals to join 2018’s cohort which starts in July, 2018.   He’s quick to note that this is not an internship program, but rather a unique starting point as a W-2 full time and full rate employee who wants exposure and experience from different angles.

“We’ve always operated with a longer view than a typical venture-backed company,” explains Smith, “Our approach involves a lot of entry-level recruiting, much more so than peer startups who are maybe pressured to hire faster and therefore ultimately make different decisions about not just who they hire, but also how much they are willing to invest upfront in their people.”

Smith notes that they are not immune to the same challenges of any and every growing tech company and their ELRP program, while unique, is “but one way of finding and retaining great talent.”

“To our surprise, engineers have been equally interested in the opportunity to learn other things aside from just making software,” Smith notes. “We believe in long term relationships with our employees and this is but one avenue for that. It’s exciting and we’re going to do more of it.”

Kipsu was founded in 2010 as a guest engagement platform for businesses to connect with their customers using technology. With 1.5m in angel funding from two rounds, they have doubled from 20 full time employees this time last year to 40 now. Including their ELRP program, the 2018 plan calls for between 25-40 new employees next year.

As seemingly simple and sensical as Kipsu’s ELRP program is, it does make one wonder: who else is doing that?

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Comments

  • Frank Jaskulke

    Very cool – taking a long tradition of large companies (rotations) and applying it in startups is very cool and unique.

    • http://tech.mn Jeff Pesek

      Is it really unique and if so why do you think that is?

      • Frank Jaskulke

        I’ve not seen other startups do something like this, hence why I thought it was unique.

        Also, you refer to the program as novel in your lede. Novel and unique are synonyms.

        • http://tech.mn Jeff Pesek

          “I’ve not seen other startups do something like this, hence why I thought it was unique.”

          Same here. Smith said they had to get to a point of about 20 ppl before it was really feasible from an operational perspective. So I could see it being a challenge for the smaller early stage co’s simply due to lack of resources, constraints, and need to optimize everyone on board all the time. Thus, my question is more thinking about all the companies that are 25-50-100+ employees (a huge % of the market).

          “Also, you refer to the program as novel in your lede. Novel and unique are synonyms.”

          I think that it is Frank, though that doesn’t make it true; more questioning out loud how unique it is, since that’s a relative thing. And really just curious to understand what you and others think the reasons are behind that…to rephrase the question:

          Why wouldn’t any and every company with the some scale (say 50+ ppl) integrate this type of approach to hiring? (Curious to hear from any HR people especially!)

          • Frank Jaskulke

            On the “why would’t any and every company” question – this is a common practice among large companies. Rotation programs are used at companies like Medtronic, 3M, GE, and on and on.

            The unique part is that a small company like Kipsu is doing it.

          • https://AskAshleyK.com Ashley Kruempel

            “…So I could see it being a challenge for the smaller early stage co’s simply due to lack of resources, constraints, and need to optimize everyone on board all the time.” 👈🏻 Ding, ding, ding!! I’ve had many of these issues, especially the latter daily feeling drowned from notifications…

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