Founders Who Hire Globally Will Win

How Athyna is building a talent network

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Silicon Valley is no longer a geographic area — it’s a mindset and set of principles that help ambitious people build world-changing startups.

But regardless of whether you’re venture-backed of bootstrapped, the COVID pandemic changed how you should think about building your team.

Many of this decade’s successful startups will be built by global teams. And it turns out there’s a lot of talent out there in one unexpected region in particular.

My friend Bill Kerr founded Athyna to help founders hire top talent from LATAM, an ecosystem he and I are both bullish on.

We caught up this week to talk about:

  • The one huge advantage global teams have

  • What’s changed in hiring since the pandemic

  • What roles founders should (and shouldn’t) hire remotely

  • Why founders have a fiduciary duty to consider global hiring

  • And why LATAM is an overlooked market by most founders

This is January’s free deep dive become a member to get a new one each week and the full library of 75+.

Founders Who Hire Globally to Win

What’s Changed?

Silicon Valley has gone through three phases, and each phase has had a different center of gravity:

  • ~1970s - late 2010s → Palo Alto

  • Late 2010s - 2020 → San Francisco

  • 2020 - Now → The Internet

Post-COVID, there was a massive exodus of talented founders and investors from SF.

SF isn’t going anywhere (yes, a younger generation has moved in and yes, some people have moved back), but it’s now possible to build a venture-backable, or massively cashflowing business built with Silicon Valley’s core principles in mind from anywhere, even your high school’s bathroom.

Working together in-person will let you move faster, but the social stigma around remote work is gone and most people are comfortable with video calls (even investors).

Why Should Founders Care?

If you can get high quality, comparable work done for less than half the cost why wouldn’t you?

As founders face down a challenging fundraising environment (and inflation), it’s the right time to look for ways to get high quality work done without paying SF salaries.

Bill takes it one step further:

I don’t believe that the average US-based team member is delivering 3-4x the value of the available talent in LATAM — but they do cost 3-4x more.

Founders have a fiduciary duty to their investors or other equity holders to make decisions in the best interest of their startup.

Hiring globally simply gives them more runway or net income. How can you say no to that?

Bill Kerr, founder of Athyna

And he’s living that ethos with Athyna — they’re venture-backed with $6.4 million in ARR while profitable, and have never hired an employee in the US.

Even if you’re not venture-backed, maybe you’re using Sahil Lavingia’s Flexile to offer equity to your team members for each hour they work.

At the very least you’ll be competing against other founders who will hire globally, and they’ll be the ones with stronger cashflow to invest in growth or product development.

It’s an advantage that will play out over the next decade. But while remote hiring isn’t a new idea, it does need a bit of a rebrand…

The Rise of LATAM

When you think about global, remote hiring you probably think about Southeast Asia or maybe eastern Europe. Traditionally those have been major hubs for remote work for US-based startups (and startups elsewhere too).

My lead engineer for Megaphone is based in Brazil so I may be biased (I would be focused to pay 2-3x as much for a US-based dev of the same seniority) but as I researched this post I was still surprised with what I saw coming from LATAM.

Aside from the considerably superior timezone overlap with the US, it has a strong contingent of locally grown unicorns like Mercado Libre (an $80 billion company), Rappi, and Nubank as well as the sizable presence of US-based FAANG companies.

Over the last few years this has created not just talented individuals available for hire at a fair cost but also an emergent, robust ecosystem with depth.

What Roles Can I Hire Remotely?

Similarly when people think of “offshore hiring” they think of engineers and virtual assistants.

First, it’s time to rebrand the process of remote hiring away from “offshore hiring” and “VAs” entirely and, instead, to “global teams” and “assistants” or even “junior ops.”

But more importantly, Athyna’s changing that narrative due to LATAM’s deep talent ecosystem.

It’s now possible to also bring on high quality remote team members across:

  • Role → Marketing, sales, product, design, growth, and more

  • Seniority → Bill mentioned that Athyna regularly places director and executive level talent at startups, along with more mid and junior level employees

This is the value of an ecosystem — having experience working with other top talent in LATAM’s successful unicorns helps team members level up faster. Steel sharpens steel, so to speak.

But What Roles Shouldn’t be Hired Remotely?

I’ve shared a lot about why I believe the next great startups will be built by global teams.

But you shouldn’t hire your whole team this way forever.

If you’re selling B2B, once you get to the stage where you’re doing enterprise sales you’ll want sales and customer success roles who can actually meet with customers in person. Often a high-touch approach is a difference maker in high-ticket deals that are primarily closed through a long and drawn out sales cycle with a focus on relationship building.

That likely isn’t going to change.

But that’s the point — B2B startups are only a subset of all startups, and the vast majority of B2B startups shouldn’t be selling into enterprise level clients until they’re years down the line.

Marc Andreessen calls this his Moby Dick Theory — the unpredictability and sales cycle risk is simply too high for a startup to count on.

So for now I’m content to let Bill and Athyna help me find quality talent to join my team.

Teams in 2030

This decade we’ll see US-based teams get outcompeted by global teams. Both will deliver high-quality work but global teams have an inherent advantage — lower costs = more efficient businesses and more cash on hand for growth.

Those teams might look something like Gumroad, with a focus on output rather than co-location, with standard rates of pay regardless of your home base.

The only un-equal factor will be timezone, and LATAM is well positioned to be an attractive option for US-based startups for that reason.

I’d strongly consider getting a still-early jump on it all by getting in touch with Bill and the Athyna team.

PS: Bill will also be joining me for a members-only AMA and fireside chat next month.

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