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How to hire like a wildly successful startup company

You may not have heard of the startup Paydiant, but chances are good that you’ll use its technology pretty soon. Paydiant
has built the technology behind the mobile payments platform underlying CurrentC, the mobile pay app that  is competing against Apple Pay for leadership in the mobile payment space.

Paydiant, started in 2010 in the proverbial basement  (in this case, co-founder’s Kevin Laracey’s), has partnered with the Merchant Customer Exchange, or MCX, the consortium formed by many of the biggest retail brands in the US including Target, Walmart, CVS, Best Buy and Rite Aid to develop CurrentC.

When I visited Paydiant to film for my Startup Spotlight series, I asked co-founder Chris Gardner how Paydiant got from a small, scrappy company to where it is today.

In addition to no sleep, Gardner said a large part of the Boston-based startup’s success is due to  hiring the right people. Here are the highlights:

Install an executive team well-versed in startups

While startups are often seen as the sole province of young people, experience does matter, according to Gardner.

“As you can tell I’m an old guy. We’re not 20-somethings in a garage and so I think that helps,” Gardner said. “On the executive team, a lot of us have been doing really only startups. Speaking just for me, I’ve only kind of done… technology startups in the Boston area.”

In fact, this is Gardner’s third payments startup. In his opinion, the collective startup experience among the executives at Paydiant really contributed to the success of the company. So does having leadership with expertise in multiple areas, said Paydiant CFO Melinda Smith, who has been with the company since its founding.

“When you’re early in a startup company as a CFO you need to wear a lot of hats; it’s not just about finance” she said.”[Financial expertise] is an important component when you’re reporting to investors that have invested in the company, but you also need to have experience in human resources and some of the legal aspects of the company.”

Like Gardner, Smith’s background is replete with startup experience, Paydiant being her fourth startup.

Develop an instinct for who will fit in and advance

In addition to finding experienced people to fill the executive positions, Gardner said the hardest part of building a company is hiring the right people for the other levels of the company.

“It’s probably our single most important job,” Gardner said. “And you have to be right [about the person you’re hiring], you know, 95% of the time.”

Gardner said over the years the company has developed an instinct for hiring people who will be good team members and who will be able to “grow and scale with the company,”  including taking on management roles.

“Find those diamonds in the rough,” Gardner said.

It’s not just about the ‘ultimate nerds’

At Paydiant, that doesn’t just mean finding smart, tech-savvy people, Gardner said. In addition to having those qualities, Paydiant employees also need to be articulate and represent the company well in front of customers and partners, Gardner said.

“Some people just look to go out and hire the most brilliant software developers they possibly can. We actually place a very high value not just on… technical chops, [making] the bits and bytes fit together, but also on people that can talk,” Gardner said.

And this is one aspect of Paydiant that sets them apart, Gardner said. “We very much value the articulate, charismatic types not just the ultimate nerds.”

Stay tuned for my upcoming Startup Spotlight video on Paydiant.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Kristen Lee, features writer, or find her on Twitter @Kristen_Lee_34.