Good Growth in a Moment of Contraction
Re-applying lessons from ViVE 2022 to a more turbulent market
author
Daniel Goldberg

The ViVE 2022 healthtech conference in Miami ended approximately 13 days before pundits declared the tech sector is contracting. Clearly a lot can change in two weeks, and in this case it most certainly has. But even as the market outlook shifts from booming to bearish, healthtech companies still need to launch. And hit VC deadlines. And assemble tech teams as of yesterday. And…

The atmosphere at ViVE still crackled with all the nascent sector’s energy and potential (a fond memory indeed…). Among the hundreds of leaders gathered at ViVE 2022, a trio of experts took the stage to weigh in on the urgent subject of growth management: Bobby Mukherjee, CEO of Loka; Matt Dumas, Managing Partner of Chasm Partners; and Eric Zimmerman, Principal Healthcare & Life Sciences Business Development for Venture Capital and Startups at Amazon Web Services.

Each has survived–and thrived–in turbulent markets. Each has worked with successful product and engineering innovators to build and manage teams while shipping world-class products. Each has approached talent recruitment and retention in new ways to deliver on increasingly ambitious timelines. Each is prudently navigating the future of the healthtech sector as it swings between extremes, aiming not for growth for growth’s sake, but for good growth specifically.

As you can imagine, it was a stimulating conversation. Below are the original takeaways, with a few notable additions that business leaders can put to use as they handle the convolutions coming down the pike.

#1. Focus on diverse talent early.

Diversity of thought, background and experience is essential to a successful company at any stage or market. That said, it’s better to start sooner than play catchup later: Keep diversity top of mind for early hires. New leaders will carry forward this philosophy in future hiring, and establishing a diverse workforce at the outset of your company’s lifespan will help attract a diverse workforce in the future.
Addition: Diversity maximizes your ability to navigate different markets - especially if you’re a startup. Harvard Business Review examined tens of thousands of venture capital investments and found diversity significantly improved financial performance.

#2. Culture is more than a catchphrase.

Founders looking to establish specific cultural ideals should do so by being intentional around early hires at both executive-suite and management levels. That means that entrepreneurs busy building and marketing product and raising capital (or extending runway) also need to make time to attract, vet and sign the right talent. It’s not easy given capacity constraints, but a strong culture guided by a clear vision is key to hiring and surviving in turbulent times.
Addition: As tech startups to tech giants eye layoffs, high quality people will start to enter the market. If you see an opportunity and culture fit, seize it.

#3. Don’t overlook onboarding.

Recruiting is key to scaling, but it’s for naught if new hires aren’t given proper attention. All too often fast-moving startups skip the important steps of training, assimilating and including new recruits, only to suffer from devastating–and totally avoidable–first-year attrition.
Addition: This is true for any market, so it bears repeating: Don’t overlook onboarding.

#4. Don’t fall for “undifferentiated heavy lifting.”

Don’t build stuff from scratch that you don’t have to. This point is especially true in uncertain times. If a viable and comparable component, shortcut or service already exists, use it. Doing so is smart management. Learning from and building on others’ hard work when possible allows you to focus on doing the work only your team can do–and doing it faster and with fewer distractions.
Addition: This point is especially true in uncertain times and is a mantra repeated widely throughout AWS and other successful companies.

#5. It’s still a candidate’s market. Are you thinking creatively?

Times are changing quickly. But even in a crowded market for tech talent, the best candidates will always have options. Competing in a post-pandemic market requires a far more creative approach to hiring. Be flexible and aggressive when it comes to hiring decisions and especially to compensation. Don’t hesitate on a valuable candidate; you’ll lose them to the competition.
Addition: It can be hard to find the perfect piece, but mediocre can cause issues and hiring no one can kill deadlines. Consider other options, like contracting, as a way to fill in the gaps and deliver on time, with less overhead.

Final Thoughts

During a down market or period of meandering, new rules apply. VCs will become more selective and might pull back on investments, but at the end of the day, founders still need to launch their products and companies into the world. In these conditions, make sure to hire right, be ready to negotiate when you find the talent you need, and also look to other sources to make sure you get over the line, including contracting and part-time support. Remember, the goal is to ship your product, so when it comes to outsourcing vs hiring, it’s not either/or. Savvy companies lean on both to get their innovations to their audience.

Daniel Goldberg
Daniel Goldberg is the CMO at Loka, a Silicon Valley-based software consultancy that moves projects to production and companies to their next milestone. Daniel is an Emmy Award Winning Copywriter who spent a decade at the top ad agencies in Arizona. Over his career as a writer, Creative Director and Chief Marketing Officer, he’s had the good fortune to work with startups and household brands including McDonald’s, Dole, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Waymo, American Express, and Disney.
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