What are the challenges a company faces when scaling up, and what solutions can hiring more people bring?

I discussed this with Maud Bannwart, the COO of Alephium. Growing companies constantly face the challenge of increasing their staff while also ensuring services and products are delivered with the same level of excellence that clients are accustomed to. Often, hiring more people can help businesses be more efficient. However, that is not always the case. 

In this podcast, we discussed the importance of finding the right people to contribute to the company’s growth, how crucial innovation is for a business like Alephium, and how a bigger team doesn’t always translate into more bandwidth.

Discussing growth with a young and promising company like Alephium provides a unique opportunity to illuminate the hurdles every business, particularly those operating in fiercely competitive and technically advanced sectors like crypto, must overcome!

Watch the full conversation here:

 

How Maud Bannwart Became a Part of Alephium?

When interviewing people in the tech industry, I always find it interesting to learn about their backgrounds and career paths. Often, as with Maud, things start in a very different setting. 

Maud’s unconventional path to her current role started with studying chemical engineering and moving into business before finding her place in the tech startup world. Her initial significant role was at Best Mile, a Swiss startup in self-driving cars, where she met several future colleagues.

Only when she joined the Swiss crypto exchange Liké did she enter the industry she’s in now. “I got to do things I never thought I could do so early into my career,” says Maud. With so much to do, the COO of Alephium prepared herself for her current role. 

The Beginning of Alephium

Alephium’s inception was driven by Cheng Wang, the founder, who aimed to address limitations in the existing blockchain landscape. Initially, the focus was on technical innovations, leading to the development of unique white papers.

Alephium is a layer-one blockchain network focused on enhancing security, scalability, and usability in the blockchain space. In the early stages of the project, a small, dedicated team of developers worked on the test net, which launched in December 2020. 

Securing funding was achieved through a pre-sale in 2021, ensuring financial stability without overcapitalization, which helped maintain the project’s focus on utility. During our conversation, Maud discussed the importance of being mindful when raising funds and ensuring the sustainability of the project over time. 

Alephium distinguishes itself by offering a secure environment for writing smart contracts, addressing common vulnerabilities like reentrancy attacks. This focus on security is a critical selling point, especially in the context of frequent hacks and exploits in the DeFi space.

The blockchain’s design optimizes the development experience, making it easier to write secure code, thus fostering a safer and more robust ecosystem for decentralized applications.

With dedication and hard work, Alephium built its identity. “A key part of marketing is the identity that you build for your project through the interaction that you have with people,” she says. As the project grows, these connections gain importance.

Alephium places a strong emphasis on maintaining innovation and agility within its development processes. The company aims to ensure that developers are not bogged down by security concerns, which can stifle creativity and slow down progress. “If developers are so worried about security, they don’t have time to innovate anymore,” says Maud.

There are significant security challenges in the current DeFi space, particularly with writing secure smart contracts. Alephium addresses these issues by creating an environment where it’s easier to write secure code, thus reducing the risk of vulnerabilities like re-entrance attacks. 

However, ensuring agility while also growing can be difficult. In an industry or even in a company that is still in its early stages, finding the right professionals can be easier than when you are trying to scale up. 

Challenges in Scaling and Innovation

While in my conversation with Maud, one of the main points of discussion was how to find the right people to contribute to growth. Maud talked about the misconception that adding more team members directly increases productivity. In reality, onboarding new members often reduces immediate bandwidth due to training and integration needs.

Maud points out that adding people to a team can actually reduce velocity in the short to medium term. This is particularly challenging for projects like Alephium that operate on very tight timelines, where even six months is considered long-term. The onboarding process can slow down overall productivity as new hires require training and integration into the team dynamics. “I found that the right mindset at the end of the day is more important than skill alone. It’s about really finding someone that fits into the team,” she says.

Of course, the recruitment process plays a major role in finding the right people. Relying on Artificial Intelligence or looking for passion in potential candidates can lead to frustration. “We have a commitment to make this experience a positive human experience. In a world where everything is online, people interact almost anonymously,” says Maud.

Maud compares recruitment to a romantic relationship, stressing that not every great candidate is a great fit for every team. She believes that a standardized recruitment process can overlook the nuanced fit between a candidate and the team. Recognizing the importance of this fit can prevent friction and inefficiencies within the team, and it is essential to acknowledge that sometimes the team might not be the right environment for the candidate as well.

In the end, as Maud points out during our conversation. Alephium’s identity is a combination of the character of everyone working on the project. A company’s culture is built on human interaction.

These points underscore the complexities and nuances of hiring in a rapidly evolving field like Web3 and highlight the importance of maintaining a human-centered approach in recruiting practices.

 

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