Hypergrowth Playbook: 7 best practices as you go from startup to scaleup

Written by:
Dipti Salopek
Dipti Salopek

August 25, 2021

0 mins read

Across the tech startup space, growth is on fire, and a key differentiator of success will be your ability to scale your talent at the pace needed. Based on having gone through this phase at various companies over the past decade, I've been pulled into helping advise founders and heads of people at several earlier-stage startups. So I made it simpler, and drafted a Hypergrowth Playbook, with my learnings. We are happy to share this openly, to help the community at large. Here’s a summary (and there is much more in the playbook).

1. Don’t just recruit, build a recruiting engine

If you’re in hypergrowth mode, by definition, you need to scale your recruiting practices. Design for scale at the outset, so it doesn’t trip you up as you go. Invest in your top of funnel (branding, marketing, awareness), have well-designed interview processes (put a cap on the number of interviews), and invest in a tech stack that is integrated and supports your growth strategy. Spend time training your recruiting team, hiring managers, and interviewers. Your brand isn’t just your social media campaign, it’s every single candidate touchpoint, and you should be closing your candidates from that very initial moment of engagement.

2. Keep raising the talent bar

A part of your evolution will involve building depth and expertise across your talent. Put leadership in place with the right level of experience to guide the organization through the next phase (that’s approximately two years more than what’s needed in the immediate role). Leadership should be involved in the hiring process across all levels — this keeps raising the bar on the kinds of candidates everyone’s looking for and the ones you attract. You want to make sure that “new joiners” add more than an extra pair of hands — they should bring a new level of experience, knowledge, or expertise in an area that didn’t already exist, thereby elevating the talent level of the team in aggregate. And finally, lean heavily into internal mobility. By the nature of hypergrowth, there will be so many role opportunities that emerge for your current employees — internalize a process around ensuring that at least a portion (e.g.  approximately 30% to 40%) of your more senior roles are filled by internal candidates moving up in the organization.

3. Lean in to your culture

One of the most common questions I get is about how we’ve maintained our culture as we’ve doubled the size of our organization every few months. And honestly, I think the answer lies in every single employee feeling a sense of belonging, ownership, and pride in our culture; that translates into being one of it’s an active proponents. Define and embed your values early — they are the design principles of your culture and should guide what you look for in people you hire, how your employees interact with each other, and who you elevate to be leaders. Your organizational structure will have a significant impact on your culture — flatter organizations tend to be more agile and transparent. So understand the kind of culture you want to build, and plan accordingly to support it.

4. Create a learning organization

The nature of hypergrowth means your organization must keep evolving continually, and agility should be a core part of your organizational DNA. You want to build a culture that naturally embraces change and learning. Because you’ll be hiring a lot, this should start with a robust and well-designed induction that quickly assimilates new joiners into the company, and optimizes their time to ramp. Similarly, you’ll likely have a high rate of promotion and internal mobility, so you’d want to put in place career frameworks that empower your employees to take ownership of their own careers by giving them clarity and transparency on the rules of the road. Invest in your leaders because you will be putting incredibly high stretch expectations on them. And build a mechanism for peer-to-peer learning (hackathons, lunch and learns, or whatever works to keep learning quick, regular, and decentralized).

5. Adapt how you communicate

As you go through stages of hypergrowth, the communication structures you took for granted will break down and need to be redefined. You’ll need to deliberately design for top-down communication, bottom-up communication, and more importantly, lateral collaboration across teams, a critical part of remaining aligned and "rowing in the same direction".

6. Strengthen your core HR processes

You’ll be faced with new demands on your operational processes (e.g. opening in new countries, acquiring other companies, building out new bonus plans) and the demand for operational efficiency will increase exponentially. Be deliberate in your treatment of data (how it’s kept up to date, where handovers happen, what systems it’s housed in), and focus deeply on building automation where possible (e.g. account provisioning during the onboarding process). It should be the same with your approach to compensation; put in place a rigor around market benchmarking, gender parity, and a job architecture that allows you to build a scalable approach to compensation.

7. Operate with data

“If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” - Peter Drucker

You need to know where your investments are working, and where they are not, so you can swiftly adjust course. Establishing critical key performance indicators (KPIs) that give you insight into your key results, as well as a regular review cadence, will allow you to keep improving and adjusting as you grow. Numerous tools will help with providing various analytics around this if you don't build in-house dashboards, but beware that no tool can help you unless you truly understand what data you need to measure, and how to incorporate it in your action planning. Speed and agility is everything, so you can’t let yourself get bogged down in data and analytics unless it’s specifically actionable.

Most importantly, hyperscaling will be a lot of work. It’ll push you to limits you didn’t think you had inside you. Don’t forget to build a team that can collectively have fun along the way!

Snyk has scaled from 100 to 700 in the past two years, and we're not slowing down any time soon. Check out our open positions and be a part of our hypergrowth!

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