With the Rising Stars 5.0 competition drawing to a close, it feels a fitting time to reflect on our partnership with the team at Tech Nation and share some highlights from the last few months. As the official regional partner for London & the North West, we’ve been working with the team at Tech Nation to support applicants with resources, advice, and insights to help them on their journeys building the next generation of UK tech start-ups.

Now in its 5th and final year, Rising Stars is the UK’s most exciting competition for early stage scale ups, designed to showcase and support the best tech start-ups the country has to offer at a local, regional and national level. Over 450+ applicants nationwide were whittled down to 114 winners who went on to the next stage of the competition: pitching their start-ups live to a panel of judges. Our very own Chris Spranklen joined the London panel, and Chris McGowan was one of the judges to impress for North West applicants, alongside VCs, entrepreneurs and start-up advisors.

Braving the boardroom, each presentation was scored against several factors, including competitive advantage, market traction, potential to scale and quality of the pitch. After a week of impressive pitching, 33 companies became regional winners and made it through to the semi-finals, with a final 20 going on to become the 20 national finalists. 👏

The grand final will be taking place virtually at the end of March, and we wish a massive good luck to the 4 regional winners from London & the North West: Vidviet, BetMate, Trumpet & Augnet. We urge you to take a look at all four as we expect BIG things to come from these impressive UK tech start-ups.

Advising a start-up - what do founders need to know?!

As part of the Rising Stars partnership, we hosted workshop sessions for the founders and entrepreneurs who applied to the scale-up programme. After thinking long and hard about what start up founders need to be thinking about when building successful, scalable businesses, the topic became clear: How do you develop an attractive employee value proposition (EVP) and go-to-market hiring strategy.

The session was focused entirely around creating a scalable EVP and a world-class candidate experience, so that when the time comes to grow a team and attract future investment, our audience will be ready to hit the ground running. One of the hardest things about growing a business is building a team with the right people at the right time. Finding and convincing the right people to get on board with the business is often the very first challenge a start-up faces. So the session dug into the first things to look at before you’re ready to kick off hiring.

Hosting the workshops alongside our own Chris & Chris, we were joined by 5 very special speakers who have been there and got the t-shirt when it comes to scaling start-ups and knowing what makes a good EVP.

What is an employee value proposition?

Your employee value proposition, or EVP, is the creative platform that communicates the “what’s in it for me” of working at your organisation. It can cover compensation, employee benefits, career frameworks, office environment & culture.

An EVP defines who you are as an employer; it is the promise you make to your employees for the experience they will have when working with you, in return for their commitment and contribution. It encapsulates everything you can expect, from the company culture and values through to reward and recognition.

Why do start-ups and tech businesses need an attractive EVP?

The competition to attract top technology talent continues to be an ongoing challenge for companies from all sorts of industries. In a candidate-driven market, companies need a compelling employee value proposition to stand out against the tech heavyweights and win over talented candidates in the market.

What makes up a good EVP?

When it comes to creating an attractive employee value proposition, looking at the following areas is a good place to start.

Having a strong set of core values & guiding behaviours that are aligned to your company mission and vision
Multiple studies shows that companies with strong company values have better financial performance, customer and employee satisfaction, and grow faster. Hiring against these values will keep your team aligned, motivated, and help direct you when it comes to making important decisions.

Ensuring a positive candidate experience during interviews and hiring processes
Think about your time to hire and what could hinder the speed of the process, do you really need that lengthy tech test, or 5 interview steps?

Selecting a modern tech stack
Consider your trade-offs and what’s most important to you: speed vs quality vs affordability vs desirability for example. Decisions you land on in the early stages can cause hiring challenges later down the line.

Developing brand ambassadors that represent you positively in the market
Lean on advisors and consultants for market insight to keep you ahead of opportunity and risk in the market. A good recruitment agency can take a huge weight off your shoulders and give time back to your hiring manager if you successfully build a two-way partnership.

Writing authentic job specs that tell a compelling story around the opportunity to join your company
Job specs are a shop window into your organisation. You need to convey a strong sense of who the company is, what you are trying to do and how they will play a part in that mission.

Standing out from the crowd and bringing roles to life with candidate decks & information packs
Share information around who you are & what makes you unique. Your core values, current team members, tech stack and team setup, business roadmap, DEI statements and how you live and breath them. Pitch to your founding employees in the same way you pitched the business to investors – they need to be as equally bought in to the fabric of the business.

An attractive and competitive compensation package
This doesn’t mean just base salary. Consider bonuses, or stocks, shares and equity options to make your total package more enticing if you can’t compete on base salary alone.

Building a well-known tech brand among the technology community
Show off your current employees and the projects you’re working on by encouraging your team to speak at events, feature on podcasts or create a tech blog.

Creating effective & supportive onboarding processes
Create a pre-onboarding process that begins on the date that your candidate formally accepts their offer. Involve as many people from the team as possible and ensure there are multiple touchpoints leading up to their start date so that they’re bought in and looking forward to their first day.

Sharing information on hybrid / flexible working policies
Over 97% of our tech community said that some degree of flexibility, whether it be flexible hours or being fully remote, enabled them to do their best work. Make sure your approach to flexible working is laid out clearly as this will be an important deciding factor for many candidates.

Getting creative with employee benefits packages
For some examples of creative employee benefits packages check out our blog: Practical Ways To Top Up Your Employee Benefits In The Cost Of Living Crisis.

Encouraging mentoring and progression opportunities
There are several ways to encourage professional development (like training budgets for example) but a powerful way is through a mentorship programme like Burns Sheehan’s Futures Programme. Lack of career progression and a lack of mentor were voted the top two reasons for disengaging with a current employer by our tech community in our 2022 Salary Benchmarking & Tech Market Report, show employees that you’re bought into their career development by advocating for such programmes.

Congratulations to all the applicants for making it through to what is the last ever Rising Stars competition hosted by Tech Nation, and best of luck to the 4 regional winners who have made it to the grand final.

A special thanks to our Tech Nation partners: Mo Aldalou, Alastair Browning & Eoin Marsh