Scaleup Diaries: Caroline O'Brien, KUBOS Semiconductors


In this week’s episode of our Scaleup Diaries we are excited to be joined by Caroline O’Brien, CEO of KUBOS Semiconductors.

KUBOS is developing a new material to revolutionise LEDs- solving a problem known in the LED industry as the ‘Green Gap’ whilst reducing the carbon impact of lighting and displays.

Caroline has over 25 years of experience building successful businesses, and valuable insight into the startup world.

Here are our key takeaways.

Finding support as a startup founder

Being a CEO can be lonely.

But your early-stage struggles will be a lot easier to manage with a strong support network.

Caroline is a firm believer in the importance of building a network of advisors who can empathise with what you’re going through.

If you’re struggling to know who to reach out to, ‘think about who’s in your network, who is supporting your business and has an interest in it succeeding- then you can find some really good advisors.’

Talk to investors who have a keen insight into market trends. Or connect with fellow CEOs at Pitch-fests and Collectives, where you can exchange ideas and experiences.

Put yourself out there and share the experience of building a company with a group of leaders who can help reassure and motivate you.

Being a CEO may be lonely, but you’re not alone in the problems you face.


Recruiting startup talent

The process of finding and hiring startup talent is a lot quicker in today’s market. Employers are quick to jump in and secure talent to lock in at a salary.

But bad hiring decisions lead to bad hires.

We will likely see some fallout from this over the coming year. Take your time to make considered decisions, getting your first hires right is crucial- and it can be expensive mistake if you get it wrong.

The cost on your business can be more than financial. Losing the trust of your team and your investors isn’t a quick fix.

You need to hire with culture in mind. ‘If you’re recruiting for a small team, the fit of the person is as important as their technical capabilities.’

And if you are hiring for a specialised role, your talent pool will shrink. Finding a candidate who has both the skills and fit that you are looking for can take time.

If you’re feeling stuck, redefine the role. Will you get more value out of splitting the roles?

‘Yes, it takes time. But don’t compromise.’ This is especially true when it comes to your key hires.


Onboarding and retaining startup talent

Each member of your team plays a big part in the success of your business.

‘When recruiting for a startup, the effect of bringing someone in has to be bigger than just adding one person.’

Bring in people who can ask the right questions and approach tasks in diverse ways and then give them the support they need to settle in.

This onboarding process can take a few months, so bringing in or changing too many people in a small team can cause disruption.

It is not realistic to retain all your people, but give people room to grow with your business, and you will find that people want to stay.

With the covid cloud still looming over us, keeping your team engaged and connected is more important than ever. And allowing for shared social experiences will help cement a sense of community.

Building a business from the ground-up can be stressful, but this doesn’t mean you and your team can’t have fun while you do it.

If you are a startup founder and have insight to share, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our director Alan Furley for the chance to be part of our Scaleup Diaries podcast series.

Caroline O'Brien


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