Startup Offers $1 Million to ‘Failed’ Entrepreneurs

Anyone who's run a startup or small business will tell you: You're only as good as your hires.

So how do you go beyond traditional recruitment paths — job boards, referrals — to access the best in class? Consider the rosters of Silicon Valley's most talented "failed" entrepreneurs.

Calvin Young and Noah Ready-Campbell have found a novel way to scoop up talent for Twice, a website devoted to buying and selling affordable secondhand clothes.

The duo is offering $1 million to acquire companies that have already proven themselves as viable.

Instead of beginning recruitment efforts from scratch, the co-founders hope to mine the talent pool of upstarts who have been screened by some of the region's top digital entrepreneurial programs such as Y Combinator, 500 Startups, or TechStars. (Read more: Why More Millennials Go Part Time for Full Time Pay)

For those who aren't Silicon Valley insiders, 500 Startups and TechStars are mentoring programs for budding digital entrepreneurs. Y Combinator is arguably the most prestigious of the bunch. It's the brainchild of some heavyweight investment firms and angel investors, including Yuri Milner, who invested in some of the valley's hottest startups, including Facebook, Zynga, and Groupon. Those who make the elite rosters of these programs receive seed funding and support from startup veterans.

But in Silicon Valley, not all good ideas advance beyond initial stages of funding. That's where the Twice co-founders come in.

The programs, or incubators as they're also called, "all do a fantastic job of screening their applicants. We value that filter as well, " Ready-Campbell said.

The co-founders call their strategy of tapping hires through an acquisition an "aqui-hire." And there's another benefit of accessing talent through a startup acquisition. Turns out the region's best engineers and designers don't tend to look for jobs. They're too busy creating their own startups.

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From Start Fund to Restart Fund

The Twice co-founders $1 million recruitment offer is a play on the well-known Start Fund, which awards $150, 000 to graduating Y Combinator startups. Young and Ready-Campbell call their initiative the Restart Fund— a shot at a second shot. (Read more: How a Startup Overcame Kickstarter's Rejection)

The Twice co-founders know a thing or two about second chances. Both engineers, they left Google in January 2011 to strike out on their own. Their idea for a micropayment business was accepted by the Y Combinator program, but their project soon stalled. Recruiters from big tech companies called, but the team was keen to get involved in an early stage startup.

In hindsight, Ready-Campbell said he and and his partner Young would have benefited from a Restart Fund to help them transition into another venture. "We know how it is starting something and not receiving the traction you hoped for, " Ready-Campbell said.

Their Restart Fund's $1 million offer expires at year's end or until an acquisition is made, which ever comes first. "We've gotten in touch with probably 10-plus extremely high-quality candidates, " Ready-Campbell said.

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