How Klarna’s co-founder learned to hire tech Talent – without a tech background

The entrepreneur shares why it’s always important to ask questions.

When Sebastian Siemiatkowski, Niklas Adalberth, and Victor Jacobsson co-founded Klarna–the Stockholm-based payments platform best known for its buy-now-pay-later service–back in 2005, they had a problem. None of them had an engineering background. That knowledge gap made hiring and managing highly technical teams a real challenge for the entrepreneurs. How do you manage people whose skill set you don’t get? Siemiatkowski, who also serves as the company’s CEO, explains how he cracked the code. – As told to Ali Donaldson

“The first few years, we weren’t really a tech business. We were a sales and marketing-­driven business. We called people who were selling stuff online to get them to add our payment method.

“None of us co-­founders were engineers, so when we started hiring them, that was a big challenge. How do you manage something that you don’t understand yourself? If I were managing a salesperson–since I’ve done sales myself–it would be easy to evaluate: Are they good? Are they bad? What should they improve? When I talked to our engineers, I was dumbstruck. I was constantly asking myself, ‘Is this supposed to take this long to code?’ I had no idea. ‘Should it take this much time to build a product?’ I had no clue.

“Eventually, I sat down with our CTO and said, ‘Show me how you fix a bug.’ I watched the screen as he fixed a bug in the software code. Seeing somebody actually do the work, rather than having them describ­e it, created a very different level of understanding. The second thing I did was visit a few other CTOs of successful tech companies and discuss topics like recruitment, hiring, and co-development, which is when different teams or companies collaborate on a software project.

“Go and learn. Talk to other people out there who may know more.”

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