So you got a bit of seed funding, and you need to hire a few people to help you accelerate your startup. Great! But where do you start, and how do you know who's a fit for you?
The biggest challenge that founders like you and I face is efficiently hiring the right people. Once you get funded, you really need to kick up the intensity a notch or two, and if you're sat with the money in the bank for too long without hiring movers, you will lose momentum. On the other hand, if you rush into hiring whoever, it might turn out as a crippling move for your business. Having to invest a lot of your time and effort in handholding and managing means time away from other areas you should be focusing on.
Your first hires need to be on their own feet rapidly and have an entrepreneurial attitude. In this post, I'll talk about what worked for me in the early days and mistakes I made that you should avoid.
I'll tell you from my own experience, is not an easy ride evolving from a founders only formation to having employee hands on deck. It is stressful enough having to hand over duties you've been perfecting for a while to someone new. To feel comfortable handing work over, you want mature and capable people who can take things to the next level.
Don't hire interns and junior
This might sound harsh, but I stand by my words about recently funded startups that just got a $100k - $200k seed funding. Newbies have no place as hires for early startups with a fast pace where growth is achieved because of a wealth of value that each contributes daily.
With a limited budget, your first thought might be to hire junior level or even interns. After all, you'd get more people to work with for the same money you'd pay a senior. Resist that urge! There are other ways to cut on the cost of your first employees, but cutting experience and expertise shouldn't be an option.
You might think more hands-on-deck means quicker turnaround, but if those hands are not trained, then you'll wind up burning more time and energy in handholding, training, and managing. Time is extremely precious early on, and you'll discover that working with fewer senior and self-managed individuals will churn better results.
Now, internships and hiring junior is vital to nurture the younger workforce at will ultimately help grow and evolve your company. But you do that when you can afford to establish a support system to enable them to grow. Not today, when you barely starting and don't have the means to enable them. You see, at the end of the day is not just about your business, and juniors in early startups is a bad idea because it can turn into an unpleasant experience for them too if they're not adequately supported to grow.
Hiring for culture fit
Skill level is important, but you also need to hire folk you can work with. You want to consider folk that carry similar personal values and beliefs and make for a good work dynamic.
Now, before I continue, let me make it clear: Diversity is essential, and having people that think act, and look different than you, the founder, is much needed to create a healthy work environment and build inclusive products. But unless that's your style, you wouldn't want to work with genius jerks or folk that are not up for the same journey and create a completely toxic culture.
But how do you ensure you hire the right people? First, look at the things you value the most in others and things you love seeing in the workplace. These traits can also become your company values, and I'd encourage you to create yours and hire based on your company values.
Think of the colleagues you enjoyed working with in your past jobs. Who you collaborate the best with but also who you had conflicts or friction with. Think as well of what you appreciated the most in previous workplaces. Then start forming an idea of your perfect candidate. One that would share as much of the traits of the folk you worked well with and less of those you had conflicts and had similar workplace culture interests as you do. Once you have this persona, you can start breaking it down into culture-fit interview questions. At least a handful of open-ended questions that should lead you to learn if the candidate has the traits you're looking for.
I usually place the culture fit interview stage before technical assessment as I don't want to waste folk time with assignments if I feel they'd not fit in or be a destructive addition to the team. Also, if you're starting your business just of uni or school and never had a job with work colleagues, try think of the traits you appreciate in school colleagues, friends, band buddies etc.
Where to find people?
The magic question mark heh? Now that you know how you want in your team, where do you find them? What makes this question non-trivial for early startups is the lack of resources. For an established company with plenty of budgets is an easier task. You pay a lump sum to a recruiting agency to bring you candidates. You assign a team in charge of recruiting the right folk, and you pay the new employee as much as they're worth on the current market. Simple!
But for the rest of us, we need to get creative cause we don't have these luxuries. The first and simplest thing to do is word to mouth. Yep, reach out to those ex-colleagues you get along well with and ask them if they have any clones of theirs they can recommend. I'm exaggerating here to make a point; the reality is that this has worked brilliantly for us so far. The colleagues that I worked well with recommended me available individuals who worked with them well. Usually, they share the traits you're looking for. Because again is not out of the ordinary for people working well together to share the same values. So ask your previous colleagues the question: Can you link me up with someone you worked with and think they're talented. It will go a long way I promise.
If you're not able to get your first hires recommended by people you know and trust, then list job adverts where you convey the type of individuals you're looking for. Try to get across as much as possible the culture fit. And given we're talking about seed investment round where budget and salary potential is modest, hire remotely!
I'm a big fan of remote teams, in fact, it is just my co-founder based in UK and me, with our team spread across Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Ukraine, and India. I talked about this approach in previous videos. Still, essentially, great talent can be found everywhere on this planet, not just in large and expensive cities. Offer an excellent salary in a lower-income area rather than a crappy wage in your expensive city. The only reason you'd hire in your city is if you need your team in the same office. But suppose you're building a digital product. In that case, you don't need folk in the office, especially nowadays where everyone is getting comfortable with working from home.
And depending on the region you're looking to hire in, there are websites you can advertise for job openings. For example, for South America, you can post on weremoto.com, or for creatives in Spain, you can post a free advert on Domestika. There are also matching apps that allow you to meet like-minded professionals, creatives, and entrepreneurs from all across the globe. We have team members hired with both approaches, and they're all rockstars we couldn't be happier with.
Today we have a brilliant team working hard and making a big dent! But we did have a bumpy ride to start with, and the tips and advice I gave you just now is what works for us. And the principles that helped us smoothen that bumpy ride into a more pleasant experience.