Hiring Founders and Employees

So you need help.

Early on, you probably need Founders (“Co-founders” or “Cofounders”) for little to no pay. Most often, startups are looking for a “Technical Cofounder” aka a CTO. It’s pretty rare for the inverse to happen: a Technical Founder having a hard time finding a Business-focused Cofounder (skill set judgments aside).

Let’s be blunt: anyone in a position to be a Technical Cofounder has an ocean of opportunities, especially if they’re willing to work for equity and not pay. Worse, if you need to hire someone like this, you most likely have no idea how to differentiate good from bad and real skills from fake, since you lack the skill set yourself.

So what’s the answer for finding a Technical Cofounder? I’m bias to my solution here, since this is a way I often help startups, but in my opinion: it’s best to leverage a mentor/advisor in the search and screening. Also, it’s really most ideal if you can offer a salary to this type of person – this opens your “addressable market” to a much bigger set of potential candidates, rather than limiting yourself to those already in a position to work “for free.” No amount of equity offer size is going to fix that problem.

Truthfully, Technical Cofounders have the same problem, they’re just more blind to it: they don’t have the skills to really select a good Business Cofounder. The same answer applies again: leverage a mentor in hiring, though in this case you likely can avoid needing to pay a salary.

Other tips? FAIL. FAST. If someone isn’t working, call it out and move on. Things are on way too shaky ground to try to make a bad fit work. Be sure to structure the hire with a cliff so you don’t end up entangled with early mistakes.

As for hiring Employees instead of Founders – don’t do it too early, be lean and bootstrap as much as possible. Once you have a proven product/market fit, rely on the team and  their knowledge in their respective domains. Continue to leverage mentors. Continue to fail fast on bad hires.