You have the idea, you’ve built a strong business model to support it and now you’re ready to validate it. But do you have the right team to make it happen?
Hiring good people is necessary in any organization. In a tech startup, it’s even more crucial. Startup hiring and recruiting should be high on your to-do list as a founder. The risk of failure is high and any bad hiring decisions can cost you time, money and traction—three elements that can make or break your startup as you go through the phases of customer development.
Individuals play the game, but teams beat the odds. — SEAL Team saying
While you’ll need founders’ agreements and the fancy titles (CEO, CTO, etc.) that accompany them to impress investors, Dave McClure of 500 Startups fame says that every startup should have three roles on their team to achieve success: a hacker, a hustler and a designer.
Hacker: The hacker is the back-end, front-end or “full-stack” developer (i.e. the chief technology officer or chief technologist) who can create the algorithms, intellectual property and resulting technology that your customers want via the insights drawn from the discovery process. The hacker is instrumental in choosing the coding environment and platform for the startup to sustain growth. The best hackers I’ve seen also have knowledge and use of design and customer development best practices. As an added bonus, if he or she can hustle—that is, get outside of the building and talk with customers—you’ve scored big. The hacker eats, sleeps and breathes code.
Hustler/visionary: This is the leader of the team (i.e. the CEO), the one who builds the team, ignites their passion, manages projects, updates the business model, forms partnerships and guides the team along the validation path while cementing its culture. The hustler has a keen eye for numbers (including financials, cost structure and user metrics), can speak to the long and short-term vision of the company, and can make investor pitches and tough decisions under the extreme uncertainty that startups operate within. In most cases, the hustler hires the chief technologist and helps guide the startup to success. The hustler eats, sleeps and breathes the business model.
Designer: The designer follows the best practices in brand identity building, user experience, information architecture and wire framing, while constantly informing the customer archetype. Wearing multiple hats, the designer builds layouts and, in most early-stage startups, is the copywriter as well. Ideally, the designer is also integral to the get, keep and grow marketing plans generated by the startup for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer campaigns. He or she understands messaging and how to A/B test, and can likely measure the success of marketing tactics through all brand touchpoints and paid and free forms of media. The designer eats, sleeps and breathes design.
As a founder, keep in mind that the skill level, experience and capabilities of each individual will change as the startup finds a validated business model and begins to scale or move into company-building mode. Finding investors or dealing with the complexity of the scaling business will likely require a different set of expertise. As always, a startup should surround itself with a volunteer board of advisors and mentors who have deep expertise in the areas the team lacks experience in order to best fill the gaps in the business model.
This brings us to the question: Where and how do I find these folks? It’s a difficult one to answer as it depends on your startup’s needs but here are some great resources to begin your search.