This has always been the most discussed topic. For early age startups, attracting good talent to become a part of the CORE team is the biggest challenge. A startup is not just the journey to create a product or service out of your idea. It is the people you bring in who say YES to your idea & work in synergy. And if you are bootstrapping your startup then it becomes even more difficult to hire and retain good talent because funded startups can always pay more and rest you know!!
Let’s see some very successful startups.
Apple, Inc. It was not just about Steve jobs finding Steve Wozniak but a helpful founding members who could do the initial work under their guidance. In case of Facebook, Inc. Being a developer himself, Mark just needed a couple of newbies under him or even intermediate programmers. But not Rockstar’s or Guru’s! You can do the research on your own for other startups over last couple of decades as well.
So, the first rule is, if you are bootstrapping! Do not plan to hire a highly talented and skilful employee. For instance, if your budget for a developer is 50k per month or say 30k per month. Split it to hire 2-3 kids just passing from college at 10-15k per month on probation for 2-3 months. Kids who want to learn and contribute to your goal. They really are worth every paisa, they can REALLY be available 24*7 not just 8 hours a day and 5 hours a week! And would love to work passionately with you, because that is all they want to do. On the other hand a very talented and skilful person might just be interested in a trade off for money to skills, which isn’t bad but not for a bootstrapping startup.
Rule number 2 , Look for an amazing freelancer. Someone who has right skills but is a square peg in a round hole. Freelancers are often the BEST people you will come across, they love their freedom but practically work 10 times harder than someone in a job! Let this freelancer feed your team with the right skill and vision. Do a knowledge to money trade off with them. Freelancers, love to teach, they get frustrated with stupidity of the people around but never step away from teaching. And if you don’t have a co-founder yet, chances are you might end up having a co-founder here. (Because they are direction less at times, you both can create a direction).
Both freelancer and college passed out kids are the BEST people to work with. They work 24*7 and in any emergency you can reach them. Your skilful employees might want you to hold your emergency till next 9am.
Rule 3, Time to play the fire game. Chances are you will start with 2-3 or even 4-5 freshers and end up making a team of 2! Because not everyone can be an ideal fit for the team or may be your synergy. Either they will fire your company or you will fire them. If fortunately, you fire them all or they all fire you. Repeat step 1. Do not lose hope! Shit happens.
All said and done, the above approach is what I followed and have been implemented in some startups too. And yes it did worked and we didn’t have to repeat step 2. Infact, I played the role of CTO as a Service, the guy in step number 2.
Did something else worked for you? Why not share your experience below.
UPDATE : This post was written when Shruti asked this question on Delhi startup community. Her company Fokal is looking for sales and marketing based “COO as a service” , yes yes, the guy in point 2 of this post