Hiring Your First Employees in a Startup

Wonder when you should be Hiring Your First Employees in a Startup? Shana Lebowitz and Sherin Shibu do a great job at breaking it down. I especially like the advice around NOT hiring clones of yourself or family and friends.

Hiring Your First Employees in a Startup
  • Hiring the first employees at your startup is about building a team that will lay the foundation for success.
  • We asked founders, investors, and business professors to share some best practices.
  • For example, hire people to fill the gaps in your skill set and keep in mind your long-term vision.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

It’s easy for new founders to fall for the “superhero mythology.”

That’s Jason Nazar’s term for thinking you personally have all the diverse skills required to build a company from scratch. But no one does.

Nazar, the cofounder and CEO of Comparably, told Business Insider he was a victim of the superhero mythology when he first launched the company, a website that monitors workplace culture and compensation.

In reality, though, companies are successful because of the dream teams that are built around the founder, Nazar said.

As a new startup founder, you’ll want to hire people who can fill the gaps in your skill set and rocket the company to success. It’s easier said than done.

We asked a series of entrepreneurship experts — including founders, investors, and business professors — to outline some best hiring practices. In exclusive conversations, they shared revealing interview questions, common pitfalls to avoid, and how to know when you’re ready to bring on your first employee.

Our sources include:

  • Krystle Mobayeni, cofounder and CEO of BentoBox, which helps restaurants design their websites
  • Liz Wessel, cofounder and CEO of WayUp, a job platform for college students and early-stage professionals
  • Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, professor of business psychology at University College London and Columbia University
  • Cat Hernandez, partner at the venture-capital firm Primary Venture Partners
  • Christine Beckman, the Price Family Chair in Social Innovation and Professor of Public Policy at USC Price
  • Glen Evans, vice president of core talent at the venture-capital firm Greylock Partners
  • Kim Taylor, cofounder and CEO at Cluster, which recruits for advanced roles in manufacturing
  • Cesar Carvalho, cofounder and CEO at the corporate fitness program GymPass

Read on and learn how to navigate hiring in an early-stage startup.

Know when it’s the right time to expand your team

You (and your cofounders, if you have them) may have secured seed funding before adding anyone else to the team.

Read moreThe first-time founder’s ultimate guide to pitching a VC

Now, your goal in hiring the company’s first few employees is to get the product or service to market.

Evans, of Greylock, said the specific type of hire will depend on factors including the skills and experience of the founding team, the experience necessary to build the business or product, and how much progress you’ve made so far toward product-market fit.

At software companies, for example, the first few hires are typically engineers. Based on her experience at Primary, Hernandez said those engineers are either building a minimum viable product or optimizing the baseline product the founders put together. From there, Hernandez said, founders usually look for business roles to support the initial go-to market.

And if you’re considering bringing on a contractor instead of a full-time employee, Evans said there are two key questions to help you decide:

  1. What skills are missing that would be critical to building the company or product?
  2. Is this a long-term or short-term need?

If the skills are critical and it’s a long-term need, “it’s probably a good time to consider hiring someone [full-time] to round out the team,” Evans wrote in an email to Business Insider.

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