Assembling the ideal startup team is of the utmost importance as you start to build your startup and craft an awesome experience for your customers. No great company exists without a great team. It is more important than your product. These people are your work family and can make the company a success or result in its downfall.
In the initial stages of your business, you need to focus on building your product and selling it. You need to build a core team. You never want to hire yourself. That is a boring recipe for disaster.
When you build your initial team, look for people who offer a variety of the following types of roles. Every type is important, but acknowledge that it will take time to add more people to your team who demonstrate these qualities. You need people with complementary skills.
If you have a cofounder in mind, who you want to hire do take our cofounder assessment and see if they are the right fit for your startup.
These are the general types of team members who might be some of your co-founders and definitely part of the core team.
The marketer takes the role of lead evangelist and engages people. The Marketer excels at communicating and knows how to engage customers. The marketer serves as the bridge between your products and customers. In a startup environment, a good marketer not only knows different channels to distribute and sell your products but also has experience in driving growth.
The Engineer or the Hacker
Many startups have a technical founder/co-founder. A strong scientific and/or technical background means the Technical Engineer often takes the lead on the development of the product/s. Depending on the kind of startup, an ideal person is someone who has great coding skills or has developed tech skills over their lifetime working for big tech giants and high growth startups. Ideally, they have had a similar role in the past.
The Business Developer or Hustler
The Marketer can weave the message that captures their attention, but the Business Developer closes the deal. Often, this role is played by the CEO. An ideal person is someone who loves selling and to hustle. A charming personality and storytelling abilities drive investors, reporters & customers to the startup.
The Domain Expert
Much like the Technical Engineer, your startup needs someone that knows the space but with a different perspective. The Domain Expert offers experience and industry knowledge other founders lack. The domain expert is the thinktank behind the startup.
You might think of marketing when you think of the Creative role, but it goes beyond taglines and logos. The Creative co-founder can visualize the possibilities and translate the vision into wireframes for the Technical Engineer to build or code. This co-founder brings a much-needed design perspective to building and launching your product/service. A designer helps design different aspects of the product.
The Operations guy
The operations guy oversees the whole business and makes sure things are running smoothly. They make sure that the startup has access to necessary resources and also for coordinating the different moving parts in the business. They are responsible for getting the product out and make sure it is reaching the customer without complaints. The operations guy is the backbone of the company and their role becomes more crucial for startups that require more resources in terms of people, processes, and supply chains.
These are the 6 key roles required when you startup.
A note on diversity
“Diversity” is an important topic these days in high-tech, both for the VC industry and the start-up world. And it’s with a cause: there have been a number of researches done and in every case, diverse teams outperform non-diverse teams.
Recent survey data shows diversity pays off in better decisions and improved profitability. Recent studies have also shown that women are at least the equal of men when it comes to efficient coding—and are often superior.
Let’s look at diversity from different angles and look at the different kinds of people you should hire in your founding team.
You need a team of people with different personalities. Usually, a strong team should have an extrovert person (generally, the role of a CEO) and an introverted person (usually the CTO or the product guy). Making this fundamental introvert/extrovert diversity a reality is healthy and will pay off in every step of a startup formation that follows, especially in getting funded and working with press and customers when the company launches. When the founder is a technical founder, it becomes easier for investors to bring in a CEO from outside.
What is ideological diversity? Often when we look for people to hire, we want them to fit a particular mold. Look for disruptive thinkers who think out of the box and can build truly unique products. They are not only strong pillars in your team but also different from the typical people big companies look for.
A way to pick such players is to adopt ‘blind hiring’. To combat the biases of hiring managers who tend to hire their own kind (from the same background, university, and geography, for example), blind hiring is a process that omits the biographical information from resumes during the initial screening phase. Some Silicon Valley start-ups are embracing this process as a strategy to accelerate the diversity numbers of their workforce.
Pick people based on how they think and how they do their work rather than look for stars on their resume.
Diversity in experience
A good mix of people with varying experiences is necessary when building your startup team. People with lots of experience and newbies bring in different sets of skills and experiences. A young fresher has raw enthusiasm, is willing to try new things, and change the status quo. They lack direction and perspective and that is where experienced people come in. Bringing in more mature employees, not just those with more start-up experience, but those who come from larger, established companies (and bring their best practices with them), will help you scale, especially in your managerial ranks. Any team with start-up-only experience is too insular.
Geographical diversity is becoming a very important topic nowadays. Due to Covid pandemic, everybody is working from home. Now you can hire people from across the globe as required for your startup. The whole idea is that due to the availability of different tools and a digitally connected world, anyone can work from anywhere to get the work done. But make sure that if you go this route, you build in collaboration, communications, and cultural best practices to keep the team in sync, regardless of their area code.
Gender & Racial Diversity
The data is already out there. Teams with gender, ethnic, and racial diversity can solve problems faster, and perform better overall. Analysis of the data from a group of 366 companies revealed a statistically significant connection between diversity and financial performance. This correlation does not prove that the relationship is causal—that greater gender and ethnic diversity in corporate leadership automatically translates into more profit—but rather indicates that companies that commit to diverse leadership are more successful.
Great teams have both hard and soft skills
When we talk about this balance between the experience of team members (hard skills) and things like passion and vision (soft skills) there’s a sweet spot where great teams live.
If team members are intelligent and have the experience, but they don’t apply this knowledge because they don’t believe in the vision or mission of the company, their knowledge is useless for the business. Instead, these differences in passion and vision make teams perform worse.
For example, if the CTO in the startup team has a lot of experience in scaling up apps to accommodate millions of users, that is useful for building the current business, but he/she doesn’t agree with the CEO on the future strategy of the enterprise, they are less likely to share previous knowledge and work hard on the software with the team.