Chapter 11. Hiring for Your Startup

Startups are about people

People are the most important part of a company. Choosing the right people is more important than choosing the right product, marketing strategy, tech stack, or coding methodology. That means that hiring is the most important thing you do. It’s also one of the hardest things you’ll do. You need to find someone who fits the culture, has the right skill set, is interested in what you do, is available at the right time, and is willing to work for a startup salary. And you need to do it over and over again.

The best piece of advice on hiring for startups is: don’t do it. Or at least, don’t do it yet. Hiring more people means a higher burn rate, more complexity in running the business, slower decision making, and more time spent searching, interviewing, and training. The best startups do more with less. Be proud of being small and try to accomplish as much as possible with a tiny team. It will teach you to stay focused, make better trade-offs, and develop a passion for high leverage and efficiency. In fact, hiring more people does not necessarily mean you can get more done. As I discussed in “Organizational design”, communication overhead grows as the square of the team size, which is why larger companies can’t move as quickly as smaller ones. Stay small as long as you can.

How do you know it’s time to start hiring? The key question to ask is not “what could we do if we hired someone?” but “what couldn’t we do unless we ...

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