In the world of startups, where founders, doers, and thinkers often leverage borrowed resources or work crazy hours in order to realize a dream, it’s easy to feel like you’re going at it alone. But building something big from the ground-up is not for the faint of heart–and it requires tremendous investment, guts, and strategy. And, eventually, other people.
So imagine this: you’ve (mostly) made it. You’re on the up and up. Your work is out of stealth mode, and you’ve tackled the push for a minimally viable product. You might be wondering where to go from there. How do you build and innovate, at scale? At some point, you’ll need to build out your team to help your product really take off. But how do you know when it’s time to make your first tech hire? What should you consider before jumping into the hiring market?
Brett and Adam in 2015
Adam Goldstein, Co-Founder of Vettery, has a few thoughts. He successfully developed the online hiring marketplace alongside his partner, Brett Adcock, and a growing team of in-house developers, strategists, sellers, and creatives. What humbly began as a workplace friendship quickly transformed into a collection of ideas, and then into an initial product launched from a New York City incubator in 2015. Today, Vettery is the largest marketplace of its kind, connecting nearly 20,000 employers and thousands of job-seekers. It’s a fundamentally transformative model for hiring and being hired.
So, we asked him: What should be top of mind when you’re aiming to grow your tech team?
“I actually think it’s really easy to come up with ideas, and it’s pretty easy to build products. But it’s really hard to get people to use your products. It’s exceptionally hard to get people to pay, and it’s extraordinarily hard to get lots of people to pay,” says Adam. Market viability and user adoption are tremendous factors when considering tech team expansion.
“Once the MVP is out there, you’ll learn,” says Adam. After you receive feedback from your initial user base, you can make informed decisions about whether to build more, build differently, or re-build from scratch. But once you find product-market fit, meaning the point at which things work and can scale, you’re off to the races. That’s when it’s time to add horsepower to your team.
“When we went out to build Vettery, it actually worked really quickly,” says Adam. “We soon realized the product had to have certain fundamental features to work properly as we continued to grow.”
Do your research and understand how to compete on the market
Hiring in tech is, to put it lightly, no easy task. There’s an imbalance in supply and demand, meaning engineers and developers are extremely valuable, and there never seems to be enough talent in order to satisfy the growing need for these roles.
“Everyone is trying to hire tech talent, and everyone is always willing to pay more money than you are,” says Adam. “Tech giants will pay the same people you’re going after literally a million dollars. And for you, to give away a million dollars would be literally impossible!” Okay, so then what? How do you even compete?
“First of all, you have to have a product that resonates with certain people. A new-age Excel might not be as sexy as a company working in artificial intelligence,” says Adam. The type of product you’re developing will have a huge impact on the type of talent you’re able to attract.
Second, you have to have founders who are amped up. “The more passionate the team is, the more likely it is that you’ll encourage desirable talent.”
And third, you do have to pay market rates. “People aren’t going to work for free,” says Adam. “If you spend time on Vettery, we show you what we think is a candidate’s fair price, and whether you agree or not, that’s the market.”
And if you don’t have as much money in your pocket to hit market rate, Adam acquiesces that there’s still no harm in trying to recruit. “But it’s hard, because there’s plenty of competitors who will offer market,” he says.
The Vettery Tech and Product teams today
Ask who you want to be sitting next to during the build
Most successful startups end up building their tech in-house. But it also depends on what you’re building. Is your product more direct-to-consumer, requiring more of a heavy lift in design? If you’re allocating more resources toward something less technical, it may be wise to outsource your software engineering–for now.
“But if you’re doing something more sophisticated, you’re going to want these developers in the room with you,” says Adam.
Keep your funnel open and run a tight ship
“It’s hard to tell the real skill set of an engineer by simply looking at their resume,” says Adam. For example, some incredible software developers never went to college. “There’s also incredible software developers who went to Stanford,” he adds.
Vettery encourages their partners to dedicate meaningful time in opening up their candidate funnel and finding the right fit for their team. “If you expect to look at three resumes and hire one candidate, it’s not going to work out for you,” says Adam. “And if you expect to interview only three people per week, it’s not going to work out for you.”
The key is to have a lot of conversations in a short amount of time. This is so that when you’re ready to make a hire, if the first person you spoke with is the best, they’re still a viable candidate. In other words, the candidate hasn’t waited so long for a response that they’ve given up and taken another opportunity.
“You have to run a tight process,” says Adam.
Look to your network
“One of the most helpful things we did at Vettery was bring on an advisor,” says Adam. “We found that people were willing to guide us. These were people who had made all of the mistakes we were about to make–people down the street who had already done this.”
The fun part, however, is you get to make all new mistakes–in product, hiring, and everything in between.
“You’re not the first startup,” Adam continues. “Other people have built tech companies like yours. Learn from people, and lean on other people. A lot of people want to help.”