Friday, 5 September 2008

Technology Recruitment in an Early Startup

Daniel Tenner has a great post that is good reading for people looking to build early tech startups. I would just caveat his comments by suggesting that care is needed in understanding how you provide equity to those who help you out in those early steps. Daniel is completely right to suggest:

"You want them to feel that it’s their company, and to do that, you have to give them equity - not options, not promises of options, but actual founder’s equity. Don’t feel like you’re giving stuff away here. If you’ve got the right person for the job, ensuring that they feel ownership of the company will ensure that your share is worth something. It’s better to own 70 or 80 or even 51% of something than 100% of nothing."
However, bear in mind that there are two categories of people you might want to help out with a startup- and both can contribute a great deal
  • Ideal hires- people who you would've hired to do the job at the full commercial rate if only you had the cash, and who you'd expect to continue to be perfect for the job in 3-12 months time.
  • Opportunistic hires- people who are prepared to get involved early, before an ideal candidate would join, but who are probably not long-term management or key staff.
I would suggest that it is wise to think this through, and to talk it through openly with those involved, and make sure that the equity is allocated appropriately. I have seen many many founders who regretted having shared the company, often 50:50, with someone who ceased to be involved pretty quickly. I've seen founders who've been sweating to make the business work five years from the start, whilst their co-founder holds similar equity and has long since departed. Needless to say these founders tend to regret their decisions!