One of the most challenging things a startup faces is putting a team together. We know this as we’ve been in the very same shoes. Finding a startup co-founder is hard.
Instead of talking about how I put our startup team together, or how I found my technical co-founder, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what other teams did.
That’s exactly what I did.
Some startup founders, found their startup in 15 seconds (that’s a pretty damn cool story), others it took them around 3 months, and some are still on the lookout.
You’ll hear stories from both angel investors and founders that all have different background, yet really interesting stories to share.
Paul Towers, Founder & CEO of Task Pigeon
I am a non-tech founder so needed to pull together a team to start work on my startup.
Before I did that, I made sure I did as much as I possibly could by myself.
Things like validating the idea, seeking user feedback, building a landing page.
So that when I did speak to developers, they knew I was serious and already created some “value” around our company.
After receiving positive feedback from my user research, I decided to build Task Pigeon.
It took me one month to find my developer.
One key tip I would offer non-technical founders is to find someone in your extended network who can provide advice and guide you on the type of technologies and languages you should be using.
This helps you to filer and review the developers that you are considering hiring.
I took two main approaches.
Seeking developers via Upwork on a freelance basis, and using AngelList to find developers open to working on a contract basis.
I am glad I chose to go with a developer on AngelList as I think having a direct relationship with your developer is crucial.
There are so many things that change during the early stage of a startup and you need flexibility to direct all of your efforts and actions.
Dean McPherson, Co-founder of Paperform
It took me about 15 seconds to find my co-founder.
I was like …
“Hey wife, want to start a startup?”
And, she was like “OK.”
“What do you think of the name Paperform?”
“I love it!”
In all seriousness, I think this is a really hard problem if you don’t already know people.
My best advice would be to get a job in an early stage startup, or at least in a relevant industry and take a few years to integrate yourself into your local scene.
Early teams are required to go above and beyond their normal job roles.
So it helps if you do know each other well before you end up throwing yourself in the deep end.
Harshit Sekhon, Founder of Feastively
It took me about 3 months to assemble a team together for Feastively – “My Kitchen Rules” in a box.
I was looking for a culinary operations person who could be moulded into our way of doing things, which is a little different to the industry norm.
However, this meant doing my own research into what to ask of them in terms of value that they’d create for our startup.
The approach that we used to find a growth pro was similar. After speaking with a few marketers it became clear what to look for.
In the early days, I hired a marketing agency, but after some time it became clear that execution would need to be more tactical, creative and more man hours were needed.
After a brief ad on AngelList, I was approached by someone deeply interested in what we were doing and he was passionate bout food.
My general approach in bringing on team members to take on capable, passionate and nurture relationships.
If I were to give you any advice, it would be to seek recommendations from similar startups. This helps you to vet the individual’s capabilities.
Put yourself out there, meet people and ask.
James Timothy White, Founder, CEO and Investor
The main problem is talent.
Most people don’t care about you, your product or your idea. They care about themselves.
So make it about them!
As I always say, “Find them young, divorced or lonely, pay them more than they are worth.”
By “them,” I mean professionals and employees.
The more you pay them the more they spend, feel valued, or become attached to your business.
This means they will care more about “keeping” your business, in business.
Here are my three tips:
#1: Always sign the checks. This will not only keep you in the know about expenses but will also protect you from professional takers.
#2: ALWAYS make sure to pay the insurance policy yourself! In my case, it was my long-time accountant and CFO who would end up embezzling millions of dollars from the start-up. As a result, causing so much damage that the business went out of business. The worst part was that he didn’t pay the Employee Dishonestly Insurance Policy we had — go figure!
#3: Protect the money. Money solves all problems, eventually.
The one thing I would do differently in a start-up is to spend the time planning, implementing controls and procedures.
Jason Kaye, Founder of WealthNation
For WealthNation it was a matter of a number of unrelated circumstances all coming together at the right place, and at the right time.
I met my (now) co-founder, Tony Zakula, when I was working at Deasil (Melbourne based Family Office) and was leading a commercial deal for a company they were backing – Locomote (now Travelport Locomote).
At the time, Tony was the CTO and CFO of Silicon Valley based company Expensify.
Tony was running the deal from their side of the table. Deal aside, we struck up a relationship that was underpinned by a shared set of business and personal values.
I’d had a bad personal experience with the financial planning industry when I was working for one of the Big 4 banks.
That experience lit and fuelled a fire in me that ultimately resulted in the conception of WealthNation.
I was approached by someone who asked if I was aware of the growing robo advice market in the US.
When I looked into it I immediately saw an opportunity to take on the industry. I just needed a world-class tech co-founder to bring it to life.
A call to Tony solved that pretty quickly. He was keen and away we went.
And, although we moved away from the robo advice model pretty quickly, it was that combination of personal experience, different but complimentary capabilities and timing that – resulted in the founding of WealthNation.
All up, from the first discussion about the opportunity – to formally agreeing on how we’d structure the founders deal – it took around two months.
Divyesh Amipara, Founder of Caternow
It wasn’t easy when I started Caternow – “Australia’s Catering Marketplace” – all alone.
Then, I realized that if I want to grow then I need a team.
I started looking for part-time staff but that wasn’t enough, so I started to look for a co-founder.
Initially, I was looking everywhere on Gust, LinkedIn and that did not help much.
The best part about StartupVIC is that you can advertise a job or co-founder opportunity in their newsletter without needing to pay a cent.
The newsletter is seen by thousands of people in the startup community – from founders, to investors and others looking for jobs.
I thought to myself. “Why not give it a go?”
It took 6 months to find my co-founder (Murray Raeburn) and StartupVIC made it easy.
I know it may be challenging to find the right person or people who believe in your idea.
But you need to try everything to get your business going and make use of your limited time, resources and funds.
Josh White, Founder and CEO of Knackmap
I am a non-tech founder, meaning that in order to build our SaaS tool, which involved integrations with large social platforms – developers were needed.
I did not seek a co-founder or try to seek someone to build Knackmap for me with a share in the company.
I first looked to validate the idea, research the landscape, our product offerings and get feedback.
I then looked to gather my thoughts on the site architecture, before progressing through the design stage.
Honestly, I found it pretty hard to find a technical team. There are so many options out there.
It costs a lot of money if you go through an agency to develop your product.
Or you can hire one programmer to build your product, and end up being unhappy if they do not create the product that you want.
Over time as I was building the baseline of Knackmap, we made a couple of team changes, refinements, and over time we’ve grown our user base and raised some capital.
We put together a paid team who are not co-founders in our product. But have been heavily involved with our journey helping us to deliver an awesome product.
In the early days when you’re building your product, it can feel like you need to make things move faster at the start. You want to see your product in the hands of happy customers.
We now have over 200 paying customers, but on our tech roadmap, we still have a long way to go.
Whilst it was frustrating making the mistakes of putting our team together, I learned a lot from the process and wouldn’t have the team I have no if I didn’t just go for it.
My takeaway, take your time on it and don’t give away your equity in the company to the first person to put their hand up to help you.
If you’re going to be working on this for 5-10 years, you want to be certain that you have found the right people to see your vision spring to life.
Casey Golden, Founder of Luxlock (Stealth Startup)
I believe being people rich is more important then being funded.
I am a solo founder because the wrong people too early ruined my first business.
Getting funded as a solo female founder non-tech founder is a bitch but we go live in 3 weeks and have a beautiful product thanks to an epic dev house in NYC.
I have only brought on one person to the team that is epic and was urgent.
We now have 4 people that are working on interview and proof projects (3 months long) and 4 people on lay-away and we may bring them in full-time.
It’s amazing how many people want to try our new product Luxlock.
The product changes as you on-board new customers, so I really wanted to make sure I had the right person, the right team in the right seat.
My advice, spend more time on the SCOPE and SOW, lock down the expectations to stay on budget and in-time.
Stuart Reynolds, Partner at Fullstack Advisory
For us, the creation of our startup accounting firm Fullstack Advisory, was an on-an-off process taking around three years to come together.
Asides from loads of expensive red tape, we had plenty of concerned parties saying that our target market doesn’t really have the funds to support the mortgages.
That said, we’re glad that we stuck it through as our firm has had enough pivots in response to our market so that we’re leaner and meaner than most traditional firms out there.
My co-founder, Paul, was really pivotal also in encouraging me to take that leap of faith from the corporate world to create a new living, breathing startup.
As for the team, I have a lengthy background of playing in a rock ‘n’ roll band so really had developed that mantra of ‘auditioning’ potential team members.