Whether you’re a first-time Founder or have prior experience, you need to make sure you build a solid team to cover any gaps across all areas: product, tech, finance and commercial. That said, tech Founders usually need to prioritise tech, since you want to validate your idea and build your product quickly.
Deciding which skills your business needs, when they need to be brought on and who are the best people for each role is one of the most critical decisions a Founder faces. But hiring the wrong people early on can be a big risk, as budgets are usually tight at the beginning and you won’t want your product to be heavily dependent on a team you’re not yet familiar with.
Another reason is that investors don’t look only at product and financials: they also want to know about your team, which will get as much scrutiny as financials. You don’t want to put off investors by failing to present a strong tech team - but, at early stages, budgets are limited and you need to know which positions should be prioritised. So how do you put together the ideal tech team to get your start-up off the ground?
A safe alternative
If you feel that it’s too risky to build a tech team early on, you can consider tapping into external sources of talent. Venture Builders such as Founder + Lightning can provide the support and skills you need to build your product, launch your start-up and help you get to revenue quickly without committing to full-time hires too early.
At F+L, each tech team is usually defined by the budget. We always start with the smaller possible team then bring more professionals in as the project evolves, maximising your funds. That’s why F+L uses Agile and Lean methodologies: we protect your runway by building your product quickly and with fewer features, so you can start generating revenue as soon as possible and then focus on improving as you go.
One of the key points of any tech-focused start-up is an A-team of Developers, which can vary for each company. At F+L, we have experienced Front-End and Back-End Developers who work together to ensure the product is both functional and user-friendly. We also have Full-Stack Developers, who encapsulate the roles of Front- and Back-End, and are an option for very small teams. However, even a Full-Stack Developer will need support, so the exact tech team is always decided after a careful discussion about each specific project.
A QA is another critical part of any tech team, and at F+L they usually join alongside Developers and Product Designers to evaluate applications, assess risks, identify the potential for any integration issues and resolve these problems before the product is released.
There is always be someone who also looks after the team - in some companies, this can be the Scrum Master, in others the Delivery Manager or even the Product Manager, depending on the structure. This person will make sure the team follows the right path, run retrospectives and procedures, remove bottlenecks and build relationships with external dependencies.
Overall, the smallest tech team can start with a Product Designer, a Full-Stack Developer and a QA - but since each start-up is unique, this is always decided with the Founder to match each project’s requirements. After an initial assessment, roles are split depending on the expectations. F+L approach uses a cross-functional team working on the same goals to build sustainable business models, so customising teams to match each project’s requirements.
Choosing which professionals you need to build your product will usually be defined by financials, speed and level of expertise needed on each step. You want agility and transparency on your project, and a one-formula-fits-all hardly ever works for tech start-ups. That’s one of the reasons why we don’t use a fixed scope.
As your start-up grows and your product evolves, you’ll have the confidence (and the budget) to start hiring your own tech team. It will also be less risky, as the foundations of your business won’t rely on those first hires as much. If you need to make improvements or changes to your product, the external team can work alongside your in-house team for a while, ensuring there’s a smooth transition without compromising on quality. This way, your business continues to benefit from highly-qualified senior experts until you’re in a position to complete your tech team.
The right experience and skills are important characteristics when you build your start-up team, as well as soft skills - and that’s important across the business. Your permanent employees need to share your entrepreneurial spirit and passion for the mission, so choose your first hires wisely.
Finally, remember: it’s not only about hiring the right people, but also about retaining them. So, from the beginning, you need to empower your whole team through transparency, communication and autonomy to build a sense of ownership. When you hire someone, that professional is essentially also choosing you, and how you build your tech team will set the standard for your start-up in the future and shape your company’s culture.