Monday, April 2, 2012

Hiring Developers Before Product/Market Fit?

Using my StartupRoar as a radar, I came across a great post by Gabriel Weinberg Do you really need a full-time hire for that?

Hiring seems to be the preferred use of seed funds (by investors and founders), whereas I'd prefer a focus on customer acquisition.


The problem is you don't yet have product/market fit, and until you do, you don't really know what to build. And that should be the focus of the founders -- to find the special fit that will make your company take off. When product vision is truly clear, then it makes sense to execute it, and hiring follows.

In the mean time, if you need some extra help, get some contractors to test out specific things. You may end up hiring these people eventually and you'll know more about them when you do.

I'm not sure I'd carry the argument quite as far as Gabriel does, but I completely agree with his central premise.  When I talk with early-stage companies, often the discussion starts with them asking me about Hiring a CTO for Your Startup, or  Finding a Technical Cofounder for Your Startup or How to Find Programmers for Your Startup.  In other words, they come in asking for help with sourcing and hiring.  These companies are very early-stage and definitely have not shown product/market fit.  Far from it.

In many cases, during my Free Startup CTO Consulting Session with them, we discuss where they are in in the process.  They are very early.  They need to determine product/market fit.  They need to conserve cash.


The startup founder is definitely not ready to hire a CTO.  And in most cases they are not ready to hire developers either.

Instead, what they should be considering is how to bridge the  Startup Founder Developer Gap and exactly what they need in terms of Startup CTO or Developer.

They most often really just need either a Part-Time CTO or Technology Advisor, and then some combination of hiring and/or outsourcing (on-shore or off-shore).  The Part-Time CTO or Technology Advisor will be able to help make that determination.

Of course, there's still hard work to be done to as the bad news is that its hard finding good Web Development in Los Angeles and certainly its tough  Finding Developers Here in Los Angeles

Great post Gabriel!


Joe said...

Good to see a post like this. I've been working at/with startups for 17 years and probably 75% of them don't need a full-timer until much farther in the process than they think. There are 2 big exceptions to that of course: Enterprise Software or Product where the resource pool is really tight.

For the former, you're going to need to have people that you can wake up in the middle of the night and put on a plane. There's just no way around - but you've probably got the money to do that if you've gotten that far.

For the latter, I know what I charge people for Big Data work right now and think of it more like 'Do you buy that house or do you throw your money away and rent?'. Resources are just so tight in the market for that set of skills, I think you go ahead and buy that house.

Tony Karrer said...

Joe - great comment.

There's a volume and runway question on these things as well. If you don't have enough volume or runway, then you need to lean away from hiring. However, if your Big Data work is core and will be on-going, then, yes, hire if you can find someone. That's a tough hire right now.

Signe Monroe said...

That's really fact thing some of facing this problem of hiring developers to be fit.i like that you are showing this reality and trying to solve it.