Build a strong engineering team for your tech startup

How to build a strong engineering team for your tech startup?

Jacintha Verdegaal

If you’re the founder of a tech startup, chances are that you have a background in tech yourself. You have an amazing, innovative idea for a new product or service. It will change people’s lives, but you can’t do it all by yourself. You need to move quickly while still being bootstrapped. So how do you approach building a great engineering team for your tech startup?

Impact: What do you need from your engineering team?

Having a technical background certainly helps when running a tech startup. You can deal with the strategic decisions about your product or service. The question you need to ask is what you need from your (future) engineering team.

In this phase of your tech startup, you should be careful with hiring people full-time for very specialist skillsets. You’re still learning what your customer really wants (or who your ideal customer actually is). Features that seem important today might not play that big of a role in 6 months time. If you bring in people that can only do one thing very well, you might not have work for them when that happens.

The people that you want to add to your in-house engineering team are more generalists than specialists. They should be super excited about the journey that you started. They fully understand what you’re doing and where you want to go. And most of all, they should be comfortable with playing different roles and take on different tasks, depending on what your company needs that day. Having previous experience in a startup is a big plus. These are the kind of people that can grow with your company and continue to play an important role. Also, these are the people that take initiative and you’d feel comfortable giving autonomy to.

Timing: Work with the right people when you need them

But let’s not forget: timing is everything in a startup. You’ll want to show the world your MVP as soon as possible and then grow from there. And for that, you don’t have time to train or upskill people, you’re going to need experts with specific skillsets now.

Because you don’t know yet which skillsets make sense to bring in-house, it’s best to outsource these activities at first. Another benefit of outsourcing is that you won’t have to spend lots of time recruiting people who are also a cultural fit for the long-term. You can bring in experts today and immediately get the results you need.

Once you get a better feel of recurring important tasks, then you might want to consider offering someone a permanent role in your engineering team. You can then also invest in training someone on the job. But when timing is of the essence and you simply need to get an engineering task done today, then you’ll want to look for external, on-demand talent.

Budget: Build an engineering team with limited resources

You might have this vision in your head of a tech startup where the team passionately works together 24/7 to build the next unicorn startup. You don’t have to give up on that, but you may want to broaden your definition of the word ‘team’.

As long as you’re still bootstrapped and have limited resources, you won’t be able to hire your entire experienced dream team yet. So we’re going to say something nobody likes to hear: you’ll have to compromise. What are the most critical things that need be done today? What can you and the founding team do? And what requires additional people? Can you (afford to) make them an offer to join the team, or is it better to look for on-demand engineers?

As we discussed before, you don’t want to take the risk of hiring experienced and expensive team members and then go through months where they have nothing to do. Hiring engineers needs to happen at the right time in your startup journey, don’t rush it. You can always bring flexible, on-demand engineers in-house once they’ve become an invaluable part of your team.

Where to find engineers for your tech startup?

Knowing what you need for your startup engineering team is one thing, but where do you find good candidates?

Because you don’t have the brand awareness yet, simply posting a job opening on your website is not going to do it. Come up with an ‘elevator pitch’ for your future team. What can you say to get them excited about joining, even with the common startup uncertainties and probably lower salary. What opportunity are you offering engineers that they won’t find in their current job?

Next, involve your personal network. The easier your pitch is, the better they’ll be able to share it with someone they think would be a good fit. Post it on social media and ask your network to share it. And try getting in front of engineering communities at tech events and meetups. Engineers want to solve challenging problems. So explain what problem your company is solving and how they can be a part of that. Maybe you can even involve them in a short challenge at the event.

In a previous blog post we shared tips for how to attract tech talent, you might find that interesting to read as well.

Looking for on-demand engineers for your startup?

Do you know what specific engineering tasks you need to get done immediately? Then you’ve come to the right place. At Tasker we help tech startups every day by instantly matching their tasks or projects with experienced engineers. Get in touch and tell us what challenge you need help with.

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