This guest column is by Anjli Jain, Managing Partner at EVC Ventures.
We are an early stage VC fund called EVC Ventures, and our portfolio companies approach us with a common problem a lot – we are scaling. We have need for people. Whom should we hire? How do we avoid the trap of hiring just for the sake of it and hire people we don’t actually need?
What follows below is a clearcut roadmap of the first few people you should be hiring that will form the core team along with the co-founders. Let’s just highlight 2 key points here:
- The magical number is 15. To keep matters clear and simple the hiring roadmap that is mentioned here works best for small teams up to 15 people. This is the magic number.
- You don’t hire VPs of anything. At a stage below 15 people even more than that you are still too small to hire VP of anything. Instead you will need a person who can take all the work in the functional area himself and also be able to build and scale small teams. They should be people who have been working in 2 startups before joining yours, a common Silicon Valley startup rule. Here in India the conditions are slightly different, but nevertheless your new teammate should have worked in at least one startup before ideally in the same stage as yours. You don’t want someone who has recently come from a big company, and especially you don’t want someone who is trying to break into the startup game himself. So be wary here.
What follows below is the hiring roadmap we advise our early stage portfolio startups
There is an everlasting debate about who matters more – the good salesman or the good developer? Lucky for you if you can get both of these dudes early enough. This is the era of the product and that may contribute to developers being overestimated – and hardly affordable.
Here at EVC Ventures we firmly stand with the fact that the good salesman can help an early stage company lot more than the coder. The Lean startup movement made developers much beloved but they can often put your startup into a death spiral with their endless loops of iteration and feedback.
The good salesman on the other hand has plenty of connections to trigger things up. He may seem old fashion for the product guy who is now taking feedback via webforms and various other mechanisms, however he can always pick up the phone in time of crisis – like calling the customer, getting a feedback, organizing a meetup, even pulling few strings for getting some extra survival dollars from his network.
There is nothing as handy as having a good salesman onboard. Get yours quickly and remember the point I highlighted above about not hiring salesman from established corporations. Their need for manuals and procedures will kill you.
Design is 50% out of everything. Good design is what made the difference for Airbnb, Uber and plenty of others. A brilliant design decision to keep the Home page of Google.com with only one field and avoid the portal like appearance of Yahoo was Google’s historical design driven move.
It is notoriously hard to find a good UX specialist these days and she is worth every single penny. Good design can make your product sell on its own. Here at EVC Ventures the UX specialist is the 2nd guy or girl we advise our teams to find and we have dedicated sessions on how to recognize and hire a good UX designer.
VP of Finance
Not really a VP as we already highlighted before, but you get the point. This advice comes from Brad Feld an investor himself and founder of Feld technologies, which I completely approve. He advises that you should have your position of Finance filled up before you cross the number of 15 people in other to avoid further difficulties further in the process.
The VP of finance should be entrusted with every login and password to every system in your company. You should let them interact directly with your investors.
You should interact with them regularly, listen to them, but also manage them so they don’t end up being the person that says no to everything. They should give you significant leverage in all aspects of your job, so you can spend more of your time focusing on your product and getting customers (or users).
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Image Credit: Entrepreneur