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Don’t rush into hiring programmers for a startup before you learn how exactly the process is different from regular IT recruitment

At first glance, hiring software developers for a tech startup seems to be in no way different from hiring these experts for any other business. You largely need technical experts, whose qualifications are up to par for the technical task at hand. You just need to find these experts someplace and leverage offshore software development.

Those who fall for this oversimplified approach are often in for budget overruns, missed deadlines, and just another iteration of the hiring hassle they’ve been so happy to get shut of yet not so long ago. This happens because fledgling hi-tech businesses are vastly different from their more established peers: their well-tuned business processes are still forthcoming. Their budgets are frequently not so lush, as those of well-established market players. Their key business actors aren’t always as cognizant of the business niches they are now trying to establish themselves in.

These and other differences create a host of factors and demands that clearly define not only the professional traits and qualifications of startup app developers required for their job to be adequately done, but also the very team creation process and the shape of the development team that would truly be capable of handling the job under different circumstances.

The latter is precisely why we’ll devote this article to two topics at once and not just the one it uses for a title: how to hire developers for a startup and how to go about hiring the right combination of developers under some of the more widespread startup scenarios. We’ll also touch upon who precisely one should look for and where you can find worthy startup app developers more easily, quickly, and affordably.

Read also: How to Set Up Your Own Offshore Development Center in 2022

How to hire developers for a startup under the more typical startup scenarios

If you want to hire developers for a startup, start from top to bottom

Before you kick off hiring developers for a startup, you must first decide how your project is going to be managed from the technical perspective (the only exception here would be the case when you have a very lean MVP that can be handled by a single developer either full-time or part-time – we will dwell on this later in this article).

If you are a business founder with little to no grasp of the technicalities involved, who is not backed by a proficient technical co-founder, hiring startup developers right off the bat is will most probably to eat up part of your project budget in vain: the folks will likely go through the motions not really knowing what to start with.

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This will also be the most likely turn of events if you first hire a senior software engineer who is seemingly fully capable of running the project as the technical stakeholder – a mistake made and regretted by many. Why? Because managing a project is a skill that is ways different from the mere ability to engineer software regardless of this software’s complexity.

Another common mistake to be avoided is first hiring a junior-or mid-level Project Manager, especially one without sufficient startup experience: in most instances, experts of this kind lack the bandwidth to tackle startup projects in their entirety. In both the cases, you may well wind up with a tech stack that will fall short of meeting the project requirements, and create scalability bottlenecks or some other costly problems in the offing. Your project may get off to a confusing start, adding to the rest of the startup challenges you’ll be facing.

Because of all this, to kickstart your startup project and steer it in the right direction you first off need a qualified Chief Technical Officer (CTO) – someone with a breadth of related technical knowledge, leadership abilities, and the business acumen to leverage the selected technology to address your target business needs.

It is paramount to realize that in the case of startups, CTOs wear multiple hats. They anticipate consumer needs and collect project requirements the way business analysts do in more established companies, double in brass as DevOps engineers, supervise the product’s quality as QA managers, and ensure this product’s compliance with the various standards that are incidentally applicable. Lastly, it is precisely CTOs who hire programmers for startups as they have both the technical expertise to do so and a soup-to-nuts view of the project’s tech side to spot a useful extra skill or professional ability in the multiple candidates they screen. All this makes startup CTOs a rare commodity, ever craved by bigger and more well-fixed tech companies.

So, what’s the best way out for you here?

If you don’t manage to find and attract a full-time CTO who is able to address at least the more crucial needs of your project, approach a well-established software development company that offers the CTO-for-hire service. Choose an IT provider with significant experience in working with startups. Odds are they will both offer someone who is qualified enough to handle the bulk of your needs, and help solve the rest of them as a collective effort of their other knowledge holders.

Well-Established IT CompanyTech Startup
Business AnalystCTO
DevOps EngineerCTO
QA EngineerCTO
Project ManagerCTO
R&D ManagerCTO

Importantly, there is one more situation in which approaching a well-established custom software development vendor would also be the most optimal step to take – when you have a high-level technical co-founder who is overall qualified to play the role of the CTO, but lacks the knowledge of some of the technologies it makes sense to use, or seems to be biased in favor of a single technology (for example, something they are conversant with due to their previous working experience). Incidentally, technical consulting services from a reputable software development vendor can help you choose the tech stack for your project more optimally.

See if you really need full-scale recruitment during the MVP phase

It frequently happens so that during the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) phase the amount of the required actual development stays at a minimum. Usually, this period spans weeks or even months. In many instances, MVPs are so lean that even one single software engineer can suffice for your MVP-related development effort. It is therefore advisable that you time your full-scale developer recruitment accordingly.

Moreover, if you have enough certainty in the features your MVP must include and the technology it must use, you can even stall off the hiring of the CTO for your startup until your MVP development is complete.

Shoot for a mid-to-senior development team from the outset

Understandably, the reasons why you may be eager to staff your startup team with less experienced software developers are many.

You may have hard-and-fast budget constraints. You may have some not so pleasant past experiences when you would spend months looking high and low for at least some developers with any kind of qualifications on your local IT talent market. You may be up against fierce competition from IT stalwarts that are positioned to pay much higher programmer wages.

However, all told, you must still fully realize that startups are not the right kind of place for mentorships or learning curves of any sort. By default, the bulk of the functionality startup developers are engaged in creating calls for medium – to heavy-duty development skills. Besides, less experienced software developers may be easily baffled by the obscurity of some of the development processes startups tend to have.

Because of this, as you hire programmers for a startup, try to attract at least mid-level development talent. It will be a lot easier to do if you clearly delineate the better prospects startups are known for creating.

A considerable percentage of your viable mid-level candidates should be interested in moving into more senior positions in the near future. Some of your senior candidates can be lured into the fold by offering them the perk of running teams they have personally taken part in putting together.

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Traits and qualifications to look for in startup developers

A strong command of your target technologies and previous development experience are certainly essential. However, this is something in which tech startups are in no way different from any other business looking to develop a software application. Are there any other criteria that you can use to tell whether a software developer can be a good fit for a tech startup environment?

As a software outsourcing provider, we have worked with a roster of standalone hi-tech startups and startup projects within the context of bigger client organizations. Here’s how we would rank the traits and qualifications we’d be keen to see in fellow-startup software developers:

  • The ability to see a bigger picture rather than focus solely on what’s been assigned.
  • A proactive attitude: more often than not, startup app developers work in environments with just a few well-defined factors and many unknowns. As a consequence, hiring startup developers who are not eager to act proactively and make an effort to derive the required information from various sources may result in frequent downtime and stalemates.
  • Strange as it may seem, but during the early stages of a startup, it often pays to have software developers who have some sort of a business acumen or even some business background. The reason for this is the frequent need to obtain information directly from the startup’s business stakeholders or some external sources.
  • A firm grasp of two or more technologies that are part of the startup’s tech stack.
  • Good familiarity and experience with Agile methodologies: startups are fluid technology businesses and they typically employ the various Agile development approaches.

Where to find programmers for startups within a shorter time frame

It is no secret that many tech startups tussle not only with lean budgets. Investor rounds-imposed and other deadlines can also be a major factor that influences both their recruitment process and their development speed.

The lengthy Western recruitment cycles make it so much more difficult for Western startups to run against tight deadlines and extend products’ time-to-markets. Is there any way to speed up the hiring of startup app developers without the compromise on the quality of your hires?

As you probably know, there are vast IT talent pools in several geographies around the globe. Among others, these geographies include Eastern Europe and Latin America. As software outsourcing destinations, these regions are well-known for the excellent value-for-money ratios many of the local IT companies provide. Indeed, you can reduce the cost of your development very significantly here. But what is much less known is the possibility to achieve quite meaningful time savings in your developer recruitment process by making a search for startup programmers in these geographies.

As an IT company with a business presence in several Eastern-European locations, we’ll take Eastern Europe as an example.

Usually, the recruitment cycle for Middle .Net software developers in the locations where our company is present constitutes the average of 4-6 weeks. Quite often, you can hire a Middle Java software engineer within the average of 4 weeks. It’s not hard to calculate that as compared with most Western locations you can typically cut the time spent on hiring this kind of an expert by at least a factor of 2.

In those cases, when you have a startup product that takes a significant development effort and you need to get the project underway soonest, the best way to pull this off would probably be a partnership with an IT company that provides dedicated development teams and single software developers for startups. Notably, it can sometimes be possible for a well-established software outsourcing provider to allocate 2-3 software engineers to your project right away in order to form the core of your dev team and kick off your development effort without delay.

Concluding thoughts

Nascent hi-tech businesses rely heavily on the correct use of complex technology and depend on an array of other related technical and non-technical factors, such as the tech stack that best-suits the project and needs to be supported, resource availability, adequate Project Management, expeditious recruitment, and more. This makes tech startups vulnerable in many diverse ways. In most instances, having a sufficiently qualified development team capable of dealing with these technical and “semi-technical” aspects is central to tech startups’ success.

Most of the pitfalls and challenges you can encounter while staffing or managing your startup software development team (the hire of the CTO, the hire of the developers, the too lengthy recruitment cycles, the competition from bigger local companies, and more) are best mitigated and met with the assistance of a mature, startup-savvy software provider that has the bandwidth and experience to help.

However, if you are still on your own and just making your first steps by trying to find the right people for your startup, make sure you bear in mind the tips we’ve provided in this article.

Summary

What are the main preferred traits of a startup developer?

The main preferred traits of a software developer in a startup are a proactive attitude, proficiency in more than one technology your startup can use, and a business acumen of sorts to communicate with business stakeholders and external information sources.

What should I start hiring developers for my startup with?

If you have a small and relatively simple MVP, you can start by hiring a part-time or, sometimes, even full-time software engineer. However, as a general rule, in the event that your startup does not have a highly qualified technical co-founder who can play the role of your Chief Technical Officer, you should start your recruitment by finding the right expert for this position.

Where can I find startup app developers soonest?

Well, one awesome place to do so without any compromise on the quality of your hires would be Eastern Europe. For instance, in the case of Ukraine, you can often make the hires you need twice more quickly when it deals with Middle and Senior software engineers.

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