What To Consider When You Want To Build A Startup Team At Each Stage? 

The “Valley of Death” metaphor refers to the challenging period in the lifecycle of a startup where it faces high risks and struggles to secure funding and generate sustainable revenue. To hire the right kind of people at each stage of this journey, founders must consider the following approaches.

As you can see in the graphical illustration, a startup goes through a crisis-like situation, almost always in its early stages, before it gains momentum and revenue. Precisely at this stage, startups have to have the best brains and people in the organization. But given the constraints, they may not be able to attract the best talent in this period. Therefore the founders must be able to identify different types of members for their team and manage. 

As founder, you must always think your important role is recruiting the right team members. 

If you plan to someday start a company, you should start early to cultivate a network of professionals from your college, professional network and other voluntary organizations. 

  1. Early Days (Pre-Revenue Stage):

During the early days when your startup is still in its infancy and hasn’t generated revenue yet, it’s crucial to focus on building a strong foundation. Look for individuals who possess the following traits:

  • Passion and Belief: Seek people who share your vision and are enthusiastic about the startup’s mission. They should be motivated to contribute their skills and expertise, even without immediate financial rewards. These are people who are motivated by dreams and vision. 
  • Versatility and Adaptability: As resources may be limited during this stage, hire individuals who can wear multiple hats and adapt to evolving roles and responsibilities. These people are like generalists, they may not be deep in any one area, but they have the skill of solving all types of problems and finding ways to come out with solutions by some means. They do not complain. They do not worry about the resources that they cannot have. 
  • Entrepreneurial Mindset: Look for candidates who demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit, possess a bias for action, and are comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty.

To find candidates during this stage, you may explore in these places:

Personal and Professional Networks: Leverage your connections and reach out to people you know who may be interested in joining a startup. Your Alumni network could be one of the best places to identify talents. 

Failed Entrepreneurs: If you have known a failed entrepreneur consider them for positions at this stage. They would bring in immense value and maturity. 

Incubators and Accelerators: Attend events, workshops, and programs specifically designed for early-stage startups to connect with potential hires.

Online Communities: Engage with online communities, forums, and social media groups related to your industry to find individuals who are passionate about your space.

Participate in startup events and pitch events: Your passionate pitch can get you, your future employees as much as investment. 

2. Early Revenue Stage:

At this stage, your startup has started generating initial revenue and is working towards sustainable growth. When hiring during this phase, focus on the following qualities:

  • Specialized Skills: Identify the critical areas of your business that require specific expertise, such as sales, marketing, product development, or customer service. Hire individuals who possess relevant skills and experience in these areas.
  • Scalability Mindset: Look for candidates who can think strategically and have experience scaling operations, processes, and teams.
  • Team Builders: Seek individuals who can contribute to building a strong team culture and attract more talent as your startup grows.

To find candidates during this stage, you can:

Attend Industry Events: Participate in conferences, seminars, and networking events to connect with professionals who are experienced in scaling businesses.

Online Job Platforms: Utilize job platforms, such as LinkedIn, Indeed, or industry-specific platforms, to post job openings and reach a wider audience.

Referrals: Encourage your existing team members, investors, and advisors to refer potential candidates who can help drive growth.

3. Growth Stage:

In the growth stage, your startup has gained traction, achieved consistent revenue, and is expanding rapidly. When hiring at this stage, prioritize the following characteristics:

  • Leadership Skills: Look for candidates who can lead teams, make strategic decisions, and provide guidance during the growth phase.
  • Domain Expertise: Seek individuals with deep industry knowledge and experience relevant to your startup’s market segment.
  • Culture Fit: Hire individuals who align with your startup’s core values, mission, and culture to maintain a cohesive and collaborative work environment.

To find candidates during the growth stage, consider:

Executive Search Firms: Engage with specialized recruitment agencies or executive search firms that can help you identify and attract top talent.

Professional Networks: Leverage your expanded network and seek referrals from industry leaders, advisors, and investors.

Thought Leadership Platforms: Engage with thought leadership platforms, such as industry-specific conferences or forums, to connect with professionals who are recognized for their expertise in your field.

Remember, these suggestions are general and may vary based on your specific industry, startup’s needs, and available resources. Adapting your hiring strategies to the unique circumstances of your startup is essential for finding the right individuals at each stage of the “Valley of Death.”