It’s well known that the key asset of any business is their people. For a tech startup, that means the tech team.
One of the biggest decisions tech startups have to make early on is deciding how to build this team, when they need to be brought on, and who are the best people for the job.
This blog will help you make these decisions and give you some expert advice on how we at thestartupfactory.tech (tsf.tech) build our tech teams.
Outsourcing or hiring in-house teams?
One of the first questions that founders have to address is whether to hire an in-house tech team or outsource the work to an external software house. Both of these options have their benefits (we will get to that a little later) and, in a lot of cases, your decision will depend on what you are looking to build, your timescales, and your budget.
As a general rule, a startup might start with outsourcing, and the more successful you become, the more you might look to bring the tech team in-house. A lot of the big tech companies today started like this. They not only outsourced their tech teams but also parts of their platforms. Eventually, they ended up bringing everything tech-related in-house, which allowed them to make a big difference within their target market.
In the long term, everybody should be looking to bring as much of the tech team as possible in-house, but in the short term, outsourcing does have its benefits. For example, it can really help with some of the early challenges that startups might encounter, such as budget restraints or the lack of technical skills required to bootstrap a tech product.
Outsourcing – a temporary solution
But the main reason why a startup might look to offshore their tech team is speed. As a startup, you might have a finite amount of time to get your product out to market. This means that time is of the essence, and outsourcing can help you build an MVP quickly and efficiently without the time or financial cost that comes with hiring.
We have dabbled in offshoring at tsf.tech, but my personal preference is to have a team nearby. In my opinion, you can’t beat social contact, and you lose out on that with a fully outsourced team. As a founder, you want to have people nearby to share your vision and take part in those strategic conversations.
But regardless of whether you outsource or recruit an in-house team, one of the most challenging aspects of building your tech team is getting the right people in at the right time.
Picking your route
From what I’ve seen, founders of tech startups can go down one of two roads:
- They can hire a company to give them a quick start and then hire a team.
- They can hire a team and build everything from scratch.
Whichever road you choose, eventually you will need to bring someone on, and that hire must come at the right time in your journey.
For example, it would be great to bring someone on while your outsourcing team is building the initial product. Then, when the company has done their job and you have this nice, shiny, well-engineered product, your first hire will fully understand the domain and can pick up where your outsourced team left off.
Think of the “who” not the “how”
When you are looking at a tech team, think of “who” not “how”. What I mean by this is that you shouldn’t be worrying about how to get a task done, you should be more concerned about who can do that task for you, especially if it’s not your area of expertise.
This will allow you to put together a wishlist of the sort of person you are looking for who has the right level of experience, understands the technologies you need and is a good fit culturally.
Of course, there will be budget constraints and, as any tech startup will know, hiring the stars in the technology space can be prohibitively expensive, so sacrifices might have to be made.
For example, it’s vital that you are able to build a good relationship with the team in terms of trust and the long-term vision, even if that means sacrificing some of the technical skills in the beginning. These technical skills can be picked up along the way, but it’s much harder for people to adapt to the wrong culture fit.
Culture fit is more important
A good engineer will learn new technologies as long as they have the basic knowledge already in place. But in order for them to have that desire and motivation to learn, they need to really buy into what you are doing and want to be part of the ride – that’s the sort of thing you can’t train people in.
It’s a tough task to find the right person who ticks all the boxes, but they are out there, trust me.
When you look at building your tech team, you don’t necessarily have to go for some senior engineer with years of experience. One lesson that we always teach at tsf.tech is to start simple.
Have a long-term upskilling strategy
The simpler you start, the easier it gets to build and grow your business, so don’t shy away from bringing someone on board who is a little bit less experienced but really buys into your vision.
People like that can learn as they go, and they can end up being a lot more valuable to you in the long term, as long as you have a mentoring or upskilling strategy in place for them.
Ultimately, the level of experience required does depend on what you are building. For example, if your product requires complex technologies or some advanced encryption, you might need someone with a little more experience who understands your requirements.
Also, if you decide not to outsource in the beginning and want to build everything from scratch, you will probably need a more experienced person to lead that build.
However, if you were to use a company like tsf.tech, who has the experience to help you with the initial build, hiring a junior to train and mentor would be a really good idea. As long as you know what you are doing up front, and have a well-thought-out strategic plan, any one of these different avenues has the potential to work for you.
Tsf.tech’s strategic tech team model
At tsf.tech, we have a strategic model for building a tech team that we implement with the startups we work with. Initially, we will provide the tech team, but we will also hire a few junior team members for our clients.
During the initial build phase, these juniors become familiar with the product and pick up the skills required to understand the technology. Then, when it comes to the validation phase, where there isn’t much development to be done, they can continue to be upskilled.
This saves the startup from hiring a team of experienced engineers who may not have anything to do during validation and could be a drain on the client’s resources. Then, once we’ve completed validation, the startup has the semblance of a tech team in these juniors who understand the technology and can deliver the product in the long term.
This is a really smart use of resources and it allows our clients to get their ideas off the ground quickly, and cost-effectively too!
But even if you choose to go with someone with more experience, it’s crucial that you don’t treat your tech team as a kind of skills-for-hire. They need to be part of the company’s heart and soul and be involved in everything from the very beginning.
If you can do that, you will be on the right path to ensure your tech team and startup’s long-term success.
I hope you have found this useful. If you have any questions or would like to hear more about building a tech team, check out episode 10 of our podcast “From the Factory Floor”, where myself, Guy and James go into more detail. Alternatively, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org