The biggest challenge faced by most startups is a lack of funding. There are all kinds of routes that you can go through, such as crowdfunding, getting an angel investor, or securing a bank loan but if this is your first entrepreneurial project or have little on-paper experience in the field, encouraging investment is going to be difficult.Startups also face a similar challenge when looking to encourage talent. With no funding and just an idea, potential new hires are going to be wary of leaving their cushy 9 to 5 jobs and hopping aboard the SS Let’s Get Rich from My Genius Idea. It seems like a chicken and egg scenario. However, building a startup team when you have no money and just a vision doesn’t have to be an insurmountable task.
The question that you need to ask yourself - and the question that all potential hires will be asking of a startup in its infancy - is whether you have just a vision or whether you have a plan.We’ve all met people with a “vision.” They are the same people with notebooks full of doodles and diagrams, written upon pages that have gone yellow with age. These are the people who give you updates on their grand ideas at dinner parties. The same grand ideas you’ve been hearing about for decades. You need to have a plan to convince people that you are going somewhere and really want to make this work.
A good startup plan needs the following components:
The way that you present your startup plan is the subject for another blog post, another day. However, this should be written down, presented in an easy-to-read way and not just scribbled on some Post-It notes taped to the company fridge.
Have you ever tried to sell someone on a product that doesn’t exist? It goes a bit like thisCompany: Hi, we would like to sell you the best car in the world!Customer: Awesome! Can I see it?Company: Well, it hasn’t been built yet and there are no designs.Customer:
As a startup founder with no capital, no one is expecting you to have built your MVP and to already be getting customers. However, they will expect you to have something to show, just to prove that you’re serious about what you’re doing.This could be the registration of your company’s website, the filing of a trademark, or a patent if you plan to sell a physical product. It’s also a good idea that you have reached out to some potential customers such as putting together an email list or by writing articles about your industry to establish yourself as a thought leader.Want to know how you can build a personal brand on LinkedIn through thought-leadership?
You could hire anyone with any skills to your startup but it won’t help you progress through your business plan discussed two sections ago. In order to hire effectively and appeal to the right people, you need to understand what roles your startup needs.The roles you need when your startup has just been founded will differ to those you need once your startup is two years in. Now, you may need talented developers who can build your MVP whereas later you may need growth hackers who can improve your churn rates. While the duties of a growth hacker may sound exciting, improving a churn rate of zero (because your startup doesn’t have many customers to churn) isn’t going to be very effective.To figure out which roles you need to hire, look at the first steps your startup will need to build its project or attract investors and think of what skills this requires. You can also look at the skills that you have and see where you’re lacking (or better yet, get your brutally honest best friend to point out your flaws for you) and hire people who can balance you out. It’s why non-technical founders look for technical co-founders. Then, see what sort of roles these skills and duties would fit under them. Some roles, such as content marketer, can have lots of different titles (like digital marketer, and content strategist) but the skills will be the same. Try typing the skills and duties into LinkedIn to see what sort of titles and profiles show up.We wrote a post on the 10 Ideal First Hires For Your Startup that could help you in the right direction!
Thought leader - noun - A thought leader is an individual or firm that prospects, clients, referral sources, intermediaries and even competitors recognize as one of the foremost authorities in selected areas of specialization, resulting in its being the go-to individual or organization for said expertise. (via)If someone is a thought leader in your space then they know a lot about your niche or industry and who is successful within it. They may have had some experience (potentially more experience than you) in working in that industry and could be a great first hire. If they aren’t working in the field now and never have, but do have a real interest for the subject, then even better. They may have been waiting for the right opportunity to get involved in the industry and your startup, with its grand vision, could be just the opportunity that they are looking for.To find a thought leader, you need to go where they are. Social media is a brilliant tool for this as just by typing in related hashtags you can find profiles who post about your niche a lot. You can also look on platforms like Medium, an oft-used place for thought leaders who don’t have a company or platform in the industry to share their thoughts but still have a lot of good ideas.The only problem with attracting thought leaders is that they may be skeptical of your prospects. They may prefer to see some results before working with you. In this case, look for people who believe in you. It's not important whether they have extensive knowledge in your industry. These believers, whether they are former coworkers or family members, may be more likely to support your vision and work alongside you.
Getting a potential new hire into the interview in the room is the difficult part. If you’ve successfully done that, then you’re super close to hiring them. However, the challenge isn’t done yet.There’s still the big question of salary. You may be offering a tiny fraction of what they could get by taking their skills to Google, Apple, or any other major firms. In the absence of a big salary, you could offer them equity, giving them shares so that they’ll be able to cash in on success if the company goes public or if it’s purchased by a bigger company. Just because you don’t have the funding secured for your startup, this doesn’t mean that you have to sit on your hands. You can make real progress and make some great hires with just your great idea.Not sure how? Read: Startup Employee Equity 101 – How to Give Equity to Your Team?