In fact, however, those founders could stand to leave the following players for later:
1. Tech talent
You’re thinking right now that I’m nuts. You’re thinking, Starting up without tech talent goes against everything we’ve been taught to believe during the tech boom of the past 20 years.
And, don’t get me wrong. To launch a business in today’s world, you will need some aspects of tech, in the form of a website, an app or a platform. But that doesn’t mean you need a chief technology officer or engineers on your very first day.
Tech amateurs have launched many successful businesses. Larry Ellison founded Oracle, one of the earliest household tech startup names, with a sales background.
Groupon’s founder, Andrew Mason, came out of Northwestern University with a music degree.
We didn’t have a tech-oriented founder, either at our companies, Yodle and YieldStreet. In each case, we decided to forgo hiring a CTO on day one. Knowing we had a strong product and high demand, we kept our tech spending at subsistence levels and poured our budget into front-end sales, contrary to conventional wisdom.
The plan worked: Our model kept technology at a level where it allowed us to get the product to market quickly. We didn’t scale up our technology until we were scaling up the entire business. That’s when we needed a CTO, not in the early days.
2. HR recruiters
You can’t build a tower on a weak foundation. In the beginning, the best judge of who will be a great fit at your company is you. No one else has the same passion and vision as the founder(s), and no one will know better what kind of team is needed to execute that vision.
You should really be at the forefront of hiring the first 25 team members. Even though a founder has no time to recruit, he or she can’t afford to sacrifice quality in the inaugural round of employees; the first 25 will deeply affect what happens with the next 75.
Taking the next step beyond the first two dozen or so hires may be daunting. Greg Brockman, the founding engineer at Stripe who now runs OpenAI, leveraged those first hires for referrals at Stripe. He had all of his engineers make a list of the best and smartest people they had ever worked with and then charged them with going after the people on their lists.
The numbers bear out Brockman’s strategy: Research by recruiting platform Jobvite shows that 51 percent of employers surveyed said they found it less expensive to recruit referrals, and applicants hired through referrals began their positions 10 to 26 days faster. I myself maintain a list of people I want to bring on from my past life, and from Yodle, once they’re an appropriate fit for YieldStreet.
3. A marketing department
According to research by HubSpot, one of the top three marketing challenges for businesses is a lack of marketing budget. Fortunately, there’s a great way around this obstacle: Every member of your team can be a marketer.