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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Seattle 2.0, and imported to GeekWire as part of our acquisition of Seattle 2.0 and its archival content. For more background, see this post.

By Janis Machala

    When starting a company there are some unique elements that hold true for an early stage company that might not have been true in hiring in larger companies where you may have worked previously in your career. A clean slate means you get to choose who you hire and who you cofound your company with. These people will impact your company DNA for years to come.


  • Think about your own personal values; you get to choose who you work with and it’s important you have people around you that espouse the same values you have. I use the test of “If you were in a car driving from Seattle to California would you want to be with this person for the whole trip, driving straight through with no stops?”
  • Be careful about hiring friends and roommates. You may lose your best friend over a company where they start out as the VP of something but end up as the product manager of something else. Is your family relationship or personal friendship most important. Most people think they can make this work and some can but more can’t.
  • It’s not all equal. Who had the idea for starting the company? Who’s taking the most risk? Who’s contributing intellectual property? Having 3 founders and each getting 1/3 of the ownership will often cause problems when the buck has to stop somewhere and when the investors want 1 person they can turn to. This means you will want to have buyback provisions on the equity so that when someone leaves they don’t own same amount as the people who stay and toil onwards.
  • Having a B player in the seat (or worse, a C player) is far worse than having no one or having one of the A players do the function part-time along with other duties. Investors don’t expect all positions to be filled from the start, they know key openings might not be filled until more funds are raised.
  • If someone starts asking about days off, benefits, sign-on bonuses, salary grades, etc. they’re probably not a startup person. If they ask how they can get more equity in  exchange for reducing their cash compensation they are probably a startup type!
  • Be wary of people coming from large companies. Do they need structure you don’t have? Do they have expectations for resources you don’t have nor will have any time soon?
  • Be slow to hire and fast to fire. Every person makes a BIG DIFFERENCE both positively and negatively. A players can yield the work of 2-3 people while C players may suck resources away from your own productivity and that of the teams to yield ½ or ¾ people. Just because you can’t pay top dollar doesn’t mean you can’t attract or expect top talent.
  • Every interview and every email with candidates is a marketing event for your company. How people who don’t get hired or who don’t accept your offer feel about your company can impact the “buzz” around town and how other candidates view your company.
  • Treat candidates how you would want to be treated.

    As a founder you will spend more time on hiring than you can possibly imagine. It’s that important!



Janis Machala is the Founder and Managing Partner of Paladin Partners.


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