When a founder is building a company, they start with a concept and are oftentimes the do-it-all person who executes it until they hire their first employee.
But it’s not always clear when it’s time to become a two-, three-, four- or even 10-person operation. And it can be harder still to know what others could bring to the table if you don’t yet know what you need.
Here’s what five Philly founders had to say about making that decision.
Ryan Frankel, CEO, This App Saves Lives
The safe driving app cofounder and two-time entrepreneur said he makes his first hires when the cofounding team doesn’t have the skills or capacity to fill a need.
“After identifying candidates with the right functional expertise, I look for individuals who make for a good cultural fit, including compatible personalities and passion for the mission,” he wrote in an email to Technical.ly. “Early hires represent a significant percentage of the overall team size, so having the right cultural fit is a must.
“From there, I prefer hiring individuals who have either experienced the highs and lows of building a business from the ground up or those who possess the passion and perseverance not to get discouraged when you hit the inevitable bumps in the road that accompany the startup journey.”
Adriana Vazquez, CEO, Lilu
The pumping bra cofounder said she made her first full-time hire in 2018 when she was looking for marketing help.
“In general, we look for people with complementary skills to what we already have, and where we see a lot of our priorities and efforts going into,” she wrote. “So far we’ve looked for people that can run independently with their own work stream and want to take ownership of a big part of the business. When we’ve hired or looked into hiring, it’s been for a role that will be important even as the business evolves — for example, at some point we needed additional engineering and design help but we knew that once we launched that would be less of a priority than marketing and sales. So that’s what we sought to fill first.
“In the early days, though, skills and experience are important of course, but the most important is having a can-do and will-do attitude — we need people that are ready and willing to do all sorts of work, from the high-level strategy to the implementation, and that are not afraid to step outside of their comfort zone.”
AJ Bruno, CEO, QuotaPath
The company head said he and his cofounders knew they wanted to bring someone on who could grow with them, and they found that in Product Operations Manager Darby Dupre.
“I wanted to bring on someone that understood startups, was willing to roll up their sleeves and would be a cultural beacon for the next 400+ hires,” he wrote. “Darby fit all of those for us. She also had a product marketing background which is an atypical first hire. I knew that would be really important early on, though, as we are a ‘product-led growth’ company and her background would be key in mapping the customer lifecycle.
“Since then she has taken on recruiting, employee onboarding, HR, logistics between our offices and marketing responsibilities. She is awesome.”
Sumorwuo Zaza, CEO, NICKL
The founder, who moved his media subscription startup to Philly last fall after participating in LIFT Labs’ accelerator, said he made his first hire “when I could not make any more meaningful progress on the vision alone; specifically when I needed someone to also think about the vision 40+ hours a week.”
“Anything less than that you can get a contractor, but once you need the magic of another human spending a week wrestling with the problems you face, you have to make a hire,” he wrote. “Another useful rubric: When the thing that needs to be delivered exceeds your capacity to define tasks in extreme detail, you need another person!”
Andrew Hoagland, CEO, Vetd
Hiring followed a good problem for the B2B startup that looks to ease the vendor selection process.
“At Vetd, we knew it was time to make another hire when we couldn’t keep up with the product demand,” he wrote. “We needed both another engineer and a CS resource to help with servicing the customers. Knowing we needed more help was the easy part. Recruiting, hiring and finding the right people is the hard part.”