Startups Need to Recruit Techies the Same Way they Pitch for Funding

Disparity from HR, eagle-eyed investors aware of the issues, startups with big goals, and small bank accounts have all complicated tech recruitment. As debate rages in the industry, Jeb Buckler, CEO and founder of Startup Giants PLC, shares his thoughts on it …

Apps from new tech companies are focused on making things simpler, quicker and better. But to build them, you need to hire tech people who really understand all the processes within the business and how customers are likely to interact with it. Good developers don’t just take a textbook approach. They quickly understand business and customer needs and transform the business. But there really is only a small group of people that can do this for you, and they typically know their worth.

Look at several SMEs. You’ll be pretty hard pressed to find an organisation that isn’t running on a budget. But a low budget with really good people? It just doesn’t exist.

So how is a brand new, tiny startup organisation, going to recruit really good quality talent? It’s extremely difficult.

No Secret to Investors

Investors know the above fact. So, unless a team can show that their investment would facilitate a brilliant skillset joining them, and the candidates are waiting in the wings, they will be nervous to invest in your concept.

The challenge for startups is that they often don’t need a huge team of developers. They just need one very good one who is as excited about their idea as they are; and be the expert coder they need to design the UX and build it with speed.

Be Tenacious in Recruitment

Being tenacious and business minded is key to being an entrepreneur and starting in business. This mindset can, and needs to be, carried across every single aspect of the business. Startups can solve their recruitment dilemmas by applying the same tenacity to recruitment that they showed for investment.

This is where ensuring that you’ve done the work in developing a really strong brand can pay off, as your mission and values, if designed and conveyed impeccably, will attract the right people to your team. And you need them to believe in you wholeheartedly to be able to leverage an equity deal in exchange for a lesser or minimal day rate.

One other way for startups to get lucky with who they’re hiring is tenacious communication — both in marketing and in face-to-face with universities — and offering experience and work to keen students.

Being tenacious and business minded is key to being an entrepreneur and starting in business. This mindset can, and needs to be, carried across every single aspect of the business. Startups can solve their recruitment dilemmas by applying the same tenacity to recruitment that they showed for investment.

Speak to Candidate Desires

Then there’s the other big question: Can a developer be really that easy to get? Why would he build an app in bubble for somebody for five grand, when, in his head, he could rake in millions in the same time for the same amount of effort?

When Startup Giants was quite young, I was desperate for a particular candidate to come on board, and this was the exact thing that he told me – why would he do it for us when he could do it for himself and make millions. Fair one.

Show, Don’t Tell.

Really: show; don’t tell. If you have a basic MVP (minimum viable product) of your tech ready to demonstrate ( is fantastic for doing this quickly and with minimal cost), PLUS your branding, mission and values in clear and working order, suddenly you become very attractive, as you’re seen to be taking it seriously.

Not having even the most basic of MVP, when there are code-less apps out there that you can use to demonstrate your tech, is a red flag for both investors and someone being recruited.

At the pre-seed stage, having the right founder to bring it into existence is where the risk lies. Action, diligence, persistence and tenacity are just some of the key character traits that an investor and a potential tech genius is looking for in a founder, as indeed they should.

Bridge the HR Gap

Next, the HR team comprehending what is needed from a tech recruit can be a real sticking point. It can be disorienting for HR teams.

For example: when I need to hire a coding expert, the last thing on my list is whether they’re a coding expert. There is a plethora of other skillsets that come higher up on the list which will determine whether they will be the right fit for the company, the proposed product, and the team.

So, if I’m recruiting a tech person and they’re a techie – brilliant. Tick that off the list. Now I really want to know if they’re problem solvers. You can be the best coder on the planet, but if you can’t problem solve, I don’t want to hire you. Why? Because coding can be learnt. Startups and mature businesses alike need problem solvers – the more the better, because then all aspects of a potential issue are solved from every angle. Team debates are worth their weight in creative gold. The product gets better and better with fewer hiccups. This is when you’re building a progressive tech company with a solid tech base.

Test for Problem Solving

Another factor making it difficult for a founder to recruit a tech person is whether or not they’re a techie themselves.

I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about founders paying thousands of pounds to companies to build their apps, and the result being completely useless. These companies then hide behind a smoke screen of technical language.

If you wish to avoid this scenario with your own hires, my recommendations would be:

Remember that demonstrating their technological prowess is key to being hired. But it’s only the first thing. You need to test their skills by creating a brief for a project and tasking them with it.

Within your brief, include a series of steps that if they followed them, would lead to a negative result. Doing this will show up who has problem solving skills and can source a solution and bring it to you. Maybe even making the brief better than it already was.

That’s what’s the most important element of hiring someone for a tech startup: problem solving.

The tech world is so competitive with minimal gaps to fill. If you’re solving a problem, you’ve got to do it so that the end user finds the result simple and seamless. So, they must combine their knowledge with empathy for their consumers, and communicative skills to work well within your busy team.

My best recruitment experiences have been when someone responds to the brief, surprising you by over delivering on it, opening new channels of conversation and potential business. That’s the kind of person you give an equity share to.


Jeb Buckler
CEO & Founder, Startup Giants PLC

Founder @StartupGiants, Jeb Buckler is an adviser to SUG startups on technology, viral growth, and marketing strategy. He has a tech background spanning 30 years in enterprise-level technology consulting and launching tech-related businesses. He supports entrepreneurs and startups to launch fast using strategic product development combined with appropriate marketing strategies.