A startup’s first two hires.
Once you raise money, the default action is usually to hire more programmers to build fast and experiment more. Unfortunately things won’t move in the pace you expected it to. A lot of things fall into your plate – setting up insurance, payroll, a small kitchen, visiting the bank for a company credit card, buying computer peripherals & accessories for employees, decorating office space & many more. This leaves very little time to think about product & hiring and hence slowness sets in.
The first hire to make is an office manager. It might seem steep to hire one when you’re in very early stages (3-5 people team) but it’s totally worth it! You can try part-time and see how much your life improves as a founder. Operational work in a startup is a disaster and time killer. And if you’re on a growth spree, it’s best to consider a COO. One of the very early hires for Square was Keith Rabois as a COO so that Jack could focus on the product. Vinod Khosla (one of our investors) keeps saying this – “Any time the founder doesn’t spend on product or hiring is not worth it” and is absolutely true.
The second hire to make is a founder’s coach. National & international basketball teams have a coach. The best tennis player talks about how impactful a coach has been, the best cricket player gets a coach but not an entrepreneur. Why? We mask under the term advisor but usually an advisor or a board member is a top CEO who has very little time for herself. An incubator/accelerator can help you guide only so much and is not realistic for them to spend focused time with you after you “graduate“. It’s the same case with VC’s. Their time is limited and would like to get just an overview or the health of the company and not every single detail. They’re always there for advice but can never be your coach.
I got to know that this role does exist in the startup ecosystem when John Hering mentioned about Kevin Hartz being a “coach” than an advisor. I later met Mark Jung. We met once in 2 weeks, then once a week and then twice a week before I felt guilty of using his time and made a formal proposal. He has been incredibly helpful in shaping the company and me as a better entrepreneur. Some of the things which are tough to do as a young first-time entrepreneur.
- How do you hire for a VP, sales role when you’ve never been there?
- What’re the metrics you’ve to be focused on? and how to improve them?
- How do you handle when an employee complaints about something gone wrong and you don’t know how to fix?
- How do you manage/split time as a founder?
- What are the parameters to consider to decide the compensation & equity options for X?
and many more..
Sure, you can learn everything by trial & error. But a coach uses his experience of building companies to guide you faster. It’s very hard to get a coach who’s willing to put in the time to your company but worth every bit to build a much bigger company.