Speed: the timing of talent at your startup
by Nicolas Jacobeus, on 31 May 2018
Last time we introduced the concept of speed in three critical areas: talent, focus, and market validation. Today we are going to dig into how your team can impact speed at your startup.
You can have the best idea in the world and it will still fall flat if you don’t have the means to execute your idea fast. Because it’s your team that executes the plan, you need to incorporate speed into your team vision.
Hiring the right talent at the right time
Analysts often cite a diverse team with different skill sets as critical to the success of a company. To add to that, the talent needs of your startup will vary depending on whether you are just starting out, you’re seeking your first round of funding, or you’ve already launched your MVP and are focused on growth.
In the fluid early stages of a startup, it’s difficult to predict your talent needs. However, in general, you will need people to fill several roles in order to execute well:
- Front and back end developers to build the product and features
- UI/UX talent to create a positive user experience
- Marketers or customer success advocates who can validate your assumptions with users
- A product or project manager to solidify strategy and bring organization to the team
You will want your team to possess hard skills and soft skills, and understand agile methodology to build a great product fast.
That can be a tall order for a lean startup just getting off the ground.
Belighted leverages speed in each aspect of its methodology to help clients outcompete their competitors, access the right talent needed for software development, validate their idea and gain product-market fit.
- Our project managers are skilled in strategy, providing near-immediate help in determining priorities.
- A design sprint with Belighted rapidly produces a prototype for market validation. In just five days, you have a tangible product or feature you can test with users to gain feedback.
- Our development teams work in sprints and use continuous delivery to move you toward product/market fit rapidly.
Does outsourcing really speed up product development?
Hiring a knowledgeable development agency is probably the fastest way to speed up product development.
Consider ListMinut, a startup with a list of new features and improvements that would have taken its team years to tackle. The Belighted team was able to determine priorities and speed up the product roadmap by 90%.
In our discussion of the pros and cons of outsourcing, we noted how hiring an external team can give you an advantage in several areas over hiring more staff:
- Faster time to reach productivity.
- Access to the full range of skill sets needed for project success; you effectively hire a team rather than limiting your company to the capabilities of one person.
- Deep expertise in technologies and best practices from experience working with other businesses.
- Simplified HR processes and budgeting, which also save you time.
- A shorter term commitment, which helps you stay agile.
As with most decisions, there is a tradeoff. In accessing better skills faster, you will need to let go of the visibility you gain when the work is being done by the person sitting next to you, for example. But, when you consider the average new hire takes five to six months to become productive, you might find the advantages far outweigh the risk when you have a relatively short runway, as most startups do.
The cost of a wrong hire
Hiring the wrong people, or even hiring the right people too soon, will cost you precious time and resources. Salaries are the biggest cost of a startup, and you want to be sure each one is contributing directly to the success of the company.
Take for example Sortlist, a startup consisting of 10 people, three of which were developers. Faced with demands beyond their capabilities, they elected to hire a Belighted team to ramp up capabilities quickly rather than adding another developer to their team. Belighted improved their productivity by 20%, implementing best practices for a lasting effect - without the cost of growing the team too soon.
The impact of team leadership on speed
To achieve speed in development, you not only need the right talent, but also the right environment for them to perform.
Mike Krupit, a startup coach and former CEO of failed startup Intronet (a flopped challenger to LinkedIn) realized too late that his product took double the time to build because he didn’t give his team the kind of attention it needed. They needed a visionary in the trenches, but his style had been to lead from afar. They, like so many other startups, ran out of time and money before reaching product/market fit.
There are various models for assembling the team that will yield the greatest net effect quickly, and what your ideal team looks like will change with time and your existing skill set. For example, if you are still pre-launch, don’t worry about hiring a CTO yet.
As you look to achieve the benefits of speed in your talent decisions, it’s key to keep focused on the right activities. Join us next for Part 2 of our series on the need for speed at a startup, where we discuss focusing on the right things at the right time.