Eleanor Roosevelt succinctly summed up the importance of creativity in these famous lines:
Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.
She was right, but if all you have is a great idea, you’re in for a rude awakening. Execution is key.
Startups are often built by people with little technical know-how, but they surround themselves with the right people. Having the right technical resources on your team is crucial.
Luckily, there are some basic principles and practices that can help you find the right developers. In some cases, though, you may not need them at all — but we’ll get to that.
What Startups Should Look For
Before diving into the selection process, it’s important to understand what to look for in a developer. Unless there is a clear understanding of the characteristics of a great developer, startups may screen out people for the wrong reasons.
So, what makes a great programmer? There are as many answers to this question as there are developers, but most people agree on these three points:
- Great developers deliver working code — this one is self-evident. The whole point of hiring developers is to have them realize your idea in a technical framework. That means that the code they write must be functional, executable, and consistent.
- Great developers are lifelong learners — technology changes, and good developers remain good by keeping up with it. People who limit themselves to a domain — whether that be a language or a mindset — tend to do poorly when technical challenges arise. The candidates you want are auto-didacts who are enthusiastic about what they do. They’re excited about new technologies and invest their time building their problem-solving skills. When hiring, focus on potential and skills.
- Great developers know how to communicate — software development is about understanding problems but also breaking down those problems and communicating solutions. Overall, this means that developers should be able to grasp concepts quickly and put them in context for other people to understand as well.
How to Find Great Software Developers
Now that you know about some basic qualities to look for, it’s time to figure out where to look. There are three basic options for how to hire developers. The freelance market, a dev shop, and creating an in-house team. They all have their pros and cons, but let’s start with a fourth option that wasn’t on the table until recently.
The freelancer market is a bit of a gamble, but remote work is becoming the norm in IT and a lot of great developers like the freedom of freelancing.
Using well-vetted freelance marketplaces, such as Toptal, put a lot of quality talent at your disposal. It also puts a massive dent in your hiring budget because the candidates are looking to capitalize on their impressive resumes. On the other hand, community-rated freelance sites like Fiverr also have a lot of developers. But the quality of candidates is mostly questionable.
In short, these are companies whose business is development, like MVP.dev. They build and enhance applications as a service. Depending on their reach and business model, they may also offer other services such as sales support, SEO, marketing, etc. These can be on-site or remote teams, but remote shops are much more common.
Some dev shops also offer a hybrid solution. They can put developers on a startup’s team to work on a project if the startup only needs a boost. This is something we at MVP.dev have done for a few of our startup clients.
The obvious benefit is that startups can outsource their entire project and focus on the business end. But it is more expensive, and ensure you have a clear understanding of the technology being used. Also, be careful to maintain ownership of your code, which can be done by stating ownership explicitly in the development contract. We have had to help clients in the past where their code was held “hostage” by the contracted development shop. Make sure you always have full access to your code!
To start with, startups considering an in-house team should have a technically experienced person in a leadership position. There needs to be a thorough understanding of the kinds of tools and people that will be required.
This approach will proceed like any other hiring process. Startups should reach out to people in their network for prospects, to begin with. An in-house dev team allows great control over the dev budget, but that can be a trap. Bad developers can be much more expensive than good ones. Knowing the difference will be crucial.
Know What to Offer
The distinguishing characteristic of great software developers is that they’re most likely employed. It’s very much a seller’s market and great developers know what they’re worth. That means that you’ll have to outbid the competition. It also means that you should not bank on their longevity. Great developers may always be receiving better offers.
For starters, the recruitment process must be led by someone who understands the roles they’re hiring for. Everything about the job requirements needs to be clear from the beginning. The last thing you want is to land a great developer only to lose them to mismanaged expectations.
Money is important, but it’s not everything. Many developers will take less money for better job satisfaction. Figure out how to leverage the conditions you offer to entice developers that will love working for you.
Where You Most Expect Them
Finding developers isn’t all that hard, the difficult part is offering them what they know they deserve. It comes down to a lot of factors around job satisfaction, but no matter how you slice it, it takes a decent budget.
It may be smarter to think outside the box and seriously consider a no-code platform. The big-shot developers can come later — getting off the ground should be the focus. If finances are holding you back, take the coding out of the equation. Try a no-code platform to start building your vision.