Early Stage Mobile Startup Team
Mobile first products follow the trend of ever increasing and dominating smart devices like smart phones, tablets and now, even smart watches. Consumers can quickly turn to their mobile devices for the eternal array of web information, as well as an ever increasing number of applications, games, tools and content. With so many uses for mobile devices, the opportunities to enter the space are numerous, as are the number of directions mobile startups can take.
In building a early stage mobile startup team, most require a similar foundation of talent. However, when building out your team, it is critical to not only find high-quality talent, but also talent that lines up with your company’s direction, vision and culture. The following breaks down what we see as the ideal early stage mobile startup team.
1. The Founders
There are two critical needs that a startup must meet with its founding team, each with equal importance. The first is a technical need. Yes, startups can attempt to outsource, contract out or even hire technical employees, but the most successful startups tend to have a technical cofounder. This person works to lead and craft the company’s vision, leading with a technical foundation at the top and instilling within it the roots of the organization. Moreover, since every technology company must continue to innovate even over the short term, a technical cofounder can shape the direction more effectively. Factor in a technology company’s inherent need to employ technical people, having one as a co-founder allows a company to begin building the product, even when funding is low or nonexistent.
The other side of the founder equation is the business side. Throughout the early stages, every startup, whether in the mobile space or not, needs a founder to champion the organization, product, team and direction. Every startup needs a public face to carry the organization to the masses and promote. Early on, this role is focused on pitching, presenting and fundraising, as well as acquiring early beta users and creating partnerships to garner early revenue. This function at an early startup is imperative. These functions must be carried out at the top by a personality that believes in the idea, the product and the company.
It is rare but not unheard of that these two needs are met by a single individual. In most cases, founder teams are met by two or three individuals. Whoever makes up the founding team will shape the culture and direction of the company throughout its lifetime, which is why potential investors dig so deep into the founding team. They look at who they are, what they’ve done, what others say about them and where they as individuals could go. The potential of the founders is the potential of the company.
2. The Advisors
The number of advisors your startup secures is not as important as the skills, experience, expertise and network that each brings. Ideally, you want an advisor for each area of your company which lacks experience, skills, or confidence, in an effort to steer your efforts in the right direction. These areas include fundraising, product development, sales, marketing and recruiting. Alongside those skills and levels of expertise, find advisors with the following:
Industry Experience- Even if your team has industry experience within your target market, having advisors with similar expertise will be an added benefit to your organization. An advisor with both the know how in a specific arena and experience within your industry will be a powerhouse resource for your startup.
Powerful Networks- Early on, one of the most valuable assets you can acquire is network access. Be it access to investors and angels, VCs, media outlets, industry experts, former founders or potential customers, the success of your startup will be largely dependant on building your network.
History of Participation- Advisors with the right experience, expertise, network and other assets are only as valuable to you as their willingness to connect with you. Many founders will tell you about advisors they have brought on that had great credentials, but put little to no time into their company. Check the references of potential advisors just as much as you would a potential employee, and make sure they have a history of actively adding value.
Availability- Because they are advisors and not employees, most will not be immediately available to you. That being said, they do need to give you their attention when you need it, and within a reasonable time frame. If a potential advisor already has several roles, consider whether they can give you the time you really need from them
3. The Focused Hires
Startups run as lean as they can for as long as they can. They keep teams small in the beginning, with founders fulfilling as many roles as possible. At some point, the founders end up with too much on their plates to handle effectively, and need to begin hiring. Furthermore, a single individual can only excel at so many things, and hiring professionals to focus on specific things will improve efficiency and allow the founders to devote themselves to tasks with the biggest impact.
Marketing and Growth- Most mobile startups are very much dependent on viral growth, word of mouth, network creation and intense user acquisition to get exposure, users and customers. Sure, founders should brush up on digital marketing techniques and growth hacking skills and ideas, and be able to execute these in the beginning, even with only minimal time. Eventually, mobile startups need to acquire a professional to tackle this aspect of the business. Effective marketing, growth hacking and user acquisition is more than a full-time job, and the amount of knowledge and experience needed is vast. Investing in top talent for this role will yield huge dividends.
Technical Compliments- For mobile startups, finding technical compliments usually means finding programmers proficient in either iOS or Android specific development, and sometimes those focused on web applications. Unfortunately, it is rare to find a single person who both knows and excels in these environments. That does not necessarily mean you need both at once though. Many mobile companies launch first with a version for a single platform. Other technical compliments include professionals focused on technologies specific to the industry or the product itself. As with many things, a startup’s technical hires depend on the company and product itself.
Product Management- Eventually, mobile startups will find a product manager extremely valuable. Top talent with this focus can take over the business side of the product itself, and allow the founders to focus on the overall business itself, which in this stage is fundraising and hiring. Not only will it take product focus off of the founders’ plates, but it will give the product itself the focus needed in a startup company.
This list is in no way all-encompassing for all mobile companies. The spectrum of differences across organizations, as well as the funds available, and dynamics of the industry are what define the needs for each company. Strong advisors, former founders, and startup-focused recruiters can go a long way in helping you figure out how to build your startup team by telling you who you need and when you need them. Hiring decisions will have the most profound impact of any others you make on the lifetime of your company, its culture and its success. Plan, execute and hire with great care, and you will build a great company.