So, you’ve got a pain point that needs solving, you’ve got the target audience profiled, and your market analysis is primed and ready to exploit – it’s time to start building.

A significant proportion of SaaS founders will come to their idea not from an extensive background in software engineering, but from their own experiences in any given industry or walk of life. If you see potential for a SaaS product without the knowledge to build it yourself, fear not – many a successful founder started with only the most elementary knowledge of what is actually required to build an app or website.

Thankfully, the booming SaaS trade means that more and more resources have become available to budding entrepreneurs with limited resources available to get their first launch off the ground. That said, the first hire of your dev team will be a crucial turning point along your SaaS journey, and getting it done right will be time consuming in a moment where the hours you have to spend on your project will already be stretched thin.

With that in mind, we’ve put together this piece to get you over this hurdle as painlessly as possible with some key pointers to ensure that you don’t waste your time on dead ends. That said, you should brace yourself for what is ultimately a frustrating process, as queueing up interviews can seem like a chore when the majority won’t have what you’re looking for.

So to begin with, you’ll want to draw up a mock CV of your ‘dream’ hire, both in terms of the professional and personal qualities. Remember – early hires shape the culture of the company going forwards, and if you want to be successful, you’ll need to trust them enough to hand over key parts of the business to them. After all, one of the worst things you can do as a founder is jealously hoard responsibilities away from your staff because you need everything done your way…

Here are two early trade-offs you should consider:

  • Prioritising time over quality by hiring ASAP instead of waiting for the ‘perfect candidate’.
  • Using financial incentives by paying above market rate to get someone in quicker, or hire someone with more experience.

Now let’s look at the different approaches available to you, the SaaS founder, looking to secure that all-important first hire.

Look to your own social networks

Ultimately, the dream scenario is that you already have someone in your back pocket who you get on with, and has a proven roster of competencies that fill in areas where you are lacking. That said, if you’re still reading this article, chances are you don’t have this kind of contact ready to drop everything to join you on your start-up journey.

Don’t get too hung up on the ‘dream team’ mythos though – tech start-ups are notorious for putting strains on interpersonal relationships, especially in those early days. You’ll probably benefit from starting with a clean slate with your first hire so that you can cultivate a professional working environment without the baggage that comes with existing relationships.

Ideally you’ll be introduced to someone through a mutual connection. Ask around – it’s more than likely that you’re only one or two connections removed from someone who is in a position to advise you or recommend someone else in their stead.

If you can make this work, it will cut out a lot of time interviewing strangers, as you’ll ideally both be recommended to each other by people who can vouch for you both personally. You’re also unlikely to get stung by a chancer who knows what to say to get their foot in the door…

Whilst this is in many ways an ideal scenario for a bootstrapped SaaS founder, not all of you will have a cultivated network of professionals to get references from. Luckily, our socially interconnected world has plenty of other avenues to explore where one might find the next keystone in their journey to success.

Hiring marketplaces

A broad term that covers a lot of options, this could be anything from a paid LinkedIn ad to more specialist sites such as Triplebyte, Hired, Toptal, or the aptly named – Work In Startups. This option is more resource intensive, as 5-figure hiring fees are not unusual for high-calibre candidates, and there will be fairly stiff competition from other companies also looking to recruit.

The way the job market in this particular industry currently looks means that the power is largely in the hands of the employees, who wield a fair amount of leverage, especially over companies looking to quickly fill their roster of engineers.

This means that you’ll need a polished pitch ready to give to prospective hires. This includes a mission statement that is both captivating and confident, whilst proving your own competency and ambition in making something happen.

This category can also include the freelance option, where sites such as Upwork and People Per Hour host many freelancers looking to find work. You can read more about the pros and cons of hiring freelancers here, but for now you should consider them an option that could be the first step to someone joining you full time. It also gives you flexibility to effectively run probationary periods without having to process all the admin that comes with hiring full time employees.

It is worth investing the time into coming up with your own technical vetting process at this stage, especially if you’re hiring from a freelance site which typically have lower barriers to entry than the more regulated recruitment boards. If you can, talk to a friend or contact that could give you some guidance on what to look out for – ideally, you should have enough of an understanding of what will be required to build you product to know whether someone will be the right fit, so now’s as good a time as any to brush up on your own technical know-how.

Make them come to you

This may not be an option available to all, but  if you’re in a position to get exposure online and on social media, this could be your best option. For one, you’ll be fairly confident that the applications you’re getting are from individuals with a genuine interest in your project.

To be more specific, this involves soft-pitching your start-up with the aforementioned online exposure through blogs, a video series, or an active presence on social media and message boards. You can read more about cultivating your online persona here, and it’s definitely a possible knock-on beneficial outcome to a personal, narrative-driven branding. This is not the easiest thing to grow organically however, and it can be time intensive whilst offering little immediate reward. Ultimately this kind of approach comes naturally to some, but less so to others – it’s all about pursuing the course that works best for you and your initial setup.

Taking some time to cultivate an online presence early on can help with cold outreach however, and not just in terms of hiring. In the early days of your journey, you’ll want to have a landing page alongside some kind of social media presence simply to prove that you are, in fact, real. Remember that the first thing potential hires or customers will do is google your business, so don’t miss the chance to make those first impressions sing.

Hopefully these points have given you a good starting point as you consider your approach to filling out your team, and be sure to check back for more guides written for non-dev founders. We here at Angle work with a number of no-code start-ups and have a wealth of experience translating a vision into reality – just drop us a line and we’ll be sure to get back to you!

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