Building your Team
This presentation is made possible by the support of the American People through the United States Agency
for International Development (USAID). The contents of this presentation are the sole responsibility of Rick
Rasmussen and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.
Building your team
• People are your most important asset
• The people you hire sets the corporate culture
– How team thinks, feels and acts
• VCs name Team as the #1 Risk Factor
As a founder - you are “hiring”…
Your executive staff
Funding partners – VCs, Angels, FFF, etc
Board of Directors
– Attorneys, Accountants, Recruiters, PR firms, Outsourcers…
– Governments, Corporations, Universities,
Your Executive Staff
• Your trusted partners
– Hire those smarter than you
– They should be able to speak for you as your surrogate
– Echo and reinforce the corporate philosophy
• Startups should be loose and nimble and
– Let everyone find their comfort zone
– Keep titles to a minimum. Roles can change. Engineers can become
• Be very cautious about declaring someone a co-founder
– They will expect certain rights and firing is extremely difficult
• Advantages and disadvantages to hiring your friends
– What if something goes wrong?
Startups don’t need titles
• People equate their titles with their functions
• Limits their scope and cross-functional work
• You’re in learning and discovery mode
Customer Development Team
Tasks not Titles
In front of customers
• Once they fund you, you’re married for life – you can’t fire them
• Most investors want to “actively manage” the money they placed
• Watch out if:
– They’ve never done a startup
– Don’t know the technology
– Don’t know the market
• This is where many companies fail –
– The separation between the objectives of the founders and the
objectives of the investors
– Alignment, Alignment, Alignment
Board of Directors
• CEO reports to the board
– Their sole role is to hire and fire a CEO
– You are under constant vigilance
• Typically an odd number (3, 5, 7) to break tie votes
• Chairman is optional and honorary
– Founder does not automatically become chairman
• There is an art to managing your board
– Constant communication is key
• People argue about the worth of advisory boards
– Don’t do it for the sake of adding “names”
– If you have advisors, take full advantage
• Part time experts to help in their own vertical
– Engineering, Strategy, Finance, Legal, Business Development
– Entrepreneurs that are looking to give back
• Expect them to put in 2-4 hours/month
– Advisory meetings and calls, make introductions, strategic advice
– Not expected to write business plans, presentations, travel
• Typically compensated through stock
– 0.25% is normal. Up to1.0% if a luminary but must contribute
• Professionals that provide assistance for a fee
• IP, Patent, Trademark
• Employment, Visas
• First consultations often free
• Can defer compensation until first funding event
• A great source of referrals to Angels and VCs
Hiring: Aim High - Only “A” players
• People Smarter than You
• Winners and Losers
• Successful Experience
• Team Player
• Startup Experience
– Super bright,
– Super ambitious,
– Great cultural fit
Interview at least two
– Just one great person doesn’t give you contrast
– Don’t require interviews with 3 or more just for “policy”
Read the people subjectively for “fit”
– Don’t force candidate matches through a spreadsheet.
When great people pop up
– Hire them and find a way to make the role fit
Have a Structured Recruitment Process
• Have every candidate go through the same process
You will have a level playing field to evaluate candidates
This will evolve over time
Never bypass except for exceptional candidates
Everyone will judge you for fairness and equality in hiring
• When you skip the interview process for a candidate,
you run the risk of glaring issues down the line
Twenty Questions to Ask
Tell me about yourself.
Why did you leave your last job?
What experience do you have in this field?
Do you consider yourself successful?
What do co-workers say about you?
What do you know about this organization?
What have you done to improve your knowledge in the
8. Are you applying for other jobs?
9. Why do you want to work for this organization?
10. Do you know anyone who works for us?
Twenty Questions to Ask
What kind of salary do you need?
Are you a team player?
How long would you expect to work for us if hired?
Have you ever had to fire anyone? How did you feel?
What is your philosophy towards work?
If you had enough money to retire right now, would you?
Have you ever been asked to leave a position?
Explain how you would be an asset to this organization
Why should we hire you?
Tell me about a suggestion you have made.
• It’s important to balance quality with quantity when reviewing
• Set the bar high at the CV review stage to avoid wasting time on
calls with average people.
• When the candidate comes onsite, introduce him to the whole
• Have different engineers through a series of engineering questions.
• Then give the candidate an opportunity to hang out with the rest of
the team, perhaps over lunch
Always Sell Your Startup
• Interviews work both ways — the candidate is assessing
your startup as a place to work.
• Show your passion, outline the challenges that you face
(top candidates like to be challenged)
• It’s OK to invite candidates to company activities
– Team hikes
– Bar night
– Helps assess cultural fit and starts the team building process
After the job offer
• Continue to convince the candidate that your
company is the one they should join
– Investors should ask them to take calls with candidates
– Ask mutual connections to ‘backchannel’ them to hype up
– If there are doubts, consider starting the person as a
contract-to-hire until he's ready to make a decision