Hiring The First Developer For Your Startup Idea

By Chiedo - Last updated on May 1st 2019

You've created interactive designs, built a waitlist for your software, and raised capital.

If not, complete the missing steps here.

And now you're ready to hire your first software developer.

But how? Where do you begin?

You want to avoid:

Hiring a developer to build the wrong thing
Hiring a developer who's not capable
Paying too much
Hiring a developer who's not reliable

Step one is to make sure you know how to have an intillegent conversation with developers. I recommend you read this.

Once you're done, it's time to make sure you hire the right developer to build the right thing. This part's on you.

For most people, even if your idea is for a mobile app, don't start with a mobile app.

If a mobile app isn't a complete necessity, build a web app instead.

Read this post if you don't understand the distinction.

This will save you time and money while you're testing your ideas with your early adopters.

Early adopter - a person who starts using a product or technology as soon as it becomes available.

You don't want to spend a bunch of time and money building and dealing with an iOS app, Android app, and Web app, only to find out you need to rebuild everything and start over (which is common).

So you want to start with a web app and want to build a minimum viable product (MVP).

Minimum Viable Product - a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers, and to provide feedback for future product development.

Read this book if you're unfamiliar with the term.

But in a nut-shell, an MVP prevents you from building a bunch of stuff before you know people want it.

And an MVP saves you money. The goal is to build things quickly and cheaply.

It doesn't really matter what languages or platforms your developer uses as they build the MVP. Especially if it's a throw-away MVP. Which I recommend.

But I'm going to recommend what we use to build MVPs, and production-ready software at my company, Chiedo Labs. Full-stack Javascript (JS).

Why full-stack JS?

Full-stack JS allows your front-end developers to use the same code as the back-end developers.

This is really useful during the MVP phase when you only have one developer.

And also useful during the later days when you have multiple developers and want cross-coverage.

So feel free to make your own decision but if you want to roll with my default, here's my recommendation.

Skills to look for in a full-stack JS developer

Node.js (Back-end)
React (Front-end)
HTML (Structure)
CSS (Appearance)
MongoDB (Database)

And here's a job description you can use to find the right person.

Once again, there are a bunch of alternatives, that's just what we use.

With that being said, we usually use MySQL for production databases. But MongoDB is a great choice for MVPs.

So now, how do you find a developer?

If possible, find a local tech mentor. Someone who runs a local tech company who's passionate about your local startup scene and wants to give back.

This tech mentor can help you figure out the best ways to find local talent and can help you tailor this example job description to your specific needs.

Once it's time to hire, there are three options.

Finding a local freelancer or ambitious student is your best option, because you'll probably save money. But make sure whoever you hire can show you previous examples of their work, understands the concept of MVPs, and can provide references.

Working with an agency has the benefit of reliability and expertise. So it's a close second-best option. Just make sure you find an agency who has MVPs they can show you and is familiar with The Lean Startup.

Freelancers often change lifestyles, get job offers, or dissapear alltogether. That's not a big deal if it's your designer. But a much bigger deal if it's your developer.

If none of those options work, use Upwork to find a developer. Just don't low-ball. Find a developer with a high rating and a lot of experience.

Whoever you talk to, mentally go into the conversation with a $5,000/mo budget for 3 months. See what they quote you. This will tell you if they understand the concept of MVPs or not.

Don't pay more than $20,000 for your MVP unless you have a really good reason to.

Anyone who quotes you more than $20,000 is usually not quoting a throw-away MVP. They're probably quoting a MVP you can build upon later.

But don't worry about later yet. Worry about testing all your ideas and seeing if customers like them.

Spend all your money testing your ideas rather than trying to build things perfectly.

I think that covers it.


Try and find a local tech mentor
Create a job description using this example
Hire your first developer via a freelancer, agency, or Upwork.com