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Discussion on: I’m Tommy MacWilliam, CEO & Co-Founder of Serenade. Ask Me Anything!

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Gracie Gregory (she/her) • Edited on

What would you both say to someone who is looking to hire the core team of their startup? What should they look for in co-founders or early teammates?

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Tommy MacWilliam Ask Me Anything

Hiring is really important, and also really hard :)

One natural challenge that someone making their first hires or looking for a co-founder might run into is that nobody has heard of your company or vision yet! So, it's really important to articulate a clear vision for what problem you're solving, why you're solving it, and how you're going to do it. Putting this together in advance of talking to candidates can make those early conversations be productive.

Along the same line, when designing your interview process, be deliberate and specific about what you're looking for at each step—"good code" and "culture fit" are not specific! Instead, think about what a successful person in the role would do. Maybe you're hiring for a growth engineering role, where iterating fast and experimenting are more important than perfect code, or maybe you're hiring for a backend infrastructure role, where stability and performance are top priority. When looking for a co-founder specifically, think about what your strengths are and where your gaps are, and look for someone to help fill in those gaps. Maybe you're a great backend engineer, but you don't have experience with products or design—looking for a co-founder with some of those traits can help create a more balanced founding team. It's important to build a diverse team with a wide variety of skills and perspectives so you're ready to tackle any challenge that might come up.

Then, design your interviews accordingly. In many cases, simply asking a whiteboard, algorithm problem isn't going to be high-signal, because that skillset might not have anything to do for the role you're hiring for. (In fact, that process alone will likely cause you to miss out on huge number of great developers.) Instead, create a process that's reflective of what that person would do day-to-day, so you can get a better picture of how they'd fit into the team.

Finally, communication is a critically important skill in co-founders and early hires, but one that's often overlooked. At a small company, things will be moving fast and constantly changing, and if the team can't effectively communicate together, it's really easy to end up misaligned or have things slip through the cracks. Make sure that you're able to collaborate well with anyone you bring on, whether through pair programming or brainstorming on a problem together.