Startup Hiring: Rethinking Rockstar Employee


When you are running early stage startup, hiring or finding people to start with is one big thing you do. Everyone wants rock-star startup employee as early employee. This is how I define such “Rockstar Startup Employee”.

  • Person who is well aware of risk and opportunity associated with early stage startup.
  • Person who would prefer challenging roles vs roles with better pay and not-so-challenging role.
  • Person who is very much connected to starup ecosystem or at least reads about startups and trends frequently.
  • Person who probably have experience in startup or may be someone who had been founder himself
  • Add up usual things like smart, intelligent, don’t care attitude etc.

To earn something, you pay something

All startup want to have an unique culture and smart employees who are not usual employees. Hiring such Rockstar Startup Employee is great for your startup. But it’s very difficult. Sometime you might run into many problems. Following are few :

  • You waste lot of time finding them. Some tasks/initiatives which you have left for such employee may get delayed due to that.
  • Those kind of employees can create power issues in the company. There are chances of conflict in defining strategies or managent as an overall.
  • There’s risk that expectations from both side might not have mapped correctly.
  • There are also chances of issue related to culture-fit and ego problems.
  • They are expensive (salary or equity wise)
  • Chances of such employees leaving company are higher.

So while its always great if one can find such rockstar employee with whom you think issues like above will not happen, one should also think about the alternatives.

What if you can hire someone who can just do the job

If you think more about this, you might find that you don’t absolutely need that kind of rockstar startup employee for given role. And instead You might get the task/role done from a person who is equipped with required skilled, is decently smart and very much motivated for job.

I have seen in my experience as an entrepreneur that instead of those rockstar startup employee type qualities, what is more important is that the employee be highly motivated to do the job.

Well, even those “Rockstars” were made someday

Everyone learns. While person’s learning capability is directly related to qualities like intelligence, smartness, it is not very difficult to add some knowledge or develope some qualities in a person. If you can create some process within your office, you can make your team awesome out of not-so-awesome. For example you can try following things :

  • Taking team member to startup events.
  • Keep very frank and open culture and sharing everything with the team including mainly the vision, opportunity etc.
  • Encouraging team to read about startups (by setting up internal website which streams posts and news from curated source).
  • Weekend evening sessions where you organize talks, watch inspiring documentaries and movies etc.

There’s big world out there

Millions of people are working in hundreds of thousands of big companies and big businesses which are contributing in much larger share compared to startup ecosystem. There are capable people out there. It is just that they aren’t seen as fit for startup. In fact many of them aren’t really fit for startup because all they look for is fat salaries and easy jobs. But there’s always something in between. You can find people who are reasonably good from skills/smartness perspective, who can be trained to be startup-types and who are willing to work in startup.

I might sound being against hiring Rockstar startup employee. But intention of this post is just to point to the other side. Rockstar startup employee are always good for startup but it shouldn’t turn into hiring obsession for startup.