I am a mid-level computer engineer and want to establish my own company.

I found a new idea and after some researches decided to work on it. So the next step was finding and hiring new people for my startup. But there was a problem. My problem was that my project is a big project and needs some expert developers working on it. But when I post jobs in my country, I find 2 types of people:

  1. The expert developers who come for meeting but when they find this is a new company and there is no other member teams, they give up and leave, and the main thing they say is "we prefer to work for a famous company with big teams".

  2. Computer students who are seeking internship or workplace experience or a part-time job! They don't know the technologies I want to use and have don't experience on it but they show a passion to learn.

My goal was to hire the people in from the first group but after I couldn't do it, I decided to think about the second group. But I think I am in a wrong way and don't know how to find the right way?


7 Answers 7


I think you're approaching this the wrong way.

The expert developers who come for meeting but when they find this is a new company and there is no other member teams, they give up and leave, and the main thing they say is "we prefer to work for a famous company with big teams"

... why would they? You're asking them to not work at a stable company, in exchange for... what? I mean, you said in the comments: "What I offered them was equal to what other famous companies maybe offering them". So you're not offering better pay, but imposing a very very large risk of the job not being around a year later. Does it honestly surprise you that they'd turn your offer down?

"I don't want to hire new grads, because they don't have knowledge in the technologies I need to use"

New grads often don't have the technologies needed. Heck, I haven't started a job where I have all the technologies needed. Part of being a developer is easily picking up new skills. Did you consider whether every single person you need to hire has to be an expert, or whether a bright fresh grad could pick up a skill or two and serve a purpose for what you're trying to accomplish?

To put it bluntly, you're looking for people with in-demand skills, and asking them to take a huge risk: working for a fledgling startup. Most startups offset this risk by paying quite a bit more or by also offering equity in their company. I wouldn't even call what you're doing a startup at this point - it's just a person with an idea. I'd highly suggest you find a partner (or two) to take this out of the realm of "Eh, this is a cool idea I had" to "The three of us are currently working on the core minimum viable product, but we're going to need additional devs to X, Y, and Z."

Finally, this comment was kinda funny:

I don't like to over pay and do an expensive project when it wasn't needed.

... understood. Problem is, Labor is a market. It doesn't matter what you think 'expensive' is: if you don't offer enough money, you won't get the people to do your project. (The same way that it doesn't matter if someone thinks they're underpaid, if no company is willing to pay their expectant salary.)

EDIT: I had to add something based on this comment:

The problem is I don't want to give equity to my employees. In fact Im not looking for a co-founder. But I will be glad to hear about other ideas to offer them?

I really think you're in the wrong mindset here. Let me try to demonstrate it.

Imagine a company saying: "We're looking for an investor. We're willing to sell 10% stake in our company in exchange for $50,000."

It's not like that company wants to lose 10% of their company. It's that, after the sale, they think the 90% remaining will be worth a lot more than the 100% without investment. That the investment will raise their odds of having a successful business - because, at the end of the day, having 100% equity in a failure doesn't mean anything. Likewise, having 100% equity in a $10k/year company is a heck of a lot worse than a 90% equity in a $100k/year company.

Well, that's where you're at. You've got 100% equity in a failure at the moment. Instead of focusing on "I'm losing equity!" - focus on raising the chances of a successful venture. Because equity is just a multiplier on the success of a business, not an absolute measurement in itself.

  • 5
    Regarding the edit, it's perfectly fine to not offer equity. But also then OP should be prepared to pay contractor, not employee, rates due to the fact that this 1-person-operation can cease existing tomorrow. It's a tradeoff between holding on to cash, but giving away equity, or spending a lot more, because the equity is more important and you can afford it. And contractors bill more because they operate without the job security of stable employment.
    – Aida Paul
    Feb 11, 2020 at 16:07
  • @TymoteuszPaul - agreed, it's okay to not offer equity. But to be deadset against it, when they're currently just "one person with an idea" shows they're viewing equity as a static number (100 vs 90) which is a common mental mode. It's tough to intuitively understand that 90% equity might be better than 100%, if that 10% equity bought a large increase in the company's fortune/success.
    – Kevin
    Feb 11, 2020 at 16:11
  • Thank you very much for your help. I am agree with all you said, but about my mindset, my idea is if I could stand/endure this period of time until my first project get lunched, then it would be easier to keep up the progress of the company because I am the only owner/determiner of the company with lot more flexibility with no fear of what other owners would decide, etc about the future project and company way. I mean I prefer to start harder and slower but keep going faster day to day. I think your idea godd is for starting but not for continuing. Feb 11, 2020 at 16:11
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    @user3486308 - Just a suggestion... google to see how often startups succeed. Trying to think "How can I make sure this startup doesn't lose momentum 10 years from now" probably isn't where you need to be focused. You should probably be more worried about getting off the ground at all, because that's where the vast majority of startups fail.
    – Kevin
    Feb 11, 2020 at 16:13
  • 1
    You seem to think that giving up equity inherently means giving up some decision-making abilities and having to share them with whoever holds some minority stake. How much power-sharing are you willing to accept? The senior developer who is the only one who understands your technology architecture works is going to have a lot of power no matter what percent of the firm they own. Feb 12, 2020 at 5:32

I'm the developer you want. I've been a part of large companies (FB, Amazon) and 5 startups, 4 of which sold. I was a lead at several of them. So I'll tell you what I would want to come to work for another young startup:

  1. I want a salary. I can't work for nothing. I'm willing to take a bit less than a big company would pay me, but I want something in the range. This will vary depending on where you live, but in NYC I laugh off anything under 180K/yr if you have so much as angel funding.

  2. I need health insurance. I'm not in my 20s anymore, I need coverage for my meds. Some startups try to skip this, don't. (This is US specific, may not correlate to the rest of the world)

  3. I want an interesting problem to solve, and freedom to solve it the way I think best. I have to believe your solution is a good market fit and you're capable of seeing it through. If I don't think you have a chance to succeed, I'll go elsewhere.

  4. I want equity. How much depends on if the company is funded, what my salary is, and how much the company has raised. If the salary is low and this is pre-raise, I want to be a cofounder and have equity to match. If the company has raised money, I want several percent if its a small company. I may be willing to go as low as 1%. I won't go lower, as I'll be diluted by the next round. Here's some articles on typical equity compensation: https://www.holloway.com/g/equity-compensation/sections/typical-employee-equity-levels

Not willing to pay equity? Then you have to realize what I'm passing up and pay accordingly. I can make 200K salary and 150-200K equity at FB, Amazon, Google, etc. I'm making that range now. I'll take no equity and all cash, but you need to be offering at least 300K/yr (I was recently talking to a Netflix employee making 400K with no equity). Because if I'm not making equity, I'm getting no benefit from taking the risk of a startup- to balance that I need to be really into the product and capture much of the equity I would get in cash.

Basically, take your no equity and toss it in the trash. Nobody is going to take the risk of a startup without the reward if the company does well- unless you pay at rates high enough to make up for it, which you can't afford.

Remember, you are not the only good idea out there. There's plenty of them, and plenty of bad ideas that still got VC funded and where my salary would be more secure. You need to provide an upside over them.

  • OT: The blog link in your profile seems to be broken.
    – Heinzi
    Feb 12, 2020 at 8:26
  • @Heinzi it works for me Feb 12, 2020 at 9:51
  • @PierreArlaud: I get one of those "link-revenue-generating placeholder pages", which doesn't look right: i.sstatic.net/KWnqG.png
    – Heinzi
    Feb 12, 2020 at 9:55
  • @Heinzi Ahh yes sorry misread I thought you meant the blog post in the answer, you are absolutely right Feb 12, 2020 at 9:59
  • I think the short answer to the question is in this: Because if I'm not making equity, I'm getting no benefit from taking the risk of a startup.
    – Aequitas
    Feb 14, 2020 at 2:27

I am a software engineer having 10+ years of experience. So I am writing this answer having the imagination to face this situation.

So of course, I will not join a start-up company because of the associated risk of closing that company at any time. But as my office work is only 7 hours, so I have plenty of time.

As I want to earn some extra money, I will work for another company as a consultant. Off-course, I will not disclose my company resource. Rather I will work to form a team to develop a product.

Most of the senior software engineers have the eagerness to teach newbie software engineers and also to earn money. So the simple solution is to recruit some newbie software engineers as full-time employees. Also, recruit senior software engineers as a consultant.

  • I was also thinking about this, but I don't know why, it's hard for me to trust the people I don't work with full time! Maybe I think because my job won't be their main job and they won't loose lot things if they leave, so they won't work like a full time employee who really needs and depends on his/her job. Feb 11, 2020 at 16:28
  • 6
    @user3486308 Perhaps it's worth thinking about it the other way around: it's hard for other people to trust you enough to work for you full time. It sounds like you want people to be desperate and dependent on you, but don't want to offer them high compensation, equity, or another reason why they should care so much about your company. Feb 12, 2020 at 5:11
  • 1
    @user3486308 Based on the statistics, your company will be dead in 2 years, maybe 3. That's nothing to do with you, it's simply that most startup companies fail. You're taking a chance on that because you believe in your project, and if it pays off then you win big. Expecting other people to take the same chance with no payoff is nonsense though - why would they? Would you? And as for your expectations of employees, you need to tone it way down. You are not the only employer, and they do not need your job. If they don't like what you're offering, they'll go elsewhere.
    – Graham
    Feb 12, 2020 at 9:24

What do you offer?

A bigger say in development and more freedom? One of the bigger upsides of startups. But you mention you worry about coowners decisions, which implies you want full controll. Reading between the lines, this could mean people get less (!) freedom to do what they think is right than in a big coprporation. I worked in a founderowned business. The company was 10 years old and established. But the ideas of the founder were sacred, input of others counted little. Expect for one of his old buddies. Not fun...

Established companies have competent leadership. I guess you are an engineer or something like that. Leading is hard! At some point, you have to give up programming and lead instead. Or cede controll to hire a leader and stay as engineer instead. Working under said founder, he was a bad leader. He wanted to be good, but all his focus in improvement was in other fields. So yeah, you should be able to communicate that you acknowledge leading is hard, and that you are learning it somehow.

Possibility of high possions in case of success. How much do you wanna grow? it sounds you want to grow big. So early joiners might have an easier time getting management positions for their own.

Other considerations:

  • Do you have a business plan?
  • How long does you money last?
  • Do you found this comepletly on your own?
  • Do you have an investor?
  • How will you acquire customers?

Even with a finished perfect product, getting customers is hard.

E.g.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXHj7eZ23gk Of course, there are countless of other stories were people had lots of troubles getting their first customers!

Getting investors is hard too. If you need one, plan on months where you do nothing but hunting for one!

If you just have a product idea, but no plan, this of course turns experienced people off.

So if you want to get top notch talent, try to find things where you can improve yourself to get more attractive.

If you want full controll and fast development, think about hiring contractors. Once you have a finished product and customers(!), finding people to hire is easier


Several other answers have already explained what you would need to offer in order to entice experienced developers, so I won't go into that.

The other half of the picture is that you're apparently interviewing the wrong people:

1- The expert developers who come for meeting but when they find this is a new company and there is no other member teams, they give up and leave, and the main thing they say is "we prefer to work for a famous company with big teams".

No matter what you're offering, there will be many experts who aren't interested in it — and that's fine. But you don't want to interview those experts; you want to interview the ones who are interested, or who at least have the potential to be interested.

If you're finding that your job posting is attracting people who aren't interested in working at a company like yours, then you need to change the job posting to make it clearer what your company is like. (The job posting can also mention some of the things that you'll now be offering thanks to the other answers here.)


The thing about experienced developers is that they have their "pick of the litter", so to speak. They can work anywhere they want, so why should that be you? Working for a startup comes with a lot of risk, specifically the risk of failure. If I go to work for Google, I know that in 5-10 years I will 100% still have a job (modulo being fired). If I go to work for ABC Tech Inc which currently only has 1 employee who is the company CEO, the probability that I have a job in 1 year is less than 10%. So if you say that the salary you offer is equivalent to Google, you're just hitting the baseline and not accounting for the risk of being unemployed in a year, which Google doesn't have. Aside from money, things you can give your employees include:

  • Equity
  • Vacation time
  • Work from home/remote work privileges
  • A good company culture (you can't do this yet but you can once you get some more people on board)
  • A modern tech stack that they enjoy working with
  • Lack of overtime

These are things that senior developers could look for. Since you are dead-set on not giving your developers equity, you can think of something else you can give them. However, equity is really the most enticing thing to own and also to give: If you give equity, it costs you nothing, because you didn't pay anything to obtain the equity. Additionally, it means your hires will work harder; if they are being paid in equity and the company fails, then they have worked hard for nothing, meaning therefore that they will want to work harder to make their equity worth a lot of money. It really is the best option.

Regarding hiring junior devs, junior devs can be good providing they have good mentorship. Are you an expert in the tools and techniques you want to use at your company? If you are, then hire some junior devs and teach them and build them up. They are cheap, and the good ones learn fast. If you are not paying them a competitive salary, they may leave you when they find something better though, especially if you're not giving them equity. Equity is also a good retaining tool; if you leave the company and the guy who replaces you sucks and kills the company, then your equity is worth nothing, as they say "if you want it done right, do it yourself". If you're not an expert in the technology you want to use, then refer to the above on how to get them.


I would suggest rather than finding an employee, you find a business partner. Preferably one with all the technical skills. Then after that you look to hire a larger team of employees.

Maybe offering equity would help you with the first option.

  • 1
    I have liked this comment. This thinking is very nice. Feb 12, 2020 at 11:02

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