There are many reasons why inexperienced people might be poor hires in a startup. What circumstances make hiring relatively inexperienced juniors a good move? Note that these circumstances should somehow overrule the still standing negative points expressed, for instance, in the linked post.
Cheap. People with experience are expensive, people without experience - less so. Now, sometimes the old adage of 'The cheap option costs more in the long run' can be true, but not always
There's no one really experienced. If you are the type of start-up that is doing something new/revolutionary - then it may be that there's no one who is genuinely experienced. Obviously there may be other people with a lot of transferable skills - but maybe not.
That's your only options. It might be that no one with experience wants to work for your company. If the choice is between a person with no experience and no person at all - sometimes it's the lesser of two evils.
sometimes you come across someone who is clearly going places - and so the relative lack of experience isn't as important a factor as capturing an apparently talented employee.
@TheDemonLord gives some excellent reasons in his answer (cheap being the biggest factor). To add a couple more (slightly cynical) ones:
- Easy to take advantage of. Juniors will generally not know their rights as well, not know what's normal in a workplace, and not be in a strong position to negotiate.
- Young. Juniors are usually going to be younger than seniors, and ageism is still a factor in many companies, especially in the tech sector. Younger people are often less concerned about their work-life balance (as they're less likely to have kids), so it's easier to get them working crazy hours.
- Better cultural fit. If you want to be a trendy hip new startup, hiring people who've spend the last decade working in big corporates then they may not fit in with the culture that you're trying to build.
I think one thing people are overlooking here is that it's rarely a good idea to have a homogenous group of people on any project - doesn't matter whether it's a startup or not.
Every project will have tasks that require more skill and experience and other tasks that do not, but are equally important. If you have a team of eight experienced, rockstar developers what happens to all those menial tasks that have to be done? Best case you're wasting money by giving senior developers such tasks, but much more likely this will cause friction and discontent in the team.
Much better to have a mixture of both experienced and less experienced people. The juniors learn from the seniors and the seniors can delegate less important tasks.
One reason is the candidates themselves. Many people in their 30s and 40s have kids to support and mortgages to pay and can't necessarily afford to take the risk of joining an early-phase startup. People in their 50s and 60s may need to focus on financial goals like preparing for retirement (given that a large number of people are behind on their savings).
Hiring juniors is part of getting out of "startup mode" and into being an established business that looks into continuity rather than immediate growth.
As a startup, the goal of the company is to demonstrate that this could be a profitable business, but once that is established, that is no longer sufficient: the goal of the company is to become a profitable business.
As part of that, you need to make the transition from personal to institutional knowledge -- anything that is important to daily operation is documented in a way that makes it replicable even without the original team, because you want that team to work on the next step after that.
Long-term, the founder team will move on, and your company will need to be able to promote people from within to replace them -- basically, a sustainable company anticipates that their workforce will be getting older, their priorities shift and they eventually retire, and defines a career progression that both matches employees' needs and has a defined intake process for the next generation.
Another aspect that has gone unmentioned so far: not every startup is trying to change the world or solve a previously intractable issue. Some startups are just aiming to make money in a new area of a existing market segment. In this case, it is often cheaper to hire to the minimal skill set when "the industry-approved right way" is well-known or easily searchable. Furthermore, in these instances, the business model is already known to be viable so the "artistry" a senior provides has frequently already been folded into the business model.
For example, say some video game or other is launched by an unrelated company. Very frequently, particularly in the MMO space, support websites will pop up to aid the community ("where do I find the magic toaster for that one quest?", "what items are used to craft the Sword of Blasphemous Pastries?", etc) with a small startup behind it for "premium" features / taxes. These sorts of C.R.U.D. websites are extremely well-trodden ground and the risks for failure are low (e.g. a bug is an annoyance not a crashed car or crispy astronaut); why pay for an expensive senior when you might be able to get away with a pile of cheaper juniors? Obviously all of this is variable based on the specifics of the industry and given startup in consideration.
Ultimately, there are many startups who are plenty happy to stick to well-trodden technologies to buy into an unsaturated market and who absolutely will hire to this price point. The goal here is not to create a product that is good, it is to create a product that is saleable.
I don't disagree with the other answers, but if you're in a highly technical field then you might consider
Relevant doctorate/research experience
The person may have no industrial experience whatsoever. But if they've spent the last 5 years researching the exact thing that you're trying to turn into a product, their knowledge of the theory may be more important than their ability to, say, write maintainable code and test harnesses.
I'm not clear that there are any decisive, evergreen reasons for having a completely skewed age profile amongst personnel.
There may be some contexts involving emerging industries where there simply aren't any older workers with much relevant experience to a particular role - or at least, far too few of them to go around in the economy.
In this case, there may be startups focussed on a very particular kind of activity, and it may make sense to hire younger workers disproportionately for certain roles, especially if the learning curve is considerable.
It may also make sense to avoid older workers who have experience which is valuable elsewhere in the economy, and who therefore attract a higher wage, but in fact have no relevant experience to the startup.
To colour the example, if an online shopping startup wanted a web developer in the 1990s, you wouldn't be hiring many 60-year-old mainframe programmers, because their wages are bid up by those who need their accumulated experience of mainframes, whereas they have little experience to give in respect of web technologies to justify the startup hiring them at the market wage. You may as well hire a young hobbyist, whose had enough idle time through school and college years to learn the new technology.
But startups are not innovations in every respect. There are still a lot of familiar functions, most of which require experienced professionals to supervise, and benefit from some input from those familiar with existing corporate culture and past learning.
Fanatically hiring younger workers in the belief that everything your company does is different than any other, is more likely to lead only to inefficiencies and dysfunctions, and for a startup, to stifle your growth into an established firm with reliable operations.
Being cheap is more than just a lower salary. A knowledgeable engineer will usually ask for equity in a start-up in lieu of typical salary, so what they are saving is a LOT of money if the company is successful.
If you vest at $100 M, splitting it two-way is an extra 17 million per person than splitting it three-way.
When I started out, some decades ago, I was hired by a very small (5-person) company with strong startup vibes, while I was still in school. I had taught myself programming years before that, and convinced them that I was able to do it (by showing off some hobby programs I had created). They employed me to create a very specialized event planner in the context of a very specialized job (somewhat related to the OSHA equivalent in my country).
Win - win - win. They got a cheap employee. I had a fantastically high salary and interesting work. The customers got some cool custom software that would have been financially uninteresting if done by a "professional" multi-person team. The company was kind of the middle-man carrying the risk (i.e., of me failing, getting sick etc.) and providing the b2b face to the customers, and obviously handling all the sales, marketing and so on and forth.
So there you have it. One reason to hire a junior in a startup.
Because not every job at a startup needs to have lots of experience to get it done. There is plenty of work that needs to be done that doesn't require lots of experience rather time to get it done. For positions like hiring a "junior" instead of a "senior" to fill a position can not only save money but allow for more people to be hired to handle the workload.
In short not all positions at a startup require lots of experience to provide value to the startup