You have an emerging product, strong user momentum and a couple of angels fluttering overhead. It's time to hire your original team outside of you and your co-founder - the first few people who can make or break your startup.
Here are 5 don'ts as you consider your most important hires ever:
1. Don't hire too soon. Just when you think you can't wear anymore hats, wear them a little longer. When I started HireVue, I handled accounting for the first 7 years; not because I wanted to but because I could. According to Startup Genome, 92% of startups fail within 3 years. Of those who failed 74% failed due to premature scaling. As you prioritize your first hires, be honest with yourself about the role for which you're hiring. If the role is critical to growth - do it. If it's a reaction to boredom, suck it up. Hiring for 'relief' roles too early risks the resources that need to go toward product or needed expertise. The same goes throughout your journey--I've made the mistake at HireVue at times and gotten out over our skis.
2. Don't hire your 'bestie'. This is your business, not an extension of your social life. Sure, your college roommate might know how to hustle, but it doesn't automatically make him co-founder material. The unromantic truth is that 62% of startups fail due to co-founder conflicts. The most successful founders know their own strengths and more importantly their vulnerabilities. They have the confidence to proactively hire their 'yang'; never underestimate the power of shared values and complementary strengths. Business is personal in the early days--relationships are lost, so don't set yourself up for disaster by hiring the wrong person just because he or she is a close friend.
3. Don't hire captain overkill but punch above your weight class. In every industry and certainly within every role, there will be people with impressive track records. Do yourself a favor: skip the super high-level strategy person who thinks big but can't (or won't) execute. Instead, find the person you never thought you could hire and play to win when it comes to recruiting him or her. Hire Doers. More importantly hire people that outsiders look at and say, "Holy sh*#, I can't believe they were able to hire them!"
4. Don't abdicate. Once you do decide to hire your first 5 team members, stay involved. Trust the people around you to use their strengths and talent, but take the time to check in and steer. Even if you hire "the expert" at sales, marketing, growth, etc., you as founder have moral authority and they will be looking to you to lead.
5. Don't fail, but if you do, cut bait. Yes, hiring mistakes happen, but they don't have to be devastating. The moment you sense that the team you've assembled isn't capable of executing on your growth goals, you need to pinpoint the problem, address the situation and take action. While huge companies have the resources to stretch out 'regrettable attrition' for quarters, you probably have less than 60 days. Unless you completely ignored #2 above, at a certain point this shouldn't be personal -- it's business.
There are multiple factors that impact the success of a startup: the idea, the timing, the funding, the business model and of course - the team. Some factors are more critical than others (think idea vs. business model) and some are more controllable than others (think funding vs. timing). One factor is both critical and in your control: hiring the people who can execute your vision.