The first five hires a startup should make — as told by a CTO

By Adam Arbolino

No factor will have a greater impact on a startup’s success than the quality of its staff. Choose your staff the same way you would choose your companions for a long car journey — very, very carefully.

Our team has now grown to over 30 people, but nailing those first five hires was vitally important to get the business facing in the right direction and then running out of the starting gate. If you are a business owner at the moment, you probably wear one or more of these hats already.

1. The visionary

Every ship needs a captain. A visionary. The one who stares towards the horizon and charts the best course – and a startup is no different. A visionary within the team will give your startup direction and a way of measuring whether you are on course or not. In many cases, this person is the one at the front of the business, exposing your startup to the world. They are the Steve Jobs of your startup voyage.

You want people who are in it for more than just the money, those who can see the bigger picture and who are willing to invest in the long-term success of your business. Look for staff that have big plans for their career and find ways to create a mutually beneficial relationship, that way you can both achieve the goals each of you have in mind.

2. The executor

For your startup to thrive you need people who can wear more than just one hat. An executor is someone that can come in and just get things done – they are often a generalist, someone who is seriously good under pressure. Having staff that are multi-talented will mean you can solve problems quicker, be more productive as well as save more money.

Whenever a challenge arises, there are people who can just find a way of making it happen. In a startup, this is invaluable. Executors thrive on finding an answer to any business problem, whether it be operations issue like the internet breaking down or the server exploding to business development challenges like executing acquisitions or driving a record month of sales.

3. The data expert

These days, understanding your data is the difference between a thriving successful business and one that has great ideas but dies along the side of the road. Hiring someone that can analyse, evaluate and make good decisions based on data is critical to the modern small business.

At DesignCrowd, decisions are made by running experiments based on our hypothesis and evaluating the data to see if we have made the right decision for our users. One of the simplest but most effective ways to do this is through A/B testing, a technique that places two hypotheses side-by-side. Whichever way your business decides to run data tests, having a data expert not only keeps your finger on the pulse, but also keeps you making the best decisions going forward.

4. The creative

Every small business needs someone that isn’t afraid to shake things up and try something new. Creative thinkers won’t just provide fresh ideas and perspective; they are also more likely to spot an opportunity and will be a huge asset in solving problems. Remember that an important part of being successful in business is thinking outside of the box.

This person is also very valuable to include in meetings that you might not traditionally think they are needed for as they will often throw out curve-balls that keep the rest of the team on their toes and thinking outside of the box.

5. The automator

In a startup, time is of the essence. The speed in which you move to market and get things going is critical to your success. Because of this, processes and infrastructure are sometimes neglected and fall by the wayside. In my experience, having someone on board that focuses on automation and process will make your life easier and ensures your business will scale. Tasks from improving reporting capabilities to improving logistical challenges, all fall in the domain of the automator.

With the right team there is nothing that your startup can’t accomplish, so be sure you are covering your bases when hiring your staff as it will seriously pay off in the long run.

Adam Arbolino is co-founder and CTO of, a logo, web and graphic design marketplace.

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