Equity · Non technical talent

What enticements can you offer non technical rockstars to join your team?

Helen Adeosun

October 3rd, 2013

This is a tag on to another question posed by a friend, but I run an early stage startup that wants to have an MVP out in the market by November 1st. There is angel in the works that I will be using towards contracting (mostly for stipends and development work ), but what about that great marketing person or content creator for our team?

I am struggling with how much I can do and keep track of on my own just to get our learning platform into the world, and my company would grow so much with the talent of other folks on the team. What enticements/equity  has anyone offered non technical people on their teams? Would you suggest pulling on these people? Case examples would be great! I am meeting with two of these people tomorrow.

Thanks,
Helen Adeosun

Anonymous

October 3rd, 2013

Honestly, I'd treat them exactly the same as technical people. They're taking the same risks and are bringing technical know-how and talent to your company. Technical doesn't only apply to engineering knowledge after all. If you need a strong marketing person on your team to build a MVP, presumably without much of a salary, pretend that they're one of your engineers and ask yourself what compensation makes sense for someone making that level of commitment to the company? Now, there's no doubt that there should be some differences between engineering and marketing compensation, but that's more due to differences in the market value of their skills. If you want to hire someone, engineering or otherwise, who should be making $80-90k/year and you're offering much less than that amount, you're going to have to supplement that discrepancy with equity.

Rob G

October 3rd, 2013

Treat them no differntly than tech. Compensate based on the value they bring to the table based on stage of growth. At early stages in which u r working thru customer/market validation, value proposition, pricing, distribution strategy, messaging, company voice/values, financial models (expenses, head count, marketing, dev, operations, revenue projections, etc.), sales srategy, pitching..... u may find that there is greater value in a heavy hitter sales, marketing, biz dev or exec mgt. than dev. This often changes based on the  stage u r at. 

Rob G

October 3rd, 2013

Helen, while over used there's a reason we often hear the dating analogy in reference to early team building.  If u treat the process literally as though u were planning to get married that will serve u well. Keep your BS radar tuned.  equity should only be given on a vesting schedule or if restriced stock grants then  with claw backs.  Building your early team is VERY DIFFICULT.  trust but verify. 

Anonymous

October 3rd, 2013

I did a dating period at my last start up with an employee. In that case I paid him for his work for the first two months with the understanding that it'd transition to unpaid equity at the end of the trial period. During that period I paid him slightly below (~20%) market rate, largely to make sure that he really wanted in. The relationship didn't work out, but nobody left feeling cheated.

Helen Adeosun

October 3rd, 2013

Jeremy and Rob,

You do bring up a very good points. I am trying to consider scale at first and prioritize the talent needed to get to the first milestones without burning through cash or equity. I think I would consider the two on a part time basis, but more importantly I have no problem sharing equity for amazing and thoughtful team mates. Have you both in your startups had a team member dating period before offering anything like salary/equity? Was that mostly as contractor work?

Thanks!
Helen Adeosun

Mark Piekny Engineer, Consultant & Entrepreneur

October 4th, 2013

I very much agree with Rob and Jeremy.   Good input.

Yaya Mbaoua

October 7th, 2013

Each person brings a distinct value based on their area of expertise. But be sure not to look at it as one size fits all. Think about it, it's easy to gauge the value of tech by simply looking at tangible development outputs. Non-techies bring valuable strategic and insights that can make or break your startup - without them, the efforts of tech can render obsolete. That has to be somehow quantified in terms of equity compensation ... at your discretion.