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It is essential to have a proficient team working on your project to make it successful. However, hiring developers becomes challenging when it comes to startups. The limited time and financial resources make the recruitment process more complex compared to large companies. If you’re curious to know how to hire developers for a startup, keep reading! We’ll discuss the winning strategies and provide some tips.

What can affect the success of a tech startup more than a development team? Probably nothing, because hiring qualified developers inevitably leads to a tuned work, a quality resulting product, and a high speed of delivery. All the mentioned factors are pivotal, so it’s essential to find specialists who will share your vision of the product and be ready to contribute to developing a startup’s idea.

Business owners often decide to form the idea and develop a detailed plan at first and only then proceed to hire programmers for a startup. However, it is essential to have startup developers in your team from the very beginning. Let’s see why. It is simple. Even at the very beginning, when the founders only start shaping their idea, they need someone who envisions all the technical details of the new endeavor.

It isn’t necessary to build a fully-fledged crew at once. Just the team’s core that includes one or two technical people on board is enough for starters. Commonly, startups begin with hiring one specific developer called CTO, which stands for Chief Technology Officer. It is the person who evaluates the technical requirements of the tech product. Later on, the CTO decides what technologies are needed to fulfill the requirements on a high level. It forms an initial idea of what the technology stack will be.

Knowing the technology stack is the key to hiring a programmer for a startup. It defines the number of developers that should work on a project and their qualifications. Secondly, a defined tech stack helps create job postings that help to hire developers for new startups. 

Once the technologies have been outlined and approved by the CTO, it is enough for a startup to do some pitching and fundraising. 

The last step is hiring a development team to work on the application daily. And here appear some challenges like high competition and the lack of qualified programmers. In the article, we’ll discuss how you can bypass these difficulties and finally hire developers for a startup.

List of The Content


Founders often find it challenging to hire developers for new startups because of the high demand for qualified programmers. Startups have to compete with large, well-established companies, and both sides need the best devs.

It’s complicated to stand such a competition because, in most cases, developers would choose a more prominent company over a startup. After all, it seems like a more stable option that provides enough room for growth. While hiring programmers for a startup, you have to compete with the companies like Meta, Tesla, Uber, Microsoft, Oracle, etc. Of course, startups often appear very prospective and promising, but not everyone can know it from the start. That’s why startups need to suggest something unique to beat the competition.

Apart from the lack of specialists, startups often face the problem of budget insufficiency. In this case, involving the investors may help. However, a product owner should understand the technology potential, approximate development cost, timeline, versioning, and main milestones at the beginning of the project.

challenges in hiring developers for startups

How to estimate all details of the project?

Using mobile app development as an example, we’ve described the development in detail. This article will help you understand how the project’s cost is calculated, how the milestones are defined, etc.

Mobile app development: read the article

Even when a business owner has already come up with a great idea, successfully pitched it, and secured the funding, the challenge still lies in finding programmers for a startup. So, today, we will give some tips for hiring a software developer at a startup to form a team that will wrap up the vision into a functional product, support it, and scale it up in the long run.


When it comes to hiring developers for a startup, it requires a detailed plan that displays what exactly you’re going to do from the moment you decide to start a project to signing a contract with a hired developer. The absence of a strategy often leads to a significant waste of time and budget. So, let’s see what things you need to do before you start looking for a developer.

steps before you hire developers for a startup

Define The Details About Your Project

First off, you need to gain as much information about your future product as possible. So, questions like “What does my product supposed to offer to people?” or “What are the main features of the product?” should be easy to answer.

A shaped idea isn’t the only thing you should figure out. Are you planning to build a mobile app or a web app? Or maybe both? In the case of a mobile solution, what approach will you choose: hybrid or native? What technologies do you think are the most suitable for your goals?

How to choose from all these options?

Check out our article about hybrid and native mobile applications. We’ve covered the topics of their advantages and disadvantages, differences and similarities, and the most suitable technologies for each type.

Differences between a native app and a hybrid app

You should be sure about the value of your product. How will it be helpful to the users? Define the core features of your app. It will help you understand what skills you’re searching for.

Are you building an app for yourself and don’t have strict deadlines? Or you’re obliged to complete the project by a particular date? If your timeframes are strict, it gets more complicated because recruitment is a lengthy process, and you need to do everything as fast as possible.

The next thing you need to understand is what your budget is. It will help to look for developers with specific rates. Many web platforms that help with recruitment provide a wide range of programmers with hourly rates of $10-$170, depending on the skills, world region, and other factors.

Analyze The Market

It’s necessary to remember that no matter what your idea is, there probably already are solutions like this. They may lack some features and provide something unique at the same time. So, forming a list of similar solutions can help you better understand who you’re creating an app for, what value it provides, and its features. While discovering other similar apps, you can extend the list of the functionality and, thus, suggest an exciting and competitive solution to your potential customers.

A clear understanding of the product’s idea helps look for developers only with the necessary skills and knowledge. During the market analysis, you can find some advanced features that you might also need to implement in your apps, such as AI and ML. Then, you’ll know that just a web developer may not have enough expertise to create an AI component. You’ll most likely need someone with experience in artificial intelligence development and machine learning.

What technologies are required to build AI components?

Python, C++, Java, LISP, and Prolog are among the most popular languages for creating artificial intelligence elements. In the article, you’ll find a detailed description of each of them.

AI programming: 5 most popular languages

Choose The Collaboration Model And The SDLC Approach

The last step you need to take before you hire developers for a startup is choosing the employment model and the development approach. By this point, you should clearly understand the business needs of the project and now need to be more specific about the technical aspects.

The software development world is quite diverse in terms of collaboration models. There are so many options that it’s rather challenging to choose one.

For example, a project-based model will suit small projects with strictly defined requirements. Though, flexibility isn’t a strong side of this approach. In addition, a project-based model is good when a client has an established project management team on their side, which is quite rare for startups.

If you’re a startup, it’s most likely that the PM team isn’t already formed. In this case, the dedicated team model would be most appropriate. The PM and BA manage a dedicated development team on the software provider’s side.

If you already have at least a small in-house team, the augmented team would be a great option. You’ll get the developers with the skills you lack in your group.

The SDLC model, which stands for Software Development Life Cycle, also depends on the project’s type, size, estimated timeframes, and budget. For example, a waterfall model is suitable for relatively small projects with detailed documentation. Waterfall works well if there’s a slight chance a developer will need to change something. On the other hand, Agile is perfect for lengthy projects where the requirements are constantly evolving and new ones appear. So, you should think through all these details before choosing the approach you want to apply to the project.

Want to know more about SDLC models?

In the article, you’ll find a detailed explanation of Agile, Waterfall, V-shaped, Iterative, and Spiral software development life cycle models. By knowing the pros and cons of each, it is easier to choose the most suitable one.

SDLC models explained

As you can see, there are many options for employment models. You should choose one depending on the size of your project, the existing team members, etc. Let’s find out more about the employment options in the next paragraph.


As we’ve already mentioned, the world of software application development has a wide variety of collaboration models and work approaches. There are so many options of employment models so that everyone can choose what fits exactly their project. The most popular choices are:

  • In-house development team
  • Dedicated team
  • Freelancers

When people hire developers for a startup, freelance often becomes the first candidate because of relatively low development rates and high flexibility. However, other options also have their advantages and disadvantages.

You should figure out whether you’re ready to deliver a part of the development or the whole process to an external team. If not, an in-house team is the only option. So, you’ll need to go through a lengthy recruitment process before you form a good team for the project. However, when you hire developers for a startup, doing everything on your own may not be a winning option. It’s challenging to gather an in-house team when you have a tiny budget and limited timeframes. Meanwhile, hiring a dedicated team or a freelancer can provide more time and high flexibility.

employment models to hire developers for a startup

Let’s look at each employment model and see its pros and cons.

Hire The In-House Team

When one decides how and where to hire developers for a startup, the most obvious option that comes to mind is to gather a whole in-house team. However, if you drill into this model, you’ll see that it has both advantages and disadvantages and it may not be suitable for you.

The undeniable strength of an in-house team is their commitment to the product and its success. In-house developers, designers, project managers, and product managers tend to be more engaged.

Of course, the team’s devotion to the project is defined by personal characteristics, not the employment model. However, the chances that the team would be more dedicated to the project is much higher in the case of an in-house development rather than freelance or dedicated development. Moreover, loyalty and professionalism aren’t something that appears out of nowhere. Those qualities of a startup development team result from a direct effort of the HR department.

As for the other aspects, we can say that the absence of external access to the project is quite advantageous. In the case of outsourcing or hiring freelance developers for a startup, you have to share a lot of the company’s information, including servers, portals, and other things you’re working on. It’s not a noticeable problem, and it rarely leads to unexpected consequences, but some people may be very conscientious about keeping all the internal information highly confidential.

Seamless collaboration is among the advantages of an in-house team as well. Of course, regardless of the employment model, both sides try to make communication between team members practical and comfortable. However, when all devs are available at any moment, it’s much easier to collaborate with them and deliver quality results.

The advantages of an in-house team are significant, but there are some even more significant disadvantages. The high cost is the major problem. A good team isn’t made out of one or two people. IT requires at least four developers and some management specialists, like a project manager or a business analyst. You should also consider that if you’re not fully remote, you will need to add some expenses on organizing the office space, licenses, some perks for the employees, etc. Considering that startups often have restricted budgets, the in-house team option isn’t always available regardless of its advantages.

Another thing related to budget is that a business owner has to pay the employees regularly regardless of whether they have the task to do or not. It works differently in terms of freelancers, for example. When you have a job for freelance specialists, you pay for the time they spend on the task, and all the other time, they can do whatever they want, including other jobs. However, you’re obliged to pay monthly wages to the in-house team even if there are no tasks your employees can work on.

So, you should decide whether advantages or disadvantages are more important to you and whether you’re ready to spend extra time and money to get long-term commitment and devotion to your product from the in-house team.

Dedicated Team Model

The next option you may like when you’re planning to hire developers for a new startup is a dedicated team model. Let’s clear the definition first. So, a dedicated team is not an extension of a client’s existing team, but it is a separate unit with the management on the service provider’s side.

When one decides to hire developers for a new business, a dedicated team is a trendy option because it is less expensive than an in-house team. It is still flexible enough to lead to quality results.

The significant upside of this model is that the management happens on the provider’s side, so the client doesn’t have to worry about any technical issues, which is quite beneficial if a business owner isn’t an IT specialist himself.

dedicated team's structure

In addition, you have high flexibility in terms of budget and timeframes compared to a fixed-price model, for example. With a dedicated team, you can change the requirements on the go, and the developers will always be there to implement them.

Concerning the topic of budget, we should mention that a dedicated team model implies that you may hire specialists from any location in the world. It may noticeably reduce the price. For example, the prices in the US are pretty high, as well as the quality. However, in Eastern European countries, you can find the same high quality but for a lower price. The most popular destinations are Romania, Poland, Ukraine, etc.

Another thing is that dedicated developers usually have extensive experience in different areas, so, with their skills and knowledge, you can count on the fast time to market and a high-quality resulting product.

As for the weaknesses of this model, we wouldn’t say that it has some significant ones. However, a dedicated development approach is not the best fit for small and short-term projects with strictly defined requirements. In such a case, it’s worth looking into some other options. However, if your task is going to last long enough and include requirements that may change, a dedicated team is an excellent option to hire developers for a startup.

Want to know some tips on hiring a dedicated development team?

In the article, we’ve discussed the reasons to hire dedicated developers for startups, and provided a step-by-step guide. Read to find out more.

How to hire a dedicated development team?

Hire Freelancers

When you try to answer the question of “How to find a developer for your startup?” freelance is among the first things that come to mind. Freelancers are people who are not dedicated to any particular company. They work for themselves and take orders from different people and organizations. The model that freelancers use is to form their profile and post it on various freelance platforms so that the potential clients may choose the best candidate for them. When it is done, both sides negotiate the rates and timeframes and then decide on the collaboration.

The freelance model has some upsides as well as downsides. So, it’s essential to highlight your priorities. Is it saving the budget? Or is it having a high level of control over your team? So, let’s quickly check freelancers’ pros and cons.

First off, cost. The development rates of freelancers are pretty low compared to other employment models. However, the lower the cost – the lower the quality of delivered services. Still, you can always find developers with relatively low rates reasoned by little experience.

Secondly, freelancers are not a perfect option for lengthy projects. Short-term commitment is usual in the freelance culture, but working with one employer for a long time isn’t expected. So, if you plan to hire a freelancer for a startup, be aware that when the software is built and comes to support, there is a slight chance that it will still be that specialist who started the development. So, considering this, freelancers may be a good fit, but for small projects.

Do you know where to find programmers for a startup? We’ve already mentioned that business owners use particular platforms to contact freelancers. So, let’s see what resources you may find helpful if you decide to hire developers for a startup.

top 3 freelance platforms


Upwork is the first platform that comes to mind when one tries to find a developer for a startup. Usually, each freelance platform focuses on a narrow range of specialties. Upwork, in turn, is quite open to any kind of professional. On Upwork, you can find software developers, designers, business analysts, marketers, etc.

One of the most significant advantages of this website is secure payments. Upwork implements a system that keeps the collaboration with freelancers confidential and secure. Meanwhile, the service fee of Upwork is relatively high. So, sometimes people refuse to use it just because of the subscription price. However, the high service fee is justified by the credible clients, a wide range of budget-based projects, and user verification.


Fiverr has a vast community of users with almost 4 million freelancers and customers. This platform is mainly focused on web development and marketing. What is exceptionally interesting about Fiverr is that it allows freelancers to create lists of their services and set prices for them. Then, business owners who want to find a developer for a startup can just scroll through the listings and find the most appropriate candidates to fit their requirements. Fiverr has relatively high commission charges, but it is not such a significant downside considering all the platform’s advantages.


Toptal is somehow similar to Upwork in terms of freelancers’ specialties. At Toptal, you can find web designers, business consultants, software developers, etc. Toptal has a significant advantage for those who want to hire developers for a startup. Startups often need people who will be dedicated to the common goal and will have the eagerness to work on the project for a long time. In this case, Toptal is a perfect fit because it mainly deals with long-term projects. In addition, Toptal provides external services for time tracking and invoicing.


As we’ve already mentioned, sometimes it is rather challenging to hire developers for a startup. Because startups often have restricted timeframes and budgets, it’s essential to know what they can offer to the employees to win the competition with the other, more prominent companies. Let’s discuss some tips for hiring a software developer at a startup with that in mind.

tips to hire developers for a startup

Be sure about your business idea and goals. It sounds too simple, but knowing what particular skills you need to get from a developer and what requirements you need to achieve is necessary.

Test the real-life scenarios. When it comes to the interview, candidates often describe their knowledge without going into much detail. However, it may not be sufficient to decide whether a particular person is the right fit. The approach that may be more advantageous is familiarizing a candidate with a real-life situation and asking him for some solutions. It will help you assess a person’s problem-solving skills and understand whether you share his views on the situation.

Remember that a personality is as important as a skill set. Suppose you want to hire a developer for a startup, and you need a strictly defined range of skills. Considering how difficult it may be to find startup programmers, you may want to reconsider your requirements and focus more on your personality. Technology changes quickly, but a person’s problem-solving and soft skills mostly remain the same. So, while hiring a programmer for a startup, pay attention to personal traits and technical skills.

Be clear about your expectations. Yes, it is difficult to hire developers for startups, but it is necessary to be honest about the expectations and working environment. You don’t have to promise mountains of gold to your candidates. If you can’t offer huge wages, don’t lie about it. Instead, you can promise great career opportunities when the startup scales up and develops. Do you want a developer to be available all day? Let them know about it. Will it be necessary to work overtime sometimes? Be clear about it. This approach may seem to lead to the opposite of “success.” However, lies will bring negative results when the candidate finds out about the actual situation. So, it’s better to spend some more time and find a person ready to contribute to your startup’s success.


The main challenge in hiring programmers for a startup is that startups are often forward-looking. So, you need to search for programmers with a similar mindset and who are willing to dedicate themselves to brand development from scratch. Finding such people may be difficult, but as soon as you have them on board, you can be sure that each of them is involved in the process at their maximum. It is challenging to hire developers for a startup as you can see. However, the process will be seamless with the right approach and will bear fruit shortly.

Have some additional questions or ideas?

Don’t hesitate to talk to our specialist at any time. The team of Existek has extensive experience in implementing various employment models. Feel free to drop us a message in the dialogue box on the right side of the screen or via the contact page and we’ll answer you as soon as possible.

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Frequently asked questions

How many developers do I need to hire for a startup?

The more complicated and diverse functionality you need, the bigger the team should be. Startups rarely begin with something overcomplicated. So, the frontend and backend devs or a full-stack developer would be enough for starters. However, having a UI/UX designer and a PM on your team would be great.

Where can I hire software developers for a startup?

There are many options of where you can hire developers for a startup. Most often, startups choose one of three options: dedicated developers, in-house teams, and freelance devs. If you're opting for freelancers, pay attention to such platforms as Upwork, Fiverr, and Toptal.

How much does it cost to hire a software developer for a startup?

Software developers usually work on an hourly basis. Development rates, in turn, heavily depend on the world region, so it's difficult to name the average number. However, in Europe, you can expect a salary of $30-60 hourly. So, you can calculate the expenditures on your team considering how many developers will be involved.

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