Startup Secret 50: Wait for the right one

Hiring in a rush is never a good idea--unless you're really desperate. But be prepared to pay for it.

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Rafe Needleman
2 min read

"Hiring a compromise is a false economy."

--Jon Reynolds, CEO, SwiftKey

Hiring is a CEO's most important job, especially in the earliest days of a company. Jon Reynolds, founder of SwiftKey, has the story of not doing this the right way and having to pay to to fix the mess it made. It worked out for the best, but he thinks it proves the rule.

As with many startups, in the early days Swiftkey had a good demo but the product wasn't ready to back it up. In December 2009, with Mobile World Congress approaching and without the right engineers on staff, Jon was getting desperate to find a coder to build his product, which was a smart replacement keyboard for Android.

The right resume was just not showing up, and Jon couldn't hold out any longer. With the full understanding that "the top engineer is 10 times more productive than a good middle engineer," he had to settle for a fall-back solution: He outsourced the development instead of hiring his own developer.

The contractor got the job done. The MWC demo worked, and it was a turning point for the company.

"But for the next 18 months we were never able to sort out the issues." The code just wasn't robust enough, Jon told me. A full rewrite, with a fully new team, led to the creation of a better but largely duplicative product, which became known as SwiftKey X.

Going to the wrong developer "was right," Jon says. "But there were consequences." Scrapping the code and starting over was not cheap.

Which brings us to another tip from Jon: "You can't be too proud of what you are doing." Like, he says, living according to rigid rules. Even the very good ones.

Startup Secrets is based on personal interviews with people building companies, and from their blog posts and news stories. Subscribe to Startup Secrets on Twitter or come back to Rafe's Radar every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a new one. See all the Startup Secrets.