Build Bazaars not Burj Khalifas
Today’s world is hyperconnected. This is a remarkable difference when you compare with the world that it was just a decade ago. All the key constituents of the commerce system — businesses, vendors/suppliers, customers, logistics are technology enabled. New connections can be created or existing connections enhanced and great value can be unlocked.
Unless you are creating new RDBMS or discovering a new drug, you are not building Burj Khalifa. Instead your company is in the business of building a Bazaar. The equivalent example of Burj Khalifa in the tech startup world: Search engine or Operating system or Social Network. And your company is definitely not building any of those.
Hire Amazing people, not necessarily Amazing programmers
Once you have identified that you are building a Bazaar as opposed to discovering a drug, the consequences are important to consider. The team composition needs to reflect this. To give you a contrast from civil engineering: if you are building the tallest skyscraper in the world, you need world class structural engineers and plenty of scientists in various disciplines. However, if you are building a B2B marketplace that connects buyers & sellers or an RFID based vehicle tracking system, you don’t need 10x programmers to do so. Most amazingly smart people that I have come across, deeply desire great challenges. If you hire a team comprising of such talent, then you may end up with a two storey Bazaar that has 100 meter foundation (meant for Sky Scrapers).
Awesomeness is not measured by skill, but by overall personality. Find people who are humble, resourceful, creative and above all have a knack to work better in a team setup. It is possible to accomplish great many things with people who are committed to the cause & possess enough level of skill to accomplish what you have set out to: building a Bazaar.
Think Moneyball, it has been demonstrated time & again. A closer example to home is the World XI cricket team. They always manage to lose!
Value determination more than intellect
In my experience, Intellect hasn’t been very difficult to find. Heck, you can even rent it from Upwork. But determination (combined with sufficient level of intellect) is extremely hard to find. When hiring people, test for their determination & the resolve to solving problems, rather than the database of algorithms accumulated in their brain. Intellect is only a sufficient condition but determination is a necessary skill. The day to day problems of a startup don’t require great intelligence for solving. For example, you are not doing any of these on a daily basis:
1. writing formal proof proving database design is indeed in 3rd normal form & optimises the storage requirements even when inserting multiple billions of data points or
2. patching the Linux kernel for a critical upgrade to improve storage block read time by 2 nanoseconds.
Those are requirements for building Burj Khalifa. Instead you will be doing some of these:
1. Implement a new variation of the checkout flow
2. When customers signup for your service, integrate with SendGrid along with five other attributes, so that you may do better segmentation
In summary, determination is a necessary skill and intelligence is a sufficient skill. Now, go build your Bazaar!