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Trevor-Indrek Lasn

How To Hire a Developer for Your Startup's MVP (Coming from a Developer)


Nov 28, 2023

Hey there, future startup superstar.

Ready to turn your idea into a reality but feeling a bit stumped about where to begin with building your first MVP?

You're not alone. The journey from idea to product can be thrilling, but let's be honest, it can also be a bit daunting, especially when it comes to finding the right developer to bring your vision to life.

But fear not! I've got you covered with this guide to hiring a developer for your first MVP.

For context, I've worked at multiple startups as a coder myself. I've also built a couple startups from scratch.

1. Understanding What You Need

Before you dive into the vast sea of developers, it's crucial to anchor yourself with a clear understanding of your needs.

Building an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is an art of balance – it's about creating something simple yet powerful enough to captivate and solve a real problem. Let’s break it down:

Identifying Core Features

  • Simplicity is Key: Remember, your MVP isn’t your final product. It’s the bare-bones version that demonstrates the most vital function of your idea. Think of it as the skeleton of your future full-fledged product.
  • Focus on Value: List down every feature you imagine your product having, and then start trimming. Ask, “Does this feature directly contribute to solving the core problem?” If not, it’s probably not essential for your MVP.
  • Feedback Loop: Consider features that allow you to collect user feedback. This data is gold; it helps you understand what works and what doesn’t, guiding your future iterations.

Understanding Your Target Audience

  • Create User Personas: Who are you building this for? Sketch out the ideal users of your product. What are their needs, habits, and pain points? This exercise helps in making your product more user-centric.
  • Market Research: Dive into some research. Understand the demographic and psychographic characteristics of your potential users. This knowledge will not only refine your product but also guide your marketing strategies later on.

Defining the Problem You’re Solving

  • Clarity on the Problem: Can you articulate the problem your product solves in a simple sentence? If not, you might need to refine your concept. A clear problem statement guides every decision you make.
  • Validating the Problem: Is this a real problem for your target users? Sometimes what we perceive as a problem might not be significant for others. Validate your assumptions through surveys, interviews, or market research.

Effectively Communicating Your Vision

  • Create a Vision Document: This doesn’t have to be a novel. A concise document that outlines your idea, the problem, your solution (the MVP), and the target audience can work wonders in aligning your thoughts and presenting them to potential developers.
  • Use Visual Aids: Sometimes, words aren’t enough. Simple wireframes or mockups can help developers grasp your vision more effectively. You don’t need fancy tools; paper sketches or basic mockup tools will do.

Attracting the Right Talent

  • Speak Their Language: When you understand your requirements deeply, you can communicate more effectively with developers. This clarity helps in attracting developers who resonate with your vision and are capable of bringing it to life.
  • Setting Realistic Expectations: Being clear about what you need helps in setting realistic timelines and budgets, which are crucial in maintaining a healthy working relationship with your developer.

By thoroughly understanding what you need, you not only set a solid foundation for your MVP but also increase your chances of finding a developer who's just as passionate about your project as you are.

Remember, clarity at this stage can save tons of time, money, and headaches down the line.

2. Finding the Right Developer

Now that you know what you need, let's talk about where to find your MVP-building superhero:

  • Freelance Platforms: Websites like Lebohire, Upwork, Freelancer, and Toptal are great places to start. They're packed with talented devs looking for exciting projects.
  • Networking Events: Hit up local startup meetups, tech conferences, or hackathons. Sometimes the best connections happen over a cup of coffee or a casual chat.
  • Referrals: Ask within your network. Personal recommendations can lead to trustworthy and proven talent.

3. Validating Developer Competency for Non-Technical Co-founders

If you're a non-technical co-founder, assessing the technical skills of a developer might seem like navigating through uncharted waters. Here are some strategies to help you validate their competency:

  • Look for a Track Record: Experience can speak volumes. Review their portfolio and past projects. Have they worked on similar projects or technologies? Don’t just look for completed projects; try to understand the challenges they faced and how they overcame them.
  • Seek Technical Assistance: If you have a friend or acquaintance with technical expertise, bring them on board for the interviewing process. They can help in assessing the technical proficiency of the candidates.
  • Check References: Reach out to their past clients or employers. This can give you insights into their work ethic, problem-solving abilities, and reliability. Ask specific questions like “How did they handle tight deadlines?” or “Can you give an example of a technical problem they solved?”
  • Set a Small Test Project: If feasible, hire them for a small project or a portion of the MVP first. This approach lets you evaluate their skills in a real-world scenario without committing to a long-term engagement.
  • Use Technical Interviewing Platforms: There are platforms and services that offer technical interviewing. They can conduct technical assessments on your behalf and give you a detailed analysis of the candidate's skills.
  • Ask About Their Development Process: Understanding their approach to building software can be revealing. Ask them how they plan, how they handle bugs, and how they ensure the quality of the code. Their answers can give you a glimpse into their level of expertise and professionalism.
  • Evaluate Communication Skills: A good developer should be able to explain technical concepts in a way that's understandable to a non-technical person. This skill is crucial for effective collaboration and problem-solving.
  • Assess Problem-Solving Skills: Technical skills are important, but so is the ability to think critically and solve problems. Pose hypothetical problems or past challenges your business has faced and ask how they would approach them.

By implementing these strategies, you can better assess a developer's technical skills and fit for your project, even if you don't have a technical background yourself.

4. The Interview Process

Interviewing developers is more than just checking if they can code. It's about finding someone who shares your vision and fits your startup culture.

  • Technical Skills: Sure, they need to know their stuff. But don't get too hung up on specific technologies. Focus on problem-solving abilities and adaptability.
  • Communication: They should be able to explain technical things in a way that makes sense to you. Remember, it's a partnership, not a lecture series.
  • Passion and Vision: Are they excited about your idea? Do they offer suggestions? You want someone invested in your project, not just clocking in hours.

5. Budgeting and Pricing

Talking money can be awkward, but it's crucial. Be upfront about your budget. Remember, you get what you pay for. A cheap developer might cost you more in the long run if the quality isn't there.

  • Fixed Price vs. Hourly: Decide what works best for your project. Fixed price can be great for well-defined projects, while hourly might work better for evolving ones.
  • Equity Options: If you're tight on cash, consider offering equity. But be cautious; equity is a precious commodity.

6. Managing the Development Process

Once you’ve got your developer on board, it’s time to manage the process.

  • Regular Check-ins: Schedule weekly or bi-weekly meetings. Stay updated, but don’t micromanage.
  • Be Open to Feedback: Developers can offer valuable insights. Be open to suggestions and ready to pivot if needed.
  • Test and Iterate: Launch a basic version, gather feedback, and improve. MVP is all about learning and evolving.


Hiring a developer for your first MVP is a mix of science and art. It's about finding that perfect blend of skill, passion, and vision.

Remember, the right developer is more than a coder; they're your partner in this exciting journey of bringing your idea to life.

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