How to Build a Startup Team That Aims Beyond the Finish Line

By November 4, 2014 One Comment

Our startup story doesn’t begin at a folding table in my mom’s garage, with pals slamming energy drinks and coding under flickering fluorescents.

KualiCo launched with the combined talent of our founding team and an amazing, experienced group of folks who joined us from rSmart. When you’re starting a new company, you worry about all of the things: space, financing, customers, product, quality, process. But nothing matters more than people.

If you want to build an enduring business, you need a startup team that aims beyond the finish line and outlasts the caffeine and Nerf war days. We’re up to 25 employees now and hiring a couple of people a month. As we continue to grow our team, we are looking for candidates who demonstrate the key character traits we value.


I’ve found that individual curiosity is a crucial trait for team success. The best recruits exhibit curiosity from the moment you first connect. When you ask them a question, they hit you with three of their own. They want to know how stuff works, who does what, and what opportunities they’ll have to learn new things. At Microsoft, we used to ask brain teaser questions in our interviews. They were effectively IQ tests, but they only tested a certain type of intelligence. We don’t do those and neither does Google. Curiosity > Intelligence.

Embrace the curious.


Startup employees are all running simultaneously and you need team members who can keep pace by taking ownership. There isn’t time to get approval for every decision. We’re focused on delivering outcomes, not micromanaging processes.

 Seek candidates who own their actions. 


Each team member must align with your mission and values. KualiCo has no plans to IPO or sell the company. Because of that, we attract a different kind of talent than a startup aiming for a fast exit. The hottest talent in your industry won’t lead you to success, if they’re running in a different race.

Invest in people who align with your mission.


Amazing software development requires continuous collaboration and cooperation. Every team member must pull his or her own weight, while maintaining awareness of colleagues. An awesome recruit inspires the team and generates collaborative energy.

 Listen for stories of successful collaborative experiences.


The whole team has to comprehend, ‘It’s not about you.’ The best developers can be ten times as productive as the rest, but they can also exhaust everyone around them by relentlessly insisting they’re always right.

Build a team that values feedback and enthusiastically shares credit for success.

Aim beyond the finish line. Great people matter most so don’t settle for less. If you happen to make a bad hire, like the friend of a buddy who refuses to rinse out Red Bull cans and causes a major ant infestation, find someone who is a better fit and move on. Hire the right team, and when it comes time to worry about all the other things, you might discover they’ve already fallen into place.

What character traits do you value most in your team members? How do you uncover these traits during the hiring process? We’d love to learn from you. Feel free to leave a comment or link to your own post about building an amazing team. For a great example, check out this post on Good Software Developers, by Drew Olson.

Author Joel Dehlin

More posts by Joel Dehlin

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Chanston says:

    Great post! It really aligns with the message of our startup. We want to help people connect and share ideas in order to build their startup teams. We will definitely be coming back for more information.