All Insights

How to hire employees for a startup – Pre Seed to Series A

Our guide and top tips for hiring in the early stages of scale. What does the typical landscape look like? How to nail your hiring plan?
Hiring process,   Scaling up,   Talent Strategy

How to hire:

Pre Seed – Series A


What does the typical landscape look like at this stage of scale?


  1. A handful of exceptional founders.
  2. The first wave of hires will often be, ex colleagues, friends from academia or referrals. (friends of a friend)


This early group are super committed, and they buy in totally to the founders and the mission. Because of this they are also often willing to sacrifice salary and wider package.

The problem is that the network of these crazy individuals runs out fast!

And when it does you need to invest in your hiring capability and employer brand to compete in the real world for top talent.

There will often be one person having to look after all hiring as well as all other operational aspects of the business. This individual often may not be experienced in hiring at scale or have the capacity to set up a business function from scratch to attract, hire, onboard and retain a world-class team at scale.


Early steps to success:


1) Build your Employer Brand & Employee Value Proposition (EVP)


The good news… this doesn’t have to cost the earth it can be bootstrapped.

In short think objectively… “Why the hell would someone want to come and work for you vs joining one of the of 1000’s of great companies out there?”

EVP is the foundation everything is built on. Not only in hiring but also in retention and daily motivation of the team. There needs to be a greater purpose and energy in your EVP that keeps people aligned and motivated to the mission every day.


Top Tip

This messaging and narrative won’t sit too far away from why people have given you funding. So put a spin on that messaging and tailor it to your employees rather than VC’s.


What is needed

A careers website, job descriptions, candidate pack, interview questions, interview sales pitch, onboarding, performance reviews, town halls. (any and all internal messaging this needs the EVP to consistently play through)


2) Hiring Plan


The lack of clarity and detail in scale plans is always surprising. Because the scale journey is littered with so many unknowns this can often lead to a lack of detail up front on the hiring plan. Don’t make that mistake.

The starting point of a plan often looks like an excel spreadsheet with the below detail which isn’t enough detail to execute against successfully:

  • Roles: We need 15 of these, 10 of these and 3 of these.
  • Date to start: ASAP
  • Salary: We will pay market rate and but here is a rough guess on salary


When building a new product would you let the manufacturing/ R&D team get away with saying….?

  • I think I’m going to need 5 screws, 10 bolts, 6 wheels
  • The price will be what it will be
  • It will be ready ASAP


Top Tip

Build a plan with detail. Everything will be executed from this plan so if you want a team to execute a successful scale up give them the detail upfront. You will want to consider trigger points for when talent is brought in. Underpinned by financial modelling &/or product milestones.


What is needed

Details on roles, volumes, hiring managers, salaries, benefits, bonus, shares, visa support, date to start hiring, target date to land in the business.

(if you don’t have accurate information to complete that detail using a specialist partner or having someone knowledgeable in house could plug these in a matter of days)


3) Extreme headhunting capability


The first 20 hires for a scale-up are normally pretty easy. They are often friends, friends of friends, family, ex-colleagues, old buddies from school, old professors. They are normally pretty cheap to hire, fearlessly loyal and totally buy into the founders and the missions.

However, the immediate network of these people runs out fast.

Guess what, the next 20 will be much harder to find and will cost more money. They will expect to be paid market rate, get strong benefits, be supported, trained and nurtured. They will be much more demanding and the amount of time and effort needed to actually find these people will be much harder. That’s if you can convince them to join you and not another cool company round the corner.


Top Tip

Don’t underestimate how hard it is to attract top talent and don’t expect them to just apply to a job ad on your website! Use mapped trigger points and start proactively sourcing and engaging talent in good time.


What is needed

At this stage you will have to start spending money to get access to talent.



  1. You will need to work with recruitment agencies.
  2. Build your own internal talent team.
  3. Use an awesome embedded talent consultancy like Bond!


(P.S we are also typically 50% cheaper than using recruitment agencies as well)

Early stage partners we’ve Embedded with


Check out our case studies working with Brilliant Planet, Origen and Hedera founded team SwirldsLabs.



Brilliant Planet

“We reached out to Bond with a specific opportunity: we needed to increase our UK headcount from 12 to 50 and the clock had started ticking. We could have developed an in-house talent function but this would have required 3-4 months depending on notice periods, using one quarter of our available time. The two embedded talent partners integrated seamlessly into our team and it’s easy to forget that Bond is behind the scenes (in the best possible way!). If you’re on a mission and you need results yesterday I would highly recommend Bond.”


Adam Taylor




Swirlds Labs


“I’ve gained an appreciation for the expertise and foresight Bond brings to the recruitment process.

I’ve been grateful for the continued support the Bond team has provided in both sourcing candidates and filtering applicants. The Bond team also brings useful perception of the overall hiring process to increase the chances of finding great new hires. Bond has definitely made my job as a hiring manager easier.”


Nana, Software engineer






Origen are on a mission to scale up the production of zero-carbon lime. Origen’s ZerCaL™ technology enables a pathway to suck over a trillion tonnes of CO2 emissions directly from the atmosphere. Of course, they need to scale up the team too, which is where Bond has stepped in.

Our consultancy model in an engineering start-up has laid the foundations for growth. Heads of R&D and Engineering with a very specific technical background and the ability to inspire others are hard to come by.

Using our headhunting capability, we have sourced the pillar hires for Origen. Cultural fit is imperative for Origen at this stage. We have created the standard operating procedure, and process to hire the next wave into 2023.

We’ve been there, scaled it across BioTech, DeepTech and CleanTech.