Another excellent article by Chris Dixon, about a topic that is important to pretty much every startup, no matter what your definition of the word.
Chris's key points can be summarised as:
- Understand what motivates programmers (beyond a certain point, it's not money)
- Respect programming as the creative activity it is
- Be proactive about building contacts with great programmers
- Use various cues for screening and filtering down candidates, like open source contributions, code tests, and trial projects
- You'll need a track record of treating programmers well to be able to attract great programmers who have many other options
- Don't try to beat Google on perks, you can't
- Don't under-grant equity to early programmers who join you before you've achieved traction - they are late cofounders, not early hires
Great points. I'll add that one of the things that can really help with telling great programmers apart from not-so-great ones is, in fact, to have a great programmer on your team already. It takes one to know one.