It’s intensely difficult to hire great people in the early days of a startup. There is substantial risk and so much to be proven.
The most common challenge is that large companies can offer significantly larger salaries and equity that has little downside valuation risk (either because company is stable and/or they are granting RSUs)
So a common thing I hear from founders when discussing recruiting is: “How can I hire when big company xyz is offering so much?”
The answer: those candidates aren’t the ones you are looking for at this stage.
There is no way you are going to win a price war. Those candidates are looking for less risk (and less upside). It’s not a judgement thing but it is most certainly a fit thing.
The people you want to hire is a lot about a) belief in what you building and your culture in addition to b) timing in their own personal lives. You have a lot to do with the first part and very little to do with the second part.
The best way to recruit is to build a fantastic culture and pay attention to the why behind your company.
The other method I like a lot is to hire from your early community of users. Those early users are supporting your company with their most precious thing: their time. So if the chemistry is great, bring them on your team. Their heart is in the right place and you will need that to survive the invariable bumps along the way.
So don’t get too down if the person you were trying to hire takes a job at 2x the salary at Google. They weren’t your person anyway.