The LATAM Startup Dev


Every tech startup faces the same age old problem: hiring tech talent is hard. Really hard. The question of where to find good developers in LATAM always comes up. But it’s not just about where. First, you need to know what you should be looking for.

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April 30th, 2024
3 min read

Many people wonder where they can find good LATAM developers. But what actually makes someone a good developer?

Every good developer, from LATAM or anywhere else, should have:

  • Strong fundamentals
  • Deep knowledge of at least one language
  • Ability to learn new things constantly
  • Good communication skills

These are table stakes for being a good developer in any company. Meaningful years of experience tap into each of these things and build upon them.

However, being a good developer doesn’t mean being a good fit for every situation. 

Early-stage startups tend to have several features in common:

  • They’re unstructured and downright messy
  • They’re constantly experimenting and pivoting
  • They’re not stable and they’re full of uncertainty

A LATAM developer at an early-stage startup needs to be able to contribute in this environment, not just despite it.

Before you begin searching for your next nearshore developer in Latin America, keep these things in mind.

Look for generalists, not specialists.

Few startups need highly specialized developers early on. There is so much to do between getting the architecture set up, building out the codebase, researching libraries, leveraging APIs, and deploying features that it’s all hands on deck.

Don't hire brilliant jerks.

Who wants to work with a jerk? In an early-stage startup, a know-it-all can kill the team dynamic and overshadow other opinions. The bitter truth is that no one really knows what they’re doing early on at a startup. No one knows if the business is going to make it. If the path were spelled out, most startups wouldn’t fail.

Look for devs with sensitivity around the business

There is a constant tug of war between velocity and tech debt. The startup is under pressure to deliver from investors, early users, and competitors. The goal isn’t a perfect codebase. Even experienced developers love to solve technical problems, but they need to be aware that the tech serves the business and not the other way around.

Find people who balance making assumptions vs verifying

Not everything is going to be spelled out crystal clear, so it’s important developers figure out where they can make decisions that aren’t business critical vs waiting to validate every detail. 

Emphasize explicit communication

A startup dev should be communicating… constantly. Making an assumption? Say so. Any blockers? Say so. Behind on a deliverable? Say so. Concerns about a task? Say so. Devs can’t wait to be asked. On a small team, everyone needs to be communicating back and forth.

Seek ownership and initiative

Devs can’t sit around and just wait to be told what to do. They should propose new tickets, tell people if they have more bandwidth, and look for ways to help others get their stuff done.

Consider going down rabbit holes vs raising hands for help

Everyone has a ton on their plate, so being resourceful and self-reliant are key. But devs need to be self-aware and confident enough to ask for help when something is taking too long.

Be aware of ambiguity and flexibility

Early-stage startups aren’t going to have a full dev team with UX/UI, PM, and QA. Devs need to stay cool and push forward often with loosely defined requirements and few tests.

Prioritize developers with experience working at a startup

This is a catch-all litmus test for this entire list. You can find people with no startup experience who fit all of the criteria I outline, but if they’ve been there before there is a better chance that they have a fighting chance and know what’s in store for them.

All of these things make finding a good dev for an early-stage startup hard. Finding someone offshore or nearshore where cultural differences come into play is even harder. But the only worse thing than not finding someone is hiring the wrong person.

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By Jeremy Stryer