Guide To Attracting Engineering Talent To Your Hardware Startup

Zachariah Peterson
|  Created: April 8, 2023  |  Updated: June 28, 2023
Guide To Attracting Engineering Talent To Your Hardware Startup

Startup companies at different stages need the right talent to build real products and take them to market. Startups often start as just a handful of people who are bootstrapping their way to success. But after receiving funding and completing a successful proof of concept, it’s time to transition from prototype to product, and that takes a team of talented engineers.

When it is time to scale your team and bring your product to market, you’ll need to attract the right engineering talent to help build a real product that is reliable and manufacturable. This guide for startups will detail some of the major considerations involved in selecting a PCB designer that can lead in product development and enable a successful go-to-market strategy.

What To Expect When Hiring a Hardware Designer

Switching jobs from an established company and into a startup carries a lot of risk for PCB designers. Tenure with a large company often comes with a lot of job security and good pay, as well as autonomy and ability to lead on an established line of products. Startups need to address these points from multiple angles in order to attract talent and retain them over a long timeframe.

The Financial Side

The financial aspects of joining a startup can vary depending on the capabilities of founders, the amount of funding available, and whether a proof-of-concept has been developed. Typically there are two paths forward based on whether a startup has been sufficiently funded.

As a co-founder - Not all engineers are prepared to join at pre-seed or pre-Series A; the pay is often low and there is a lot of risk that the company will fail, leaving the engineer without a job. This is one reason getting a hardware engineer involved very early in the life of a company can be difficult unless they are given equity and options, as well as some salary guarantees upon completion of successive funding rounds. If successful, this can be very lucrative for a hardware designer, and it is a point that engineers should consider when starting or joining a startup.

Post-funding - At this point a hardware engineering team will start to develop to support a transition to production and a go-to-market strategy. As more funding is received, a startup can afford to be more competitive with a more diverse mix of salary, equity, options, and fringe benefits. Hardware engineers will more seriously consider joining your startup at this point because compensation can be more competitive and there is less risk.

Opportunities to Lead

Many companies will start scaling with a small number of engineers supported by a single PCB designer. As the sole SME for a hardware product, the PCB designer should be given opportunities to lead and grow into a managerial position within the organization. Compensation outlined above should reflect this. As the company scales from prototype to product, the PCB designer’s role will also evolve:

Early stages

Tasks involved include:

  • Front-end engineering
  • Qualification and details of testing
  • Completion of PCB layouts with an eye towards DFM
  • Collaboration with prototype manufacturers

Scaling to production

Tasks involved include:

  • Optimizing a design for high-volume manufacturing
  • Making critical sourcing decisions in collaboration with a contract manufacturer
  • Coordinating with other developers (mechanical/firmware/software)


Tasks involved include:

  • Monitor new products for quality issues
  • Make quick sourcing and design modification decisions
  • Support other teams with technical information regarding product capabilities and user experience


Tasks involved include:

  • Creation of variants as supply chain evolves
  • Support existing product with design changes for future revisions
  • Align new products across teams with organizational roadmap


Clearly, there is plenty of opportunity for a skilled designer to lead and drive product development as an organization scales. If a designer gets involved early enough, they will have an opportunity to become one of the most important members of the organization because they will have these chances to lead all aspects of product development. This means job security, financial benefits, and a chance to build a supportive team.

Remote, In-Person, or Hybrid?

Some engineering jobs can be performed remotely just as well as in-person, so it might make sense to offer a remote option. This has also become a serious consideration among job-seekers in the post-COVID era. Offering remote or hybrid options for engineering and PCB design talent can be a compelling option for anyone interested in working at a hardware startup. 

Offering a remote option has an additional benefit that is not always considered: it gives you access to a broader range of talent beyond the designers in your local area. With the workforce crunch in the ranks of PCB designers coming on the horizon, talent is only going to be more difficult to find. Structuring your startup with a remote capability helps you access this critical talent base, which in some cases may be the only talent capability that can successfully build your product.

Innovative companies that want access to the broadest talent base and collaboration features are now using Altium Designer® on the Altium 365™ platform. This powerful EDA and collaboration platform helps startups and large enterprises manage their workflows, design data, components, and manufacturing data as they build new products and scale them into volume production.

We have only scratched the surface of what’s possible with Altium Designer on Altium 365. Start your free trial of Altium Designer + Altium 365 today.

About Author

About Author

Zachariah Peterson has an extensive technical background in academia and industry. He currently provides research, design, and marketing services to companies in the electronics industry. Prior to working in the PCB industry, he taught at Portland State University and conducted research on random laser theory, materials, and stability. His background in scientific research spans topics in nanoparticle lasers, electronic and optoelectronic semiconductor devices, environmental sensors, and stochastics. His work has been published in over a dozen peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings, and he has written 2500+ technical articles on PCB design for a number of companies. He is a member of IEEE Photonics Society, IEEE Electronics Packaging Society, American Physical Society, and the Printed Circuit Engineering Association (PCEA). He previously served as a voting member on the INCITS Quantum Computing Technical Advisory Committee working on technical standards for quantum electronics, and he currently serves on the IEEE P3186 Working Group focused on Port Interface Representing Photonic Signals Using SPICE-class Circuit Simulators.

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