While at first I bristled a bit at the idea of “founding employees”, I’ve come around to thinking giving them this extra title is sometimes a great idea.
Single digit hires are special, and the first 1–2 are super special. Letting 1 or 2 be “founding employees” or “founding engineer” or “founding salesleader” costs you relatively little. Potentially some drama down the road, but relatively little.
And shows them the respect for the crazy risks they took.