If you're talking specifically about attracting technology talent, the environment is a very important factor, probably more than money or options--and I am not talking about a ping-pong table or free beer. The best engineering talent tend to be attracted to two main things at a start-up:
- the presence of other good engineers to work with, and
- the company is using the latest exciting technology to tackle a challenging technical problem.
If a company doesn't have these things going for it already, it is going to find it very difficult to attract top-shelf engineers.
It is a bit of a chicken and egg problem, I'll grant you. You need that first one or two passionate developers to start to build the kernel of the team. If you yourself are not technical, then you will not be able to attract tech talent until you have a solid, dedicated founder-level technology person on board who can focus on building the team. I have seen a few non-technical co-founders attract that first developer simply with the promise that they can choose the technology and build the team. There is a smaller subset of engineers that have leadership qualities and can be attracted to that proposal. But, do make sure this first engineer has leadership experience in their past.