Okay, so you have an idea for a new company, and you just know that Facebook for cats is the next billion dollar idea. The only issue is that you have no idea how to code. You heard from your aunt that you have a cousin that lives in Mississippi who works for some tech company, but besides that you have no idea who to turn to. So how do you find the elusive technical cofounder you need to help you launch your business?
I get approached all the time by “idea people” who have a billion dollar idea they would like to work with me on. They tell me that they have the hardest part (the idea) all figured out, now all they need is a code monkey to slam out their platform for them in a couple of hours for them. This is also the part where they casually mention that they also do not have money right now, but they would love to buy me a case of beer or give me 2% equity. “How generous this smart entrepreneur is to cut me into their obviously well thought out idea!” I think to myself, before accepting their unbeatable offer, pressing three buttons on my laptop and launching their platform on to the world wide web, where I go on to make millions of dollars and retire in Hawaii.
Now, of course this never happens, and it’s crazy that I get approached by people on such a regular basis who appear to think this is how launching a tech company actually works. No joke, these are real CraigsList ads I have run into in the wild.
Now, do not get me wrong, I love hearing people’s ideas for businesses, and I want to be approached by people considering starting a business. But, if you want me to help you launch your business you should know somethings first. Here are my tips on how to find a technical co-founder.
Get Out And Start Meeting People
First things first, how the heck to find these nerds? I would suggest networking. Most of my successful partnerships have grown from meeting people IRL. And there are some great places that you can go to start rubbing elbows with potential technical co-founders. One of the best events I have been too for meeting co-founders is at Startup Weekend. They run in most major cities at least once a year and it attracts some really intelligent entrepreneurs, including technical co-founders. If you want to know more about Startup Weekend, check out my blog post here.
I would also recommend checking out local Meetups. Look for a Meetup around you about Entrepreneurialism or learning how to code. These are a gold mine for finding like mind people. Lastly, you cold check out other organizations like Code For America, they regularly host civic hackathons that need both technical and non technical types. The point is, you have to get out and starting looking for people.
Okay, so now you’ve met someone who you think might be a good fit for your business, how do you convince them to join you and help you launch your business?
Sell Your Value
What makes you different from the other entrepreneurs? What are you bringing to the table, besides you idea, that will help us launch the business? Do you have a sales background and have a ton of contacts? Do you work in marketing and you already have a plan for our product to get huge market reach? Have you launched a business before and have already learned some hard lessons about starting a business? Basically, I want to know what you will be doing, while I sit at home every weekend for the next couple of weeks working on your business platform. I want to work with someone who is willing and able to fully invest themselves into helping launch their business. If you seem washy about your commitment and value, I’m probably going to pass and work with someone else.
Prove Your Idea
Joel Gascoigne, CEO of Buffer, did something awesome before he built out the Buffer platform. First, he built a simple, non-working, landing page for Buffer. He blasted his network announcing his new product and collected email address of people who would be interested in signing up for his service. When people went to the site to sign up, they got a message that said, “Sorry, our platform isn’t quite finished yet. If you want to know when Buffer will be launched, enter your email address below.” He collected hundreds of email addresses from interested potential users and he used this information to market test his ideas, and to show interest in his idea with potential business partners and investors. After he had a team, and could show interest in his product, he started building out the platform, and the rest is history.
Show Me The Money
Equity in a future company is great, but I think offering equity without an immediate monetary payment for services is really disrespectful to a developer. Equity only transactions may work in some cases, but to get my attention, it helps to have some money available. Also, if an entrepreneur comes to me ready to put his money where his mouth is, it really shows me that they sincerely believe in their idea and are willing to put in the time, sweat, and of course money, to launch a startup.
Some Miscellaneous Tips:
Don’t Hire a kid straight out of college to build your site for you, if you want to bring something valuable to the marketplace, you are going to need more than a $50 static HTML page that some kid from State College, that you found on Craigslist. Software and Web Development is a trade that takes years to learn and if you want to produce a product of value, find someone that is capable of producing something great.
Relatedly, while I think everyone should learn a little bit about how software works (especially founders of tech companies), I think it’s generally a bad idea to learn how to code in order to build out your first company. Attempting to build out a platform with no prior experience is probably a bad idea. I look back on my early tech projects and I would be terrified if I had to scale a business based those platforms. It would be a serious mess.
One last thing, I have noticed that many people believe that finding a technical cofounder will solve all of their company’s issues. Let me tell you that a technical cofounder will not fix all your problems. In my personal experience, if a company is struggling the issue most likely runs deeper than their website. Also, a technical cofounder is likely to bring up a thousand new issues that will need to be addressed.
If you have some tips for entrepreneurs trying to find a technical cofounder, let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!