Finding cofounders · Web Development

Am I stupid to hold out for a local and compatible technical co-founder?

Mark Angle

July 21st, 2015

I have been working on a side project centered around activities and experiences off and on for quite some time now.  Throughout the time I have searched for the right person to work with to make the technical aspects come to life.  What I keep finding is that few good coders are into travel/tourism, even less are in the Detroit area, and the ones that I have found have not been a good fit.  I am now at the point where I am ready to make this happen no matter what it takes, but I am nervous to work with someone remotely that may need specific designs and not be able to collaborate with me like could be done in person in front of a white board.

Should I just suck it up and pay someone to move forward?

Alexandre Archambault Lawyer at ROBIC, entrepreneur

July 21st, 2015

Hey Mark, I've been there. Don't do it. Don't pay. Keep looking to find a good coder who will help you build your MVP. The single most important task you will encounter is building a team. And the more you push that task back, the less easy it will become. I've outsourced the development of my V1 and would not do that same mistake again. By definition, code needs maintenance it becomes unuseable very quickly if you don't have anyone on your team to maintain. Plus, outsourcing your MVP and then having someone else maintain the code creates other problems. Honestly, take a little more time to find the right person to have on board - it's very tempting to outsource and get it done but you'll regret it. Good luck, Alex

Karen Leventhal

July 21st, 2015

I turned over many rocks to find co founder and eventually took an alternative route of assembling a rock star technical advisory board made up of other start up founders and CTOs, and we found a really cost effective solution to pay for an MVP. From my perspective, as a founder, the goal is not to find a co founder, it's to get your product out and get traction. Whatever it takes. If that's through a co founder, fantastic. If not, that's okay too. I hear a lot of text book wisdom about a start up should happen. I have met very few start ups who have actually followed the conventional route of finding a local cofounder, building an mvp on sweat equity alone, getting a healthy seed round from outside investors, then getting a series a. And the few who did, found other problems, like having their co founder relationships implode and take down the company. If you're really an entrepreneur, you have to be resourceful, it's not about the having to do step a, then step b, it's about getting to the end outcome, in a way that is best for the health of the company and the vision, and being creative in how  you do it. You may eventually need a cofounder etc. You may need to do all those conventional steps, but you may not need to do them in the exact order that is proscribed.  My two cents. 

L. Marshall-Smith

July 21st, 2015

Do you have your MVP built? Once you can get your MVP up and working, starting to acquire customers/users, you suddenly become a lot more attractive to possible technical co-founders, as they can see your resourcefulness and product validation in the form of a user base. There are a few ways to do this. Use an open source platform like Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal with all of their many add ons to build a very minimal working version of your site (MVP). Or, you can learn to code yourself. Some non-tech founders go this route. Check into such ventures as codecademy.com for interactive online classes in coding. Or, yes, you can hire someone to build your MVP. Many non-tech founders go this route. There are also some CTO's who are available for hire by the hour, who can manage any outsourced programmers you hire to build the MVP. Just some ideas. Best of luck.

Diego Fiorentin

July 22nd, 2015

Hi Mark,

I am also a Tech founder.
I live in Uruguay, 8,000 miles away from the states, but on the same time zone.

Regardless of the distance, I am able to work side by side, with my partners in NYC and CA. 
Thats is not a problem.

However, you can always take a plane to do a week of intensive planning/executing of the project. 


Thats what you should aim for.
Someone has availability, is a tech fit. But also is willing to flight to your city (or the other way around) to meet and kick off the project. 

Once the project has enough traction, you can settle an office on the most convenient place (which may or may not be were you are located) 

Is better to have a good partner engaged 10,000 miles away, rather than having the wrong partner sitting next to you

my 2 cents,

cheers

Dan Oblinger Founder at AnalyticsFire

July 22nd, 2015

Its not me, it you.

> . . .  working on a side project centered around activities and experiences off and on for quite some time now.

Here is the thing.  I am a technical founder, and all kinds of red flags are going off here.
There are a 1000 non-technical founders in waiting, all that have a big idea, with no traction, and no execution.  You need to pull yourself out of that group if you ever want to get someone worth working with, to want to work with you.

The technical founder knows what they can and cannot build, what they do not know is that if they build what you propose, will it work.  I know you are convinced it will, and perhaps you believe that your cofounder should believe in it to.

but I disagree.  The value you bring to the relationship is an idea which has some vetting in the market place.  depending on your idea, this could be done with little or sometimes even no coding.

So get that done!  And note, there are usually *so* many ways to test an idea, by doing something related w little coding needed.  do this anyway you can... it does not need to be done w. your co-founder.  it can be done w. someone remote, if you are paying from your pocket, I would recommend finding a random polish dev...  there are fewer trickers there, and the quality/price is still pretty good.

the prototype will not impress your tech co-founder, but your market traction will -- and that is mostly the only thing that will impress them.

final point:  it is very hard to really move the ball, when you are doing something as a side project.
Still jumping in full time when it is not proven can be painful.  the solution is to do the things that prove jumping in full time is a smart thing, and then do it.  Get a mentor who has exited a company, and read Steven Blank if you have not yet.

Cheers, 
dan



Find a way to build an MVP and start selling. Traction builds your credibility with potential co-founders.

Kathy Keating Techie that loves solving wicked problems

July 23rd, 2015

Many great answers here already. 

First: I would encourage you to look for a strong technologist first, and industry experience second.  The best technology leaders have likely worked in several industries and have learned how to adapt to new industries and business models rapidly.  You mention "travel/tourism".  If your target audience is consumers, then consider any technology leader that has delivered consumer-facing technology.

Second: Examine how you're seeking your technology leader to determine if it's effective.  It's highly likely that the best technology leaders are already in roles and are not necessarily actively seeking out positions themselves.  The best technology leaders are probably not going to be found at meetups or cofounder pairing events.  Strengthen your network into the areas where these strong leaders do participate, build an advisory team who can recommend technologists to you.

I've never seen co-location as a requirement in any of the joint ventures I've undertaken. It's way more important to find the synergy and go from there.

David Ward Founder & CEO, Telegraph Hill Software

July 21st, 2015

Mark, 

Stay patient and keep looking.  A pre-existing trust relationship is crucial.

L. Marshall-Smith

July 21st, 2015

I totally agree with those here who say get your MVP to market. If you have an idea and even wait 6 months to execute on it, you're dragging your feet and could lose your spot in the marketplace. Once your MVP is up and running and gaining some traction, it will be that much easier to attract a CTO.

Logan Kleier

July 21st, 2015

I agree with Karen's points above. 

In my opinion, getting to market is more important than waiting to find a local, technical co-founder. Find a way to build an MVP and start selling. Traction builds your credibility with potential co-founders. If you have to hire contractors to build an MVP, do it. Worry about a sustainable code base later. You'll probably have to rewrite your V1 code anyway. 

Barry Bhangoo Associate at thpii.com

July 22nd, 2015

Good chemistry with a co-founder is important, you will probably spend more time the next few years with him/her than your spouse/partner. Give it time to find the right person. Use the virtual world, do not limit yourself to your circle, just like dating in the modern world, if you want exposure you have to brave to venture out. Like people suggested, question if you really need a co-founder? Try to contract someone maybe with some money and the rest stock to get to know them before you offer them to be a co-founder. 

Too many ventures/ideas do not take off because prospective founders keep waiting for the right team, time ... If you feel the passion, the pull inside, just do it, it will work out, co-founder or not.
Best of luck.