Food and beverage · Cofounder

Best Strategy for Find a Technical Cofounder

Annie

October 31st, 2013

I recently came up with a great idea that can be done manually without any software/design expertise. However, to scale this it will need to become an online platform, which I'm hoping to do sooner than later so I can take to investors.

In the past I have been told to pick cofounders who share your interests and have a specific skill set. My first cofounder is a biz/fundraising profession, I'm biz/sales/marketing and I think the next person should be a techie. 

My question is, does it make more sense to have my co-founder be completely passionate about the industry we are tackling or would someone who is just interested suffice? Does anyone have a contact with food + techies? 

Bill Snapper Owner Principal at SammyCO, LLC

October 31st, 2013

It all depends if you see this technical co-founder as someone starting by building out the initial product and being able to lead its growth / development long term. If you're looking to build out the first version and you have it well scoped / specified then a good, interested technical person will suffice.  Long term however, in my opinion, you need a technical leader that is not only capable of architecting, designing, building, mentoring, and leading but one that is passionate about what you're doing.

Personally, as a technical co-founder, I don't even go past the initial discussion with someone if I'm not 100% passionate about the idea as I know I'll lose interest.  That's just me.  Others may feel differently.

Michael

October 31st, 2013

Bill I agree with your point as well, and to be honest have been down that road early on as well. It's very easy for a "pure" techie to get burnt out without the passion there, mainly because a lot of it is mundane task and efforts. There is not a lot of glamour being the only tech-founder as your left connecting and translating all the ideas to fruition. This is also where I re-emphasize the need for a well rounded person so they don't get boxed in and burn out quick. I think this can probably be said for any role in a startup. That being said if there is no desire, passion of any sort or at least the desire too then yes you will be creating a roadblock for your cofounders and yourself quick ;)

Austin Cornelio Co-Founder & Frontend Engineering Consultant

October 31st, 2013

I'd agree with all previous comments. My experience (and I'm also a technical co-founder) is that one of the biggest hurdles you will most likely face is keeping them engaged, motivated and continually producing quality work.

Obviously if you're paying them this is less of a problem, but the thing with a lot of engineers is, if they are good they have lots of options in what they work on. You might be able to snag a quality engineer and keep them in for a few months, but building a product is no walk in the park. Something new comes up for them you could loose them easily if you can't consistently keep them engaged.

So yes. I do think it's important to find people that are into the space but also find people that are into you and the team. There is nothing worse then working with someone whom you don't jive with on a personal level especially in a startup environment.

Lastly, I would say your next hurdle will be vetting them from a technical standpoint. You said you and your co-founder are non tech people. It's going to be really important that you get a product out that does not need to be rebuilt in six months. It surly won't have everything it needs out of the gate but if it can be built upon easily once you start getting feedback this will be key.

I'd say you should find a bunch of people and take your time to make a decision, maybe build out a feature or work on a "test" project for a 4-8 weeks while you're at it crank up the stress levels a bit and see how they react. You'll thank yourself in the long run.

Good luck!

Bill Snapper Owner Principal at SammyCO, LLC

October 31st, 2013

I also agree that there has to be team synergy.  That's a tough one but VERY important.

Make sure you see them engaged early on too.  Set down your expectations, goals, and make sure your technical person understands the expectations.

I had one experience with a business co-founder.  He interviewed well, was sharp, talked a great game and knew the space.  Once we started working it was all negative comments without any suggestion for how they'd like to see it.  I never had a problem with someone challenging me but I expect them to have some alternate suggestions and be willing to work.  Thankfully I set "homework assignments" early on and this person never delivered.  I cut them loose after 6 weeks and it was tough and the best thing I'd ever done.

Randal Burrier Product Development Executive

October 31st, 2013

Maybe this thread is the best strategy. I am a techie with significant food industry experience. Perhaps we should talk? -Randal

Detrick DeBurr

October 31st, 2013

Passion is important... but considering your situation, I'd look to bring on a technical co-founder as a "GRUNT" (a temporary person paid via equity) (www.slicingpie.com) 

If the relationship is long term great, but if either of you find that its not working out.. you have a healthy/fair way of separating. 

Plan the divorce while you're in love...

Eric Lai Product manager / S/W Engineer / Online Commerce

October 31st, 2013

Ideally, being passionate about the industry or having experience in the industry definitely helps. It helps when they know the intricacies of building for a certain audience and also the difficulties of acquiring customers in a specific space.

I may know some people in the food+tech space, shoot me a message so I can find out more about what you're looking for.

Michael

October 31st, 2013

That's subjective to the person your working with to be honest. If your looking for someone that's niched in and hyper focused on just tech only then that would be an employee in my opinion. Me personally when potential co founders reach out to me wanting just a coder, or security guy or networking whatever it may be a reference the above statement. Same goes for vertical as well as I personally get more of a drive out of not knowing it very well. It removes unsaid boundaries, rules that may be drawn invisibly just from being on that space so long. A good tech cofounder should be passionate about knowledge and doing the impossible regardless of vertical, baring any moral obstructions of course. Others may have more insight, this is from my perspective.

Shahab Layeghi Software Professional

October 31st, 2013

I'd say you can find someone who's generally interested in the idea and could become passionate later!  Best way to get someone interested is to show it in action and demonstrate the potential and customer interest.  Try to start manually, and as a next step do it with the simplest possible site/app, you'll be in a better position to attract the tech co-founders then.

Michael Barnathan

October 31st, 2013

As others have said, passion is pretty important because good technical people generally have tons of options today, and will continue to be bombarded with them even while they're working with/for you. If engagement is lost, they'll probably jump ship when something better comes along. And even if they hold out, eventually something's going to come along that's too good to resist (when people started realizing that I wouldn't take any employment offer, then they started offering me acquisition deals...). At that point, success is the best factor in retention.

Team fit is pretty important too. I can't speak for everybody, but I sometimes want to scream when the nontechnical people on a team try to manage a technical project. Or when they ask me to code something up on a tight deadline and then start blasting me with text messages and calls because they don't understand how flow works. You'll have to learn how to communicate with them as well to keep technical people productive and engaged.