I have an idea and I need a software engineer with the ability to take things forward, my thoughts at the moment are that having a CoFounder would bet better than buying in services.... however I don't really know what to look for? Are there any qualifications I should specifically be looking for? or is experience a better indicator?
As a software engineer, I have some insights that may help.
1. Software development skills are fairly platform specific. Developing for apps is different than for websites, or desktop, or embedded/IoT. You probably want somebody who has done at least a few apps, preferably on both iOS and Android, but also has exposure at least to website, desktop, and maybe enterprise development.
2. In general, I'm not a big fan of "years of experience" in looking for software talent. In my opinion, breadth of experience tends to be a better predictor of technical expertise. One recent study found that for most people, technical skills stop improving after 5 years of experience. This is why I think it is probably more useful to look for signs of intentional skills development; specifically experience with more platforms, languages, or technologies than is typical ~ especially the very unusual. In my experience, the learning of a new area almost always brings new perspectives and techniques to the old areas.
3. There are 3 foundational skills for any kind of software development: Analysis (problem decomposition), Design (system composition) and Implementation (coding). Very few people are strong in all three, nor do they need to be. Most developers have strong implementation skills. Remarkably few have solid analysis skills -- though this does tend to get stronger in QA and test roles. The design skill tends to develop with implementation experience, but this doesn't happen for everybody. Code without good design will result in unreliable software. Analysis helps uncover better ways to do things, as well as problems and unmet needs. Design and implementation are critical to get you off the ground, and analysis will help you evolve later. Seeking a developer with 5+ years who has also spent a year or two on the QA or BA side of things may improve your odds of getting a strong balance.
4. Since you are looking for a co-founder or key person, this person will most likely take on the role of CTO. As such, you should be looking for a person who has at least the foundations of the the people skills and business comprehension to grow into that executive role.
This could be a much longer conversation, but I think it covers the fundamentals.
To give you context for my answer, let me start by saying that I've been on both sides of this table, am an engineer who can sell, and brought several products to market.
At your stage (idea only) you need a co-founder who can get as passionate about the project as you are. Build-it-and-they-will-buy doesn't have a great track record in tech! So, IMO, you need to find someone whom you can trust and work with. That's the most important thing. The rest will take care of itself.
Specifically, I wouldn't get hung up on school pedigree, experience, or "hacker speak!" You need to understand that whatever you two build, will eventually be replaced and that's a GOOD thing, since it means the idea is getting traction. If you look at all the top-tier companies (Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Uber), you'd be hard pressed to find any traces of the original code.
At this stage, you want to build an MVP and show that the idea will fly. Who cares if that MVP is built in PHP, Ruby, or Cobol - for those going "wtf is Cobol?," it's an ancient programming language from the 80s!
Focus on finding someone who shares your vision and passion. Everything else can be learned, taught, bought, bartered, stolen, or faked!
Been there several times on both sides of this issue. I've also helped several entrepreneurs find their startup teams. PM me if you want to chat.
I've seen both ways working at many cases and also seen failures in either cases. Startup tech-team building is definitely a critical task for a founder, or the cofounder who is a technologists. PM me if you would like me to share my experience!
Hi Rob, I suggest you should consider the person experience which is related to your technical requirement. Most importantly you need to check whether he is interested in founding a company and developing your idea.