This post is addressed to owners&co-founders who already solved a similar problem.
I’m a newbie in this website but I have successful experience in offline (!) business for years. At the moment I’m looking for a co-founder from tech area, with fullstack skills. I would love to find a person who:
2) motivated to create an excellent IT product;
3) share the same values in a project.
And I’m a little bit shocked how it is different to search a co-founder for an offline business and for an online business. I already met with several good and highly skilled professionals from IT, discussed with them an opportunity to join to my project, and I continue doing it on this website.
1) I met with people who have been recommend to me by my colleagues, plus I already communicated with a few persons from this website. All of them have the same approach: “I don’t like to be co-founder, just give me money for developing”.
2) Despite the fact that two persons agreed to consider a co-founder role in the project they weren't motivated to be an entrepreneur at all.
3) All of tech guys (who I met) have attitude like “a lot of entrepreneurs are looking for a guy like me and I can rummage in projects”.
4) I even couldn’t reach the stage in negotiations - “share the same values”.
I have a quite different picture in offline business: it was easy to find co-founders and they’ve been motivated to build a good company and earn money.
My two questions are:
What I’m doing wrong or it’s normal situation in tech?
Could you share your experience with us, how you found your co-founder from tech?
I'm a tech entrepreneur who is also a full stack engineer and I've done a few startups with good exits where I've either been the CEO or CTO. I also participate in the startup ecosystem as a mentor/advisor, and am part of a private network of 800 CTOs where we discuss CTO issues. Things to be aware of are:
1. 90% of people do not want to be a cofounder. This applies to both business and tech cofounders. They don't want to deal with the risks, responsibilities or uncertainty. If you come across a person like this, move on.
2. Lazy/entitled/incompetent founder. Over the years, I've gone to lots of meetups and meet founders who are trying to convince me to join them. When I talk to them about themselves, it's clear they just want to order other people around (which is ok for a mature company but not a startup). In a startup, you have to get your hands dirty right down to making the coffee if you have to. No task should ever be below you. I don't mind if you are inexperienced either as long as you are willing to constantly learn and improve.
3. Lack of research/domain knowledge. Once you've come up with the idea, how much work have you done on it. I like to see you become passionate about the problem you are solving (and I don't want to see you being passionate about yourself because that points to an ego problem). Talk to many potential customers to see what the value is to them and that value better be a high monetary amount.
4. Control freak. You should make sure you are looking for a true co-owner who has an equal say in the business. This is probably the one where a lot of founders fail. I have to admit that in my first startup, I was all controlling and learnt a harsh lesson. I then got rid of my controlling urges for my second startup and did really well. I knew I had to learn to let go.
5. Greedy founder. The tasks early on in a startup are easy compared to what comes later so the equity split should reflect that. In my current startup, I was a solo founder for two years before I brought on the other two cofounders. During that time, I wrote all the software and filed a number of patents. When the cofounders joined, they got 30% each and I got 40%. The work I'd done on the product was only worth 10% extra. That's because the work the three of us are going to do over the next 4-6 years is so much harder.
Some founders I've met say they should keep 80% just because they came up with the idea and haven't even done any customer validation. I usually tell them they are deluded. The phrase "Ideas are worthless, execution is everything" is so true. I find academics are the worst at this; they have no clue how hard it is to make a startup successful.
In summary, you'll see that the actual idea doesn't matter that much. Are you a person I'll want to spend the next 5-10 years with who will treat me as a true partner.
Hello Victor! I don't have too much experience looking for co-founders, but when I tried it I found similar issues. Most of people don't want to invest time without a clear goal, and if the company requires full time dedication not many developers would do it, at least not for free. Keep in mind that developers can have a high salary, with good conditions, so you have to offer them not only a good project and the option to earn a lot of money if the company success, you should treat them as an investor, give him a business plan, information about investors...
I'm a tech guy who have a software company, so I kind of have some experience from both sides, get people on the team and being one of them.
That said, I would strongly suggest you to take Hugh Proctor answer, print and put on the wall, because this guy said everything you need to know. Technical guys are logical, if you wanna their attention be logical, they don't fall to marketing people who just like to speak. They just want to know that you did your homework, and you are willing to put more working hours than them on the project.
There is also something else. Not every technical guy want's to be an entrepreneur, some people just want to be told what to do, nothing wrong with that. We need both.
I believe the problem lies in:
1) The way you are approaching them. Instead of constantly pushing your own agenda forward why don't you ask questions and learn what motivates them to be a developer or an architect? Then use their strengths to support your project.
2) The number of people you spoke to. You said people were referred to you? That is probably the worst way you can find a cofounder. Instead of relying on your own network (which obviously is very limited when it comes to tech people) go to tech meetups and conferences meet with as many of them, learn who they are, help them if you can, build a relationship with them and then you can see if they are a good fit or not.
3) The value of your solution/product/software sucks. For example I personally have a good number of ideas to build apps and technologies that I've researched and came across in my 20+ years of experience in IT world. I know hundreds of people in technology/software development/systems design and integration, but…. to attract and retain those people you need something that relates to them, something that they see purpose in, something that correlates with their personality and interests... not just your grandiose plan! In other words find tech people who believe in your idea and then pitch them to become a cofounder.
Well, in my opinion it depends on how you explain your vision to the tech co founders. I am a tech guy and always motivated to build products which I think those have potential in the market.
I think this is a normal situation, whereas some of tech guys are looking for quick return of their investment in coding
You know how many CEO type Cofounder wannabe's have contacted me to be their 'Co-founder', I honestly get sick of it and here is where you're going wrong.
1st - I would argue the fact that you aren't a 'Good or Highly Skilled Professional Tech CEO' or Tech Entrepreneur... so if you're looking for a complementary individual who matches your skill level, then you're looking at a junior.
So, how do you attract the best candidate? well, by being better at what you will have to do as CEO than they will as CTO.
2nd following from point one, as 'CEO' of your startup what have you actually done to date? I certainly hope that you have much more than an 'idea'.
You should already have, a sketch idea of:
> what problem your trying to solve,
> who's your target market,
> how do you contact your target market
> what attracts your target market
> have registrations or some commitment from your target market that they confirm that they'd be happy to pay for your service
> have confirmation that they aren't already using a similar or better service already (you can't sell a car to person who already owns a car)
Then you need to have a clear and well written Business Proposal based upon your sketchy ideas.
Then, have you done your Logo, Branding, Colour Palette, Pitch Deck, Tri-fold leaflet, Business Card design, 10 page Product Deep dive, Website design and build.
Have you worked out how much you'll spend a month, done the financial forecast to include, Domain name registration, Website Hosting, Server Costs, Laptop purchases, Software package purchasing, Travel expenses, Wage forecast, cost of hiring predictions, accountant fees, incorporation fees, tax, legal expense calculations, etc.?
I'm thinking you're going to already have responded no, and given some excuse to why not... don't procrastinate and get on and do it.
Then, once you've done all this and worked out that there is a demand for your service + easy access to willing paying demanding customers + zero competition + a financial forecast incorporating all the actual costs (not stating 'I've got my own laptop, or I'll work from home but stating the actual cost of an office, 2-5 desks) and the actual revenues and that the revenues will for certain out weigh the costs after 1 year.
Then, and only then, should you bother to sit down and do a detailed map of your proposed Software product, detailing, in clear and bullet pointed English, What's going to happen, when, where and what outcomes.
You need to do wireframe sketches, UI designs, colour boards, UX user flows, architectural diagrams, data diagrams, specifying web or mobile or both.
A project plan, and a tech diagram of the technologies needed (including are you going to use AWS or Azure, etc. and who will pay for these server costs)
So... are you there yet?
If you are and you can get funding through your extensive network of millionaire's who feel the pains that your solution will solve, and you can afford the legal fees to get a contract signed for £200k funding.
At this point, you should ask a Co-Founder Tech guy to start building the app, because he'll immediately have to invest his personal time, energy and experience plus the cost of his investment to get to his level of experience earning £70k a year. You then start paying him, £70k a year.
If you ask anyone on here 'how they did it'... no one on here has done it.
If they have done it, like Zuccenburg or Musk, they're highly unlikely to respond to your question. The rest of us, usually it comes down to... We don't have the network of millionaires.
Moral of the story...
Make sure you've done your job before getting someone else to quit their job and invest in your 'idea'
@Fernando said it best and first in a simple way. You aren't finding co-founders because there's no reason you NEED a co-founder. You understand how to run a business. While you might lack technical skill, there's a huge difference between a founder and an employee. And it would appear all you need is an employee. It really has nothing to do with online versus offline channel.
Founder does NOT mean first employee(s). Founder means visionary, idea-maker, specifically motivated, etc. with a full life-stake in the outcome. The inability to pay someone a salary does not mean you should offer them founder status. It means you should get the money to pay them appropriately. The idea that anyone should offer equity just because they are underfunded is largely a mistake. The correct solution in that situation is to figure out how to accumulate funds, not try to trade sweat for stock.
The most common reason for someone to reject being your business partner is going to be that you're asking them to assume too much risk. The second is that they're not interested in the level of responsibility that comes with ownership.
Right now the job market is strong. There is a lack of desperation that would cause people to take on more risks than when the job market is difficult.
I read thru your observation, which is very accurate.
To answer your queries / give the other side's perspectives (we work with a lot of product startups that operate on a shoe-string budget):
a) CoFounders are best "Found" from own / existing friends circle (not even social networks) as in tech business, replicating an idea is easier than in an offline business. The best chances of your Idea being "viewed" at the same wavelength, is by your close friends / relatives (after friends), isn't it?
b) When you talk to Dev teams, they will most likely be ready to 'build' your product at a cost and move on, than playing the role of CTO as their business model is around "Services" and not to own Products. Imagine they must be working with 5 different product companies, if they are offered stakes and not money in each of them, how will they survive and what will their value add to each of them?
c) Look for well established IT services companies that have a business model to share risks / rewards with Product startups. They may be happy to play the role of Tech Founders and work with you thru the funding stages as well.
I'm not a co-founder, but having a pretty close experience to what you're asking about (working in tech), thus share my thoughts also.
I'd have only one question to you - what do you REALLY need a tech co-founder for? Because as you say being "motivated to create an excellent IT product" doesn't equal "sharing the same values in a project".
If you need to get started with a great product - a reliable contractor can do an excellent job (like my company provided such support to many start-ups to go quick on the market, and if the product is really valuable, they have enough time to find a CTO for scaling the business without time loss and having the product supported).
Because (according to my experience at lest) the situation you described is pretty common - tech people look for their own challenges and it can have nothing in common with the famous "values". Otherwise they set up their own tech start-ups, since the cycle from idea to implementation is very short.
Hope my ideas were helpful for you at least from the point of giving an alternative perspective.
HI Victor, The Premium membership of CoFoundersLab opens the door to thousands of potential CoFounders. Free 14 day trial, not expensive, great value. Give it a try. https://cofounderslab.com/premium-membership
To your success! Steve