I am currently in search of a technical co-founder to join my team but i'd love to hear about peoples stories regarding this subject for a bit of inspiration. Any drawbacks you've encountered, methods of poaching them and how long it took... Love to hear all of your stories!
I have had to work twice as a technical co-founder, even though I was not technically a co-founder.
In my first experience, I was the muscle behind the company as I was a full-stack developer. I did everything from designs, to coding to configurations. But, I was just an employee with the title of CTO. It was a small company, as we were just two... myself and the CEO.
In my second (and current) experience, I am still an employee with CTO title, but I'm working for sweat equity. So after twelve months, I will be a stakeholder as well.
But what made me join these two companies was my experience as a developer, and the fact that their overall goal was in line with my personal goals. I had always wanted to code websites and software, and the first company did that for business. Being the CTO also meant I could implement my own ideas rather than ask "how high" whenever I am told to jump.
Currently, I am fully responsible for the technical aspects of the new company, but this company is in the same business as one of the former companies I coded for. So my experiences are directly related. Also, I was looking for an "investment" and not a job. If they had offered salary and no equity at all, I would have turned the offer down.
So my advise in approaching technical co-founders, you first need to understand what makes the tic. Find out what they are passionate about and what their short and long term goals are, then see if you can align your company goals with theirs. That way, you will be getting them to want to work with you, rather than getting to them work with you. Get it?
Getting people to do what you want is hard. Getting them to want to do what you want is much easier. If your goals align with theirs, they will want to work with you.
I wish you all the best!
I sent many direct messages looking for CTO through this platform with no result at all for the last 4 months...
I've worked with clients that are able to offer compensation upfront by using creative financing solutions to generate revenue up front. To be honest, without ANY cash compensation I don't think you can get very far. When full-stack developers earn 6-figures working for themselves or other startups even straight out of a coding bootcamp, you're just not going to attract quality talent. Usually I consider a founder's inability to offer compensation outside of equity as a sign that they don't value our skillset, or have confidence in their ability to generate sales / revenue. Both are bad.
The alternative. I've seen clients that understand their market and have connections generate 5-figure monthly revenue with some consulting and creative options. An MVP should be used to prove product-market fit and generate revenue. We don't go into startup world to just build great products - most of us are in it for the ability to scale a proven revenue stream. So a good developer founder relationship should profit the founder (quickly) if they have the skillset to make the startup succeed.
My two cents.
Well...just because I'm tired of programming, and I've been thinking about this kind of thing, I'll take a stab at it. Just speaking for myself, of course. I'm a developer entrepreneur (started arts-people.com, working on peoplecanprogram.com). I'd be interested in being your technical co-founder if:
So it's a high bar, though not impossible. But that's just me.
Someone in the tread mentioned looking for CTO co-founder in sports clubs and alike. So I may join a biking club in a search for CTO co-founder... it's serious.
As a successful software development house we are approached by people such as yourself on a regular basis. Most have no idea what their idea will cost to build.
Before I went looking for a technical co-founder, and got into a slicing pie discussion, I'd approach at least five dev shops and get quotes. Five is a good number, as two of them will low ball the price, looking to suck you in and make money on change orders, and two will quote very conservatively because you don't have a detailed requirements document or designs.
You may discover your idea will cost 1/2 million to build. Or it might be as cheap as $5,000!
Best of Luck to you!
That's a very good comment from Vladimir: "I see technical cofounders the same as angel investors or VC. Instead of money, they invest their time, which is a very expensive resource." I would add that the difference between a VC and a technical cofounder is that VC can invest into 10 companies and hope that at least a few of them will bring 10x return. A technical cofounder can only "invest" a few years of her live into one company. It's much more risk, they cannot diversify.
One wise advisor said: if you can't sell an investor or co-founder on your pitch/traction then you are not ready/done enough work / have an idea that is not going to work (timing). It takes a solo founder time/fails/lessons learned to diagnose & remedy the situation. Some luck/timing can help it not fix a solo founder's situation. Tech cofounders are now pitched like investors. That's been my experience. Fwiw.
Awesome discussion. Since I’ve been on both sides of this table, perhaps some of my experiences can be helpful.
First, I am a techie who learned how to sell. My preferred mode of operation is to develop the MVP, then focus on sales and traction. I generally prefer not to operate the site/app – and like to bring the venture to “operating cash flow positive” stage and then sell it to someone who is equipped to deal with scale (financially, not technically), spam, fraud, etc. When I have the MVP, I look for either an engineer who can take over the code, and I go sell, or a sales type. So far, the strategy has worked well – at least in my personal circumstances.
Since I’ve been around a while, and been lucky to have had some successes, I also get pinged on being a co-founder on someone else’s venture. What I have to say here applies to both scenarios, at least in my experience.
As others have mentioned, and I agree, working for equity is an investment decision. The key points to communicate are: (a) the market size, (b) what is the customer’s pain point, (c) is the idea a product/service or is it a feature that can or should be added to another product/service, (d) what is/are the potential revenue stream(s), (e) what does the sales cycle look like, (f) who else is in this space, and MOST importantly, at least to me, (g) what is the exit plan.
When I approach someone, I start with offering answers to these questions right after I tell them about the idea at the 30K foot level. When someone approaches me, I ask these questions after I get an initial sense for the idea.
For me, personally, working for just equity is not at all a problem. I’ve done it several times and I am sure I will do it again. At the same time, my main motivator has never been the tech, or the idea. Yes, I have to like those elements, but the key motivator (whether the venture is my own idea or someone else’s) is what am I going to get out of this for putting everything else on hold for 6 months to a year, may be longer.
The answer does not have to be money. It can be changing the world for the better in some way. Either way though, it has to be a tangible, definable, and demonstrable result.
In my experience, if you can communicate that tangible result, you will likely find someone who is willing to work with you.
For Braid, what I did was pay good money to build an MVP and do a public beta launch where we acquired a handful of paying customers. Using that, I was able to prove that I had 1) customer development skills, 2) product management skills, and 3) marketing skills. Even without a salary to offer, it proved that this was something worth a technical co-founder's time and commitment.
Oh, and we split the equity 50/50. There's no good reason to take more - plus, if you go out to raise angel or VC money and it's *not* equal, that's a huge negative signal to potential investors.