I have experience working in startups, as well as other industries as well. I also have a "lifestyle" business, a small app, I work on that gives me experience, and I stay connected with top tech people in the Midwest and West coast where I live. However, I just haven't hit it right with a non-technical co-founder yet.
I would love to hear ideas and suggestions!
Being a technical co-founder does not make you a "unicorn." There are plenty of technical cofounders out there. I can go to either of my alma mater's engineering departments and walk through the halls and find 20 tech entrepreneurs in your same situation. And if I offer to build their business, they will sign up. Credit to you for realizing upfront you need a non-tech business partner if you don't have the skills. Too many tech entrepreneurs think because they can engineer software they clearly can build businesses, and too many are clueless with business competence or common sense. The challenge is offering something of value. What type of tech founder are you? What type of Tech are you in? Just like I can find plenty of tech founders, you can find plenty of non tech co founders. More about finding the right one with synergy. Plug into business schools with entrepreneurship programs....real incubators, not the glorified offices for rent offering free coffee and an office dog at $300 a month. Happy to evaluate your technical skills and see if I have any ideas. Feel free to reach out.
To answer some of David's concerns, it's not that I'm trying to be vague. Rather, I have found observing my friend's startups that they are fragile things.
Make assumptions about what you can or can't do and you are going to be surprised. I'm just trying to be open to any possibilities that are out there. Sure, I can make claims about my tech preference or capability -- but my preferences tend to unjustifiably shape the tech choices. Also, people realize that I am claiming to be capable -- though I have not sold a successful startup yet nor worked at CTO. By being specific about the programming I've done, I feel like I am putting myself "in a box". But, I can get the ball rolling and use some pretty great tech to get us started.
I am asking people to try working with me, if they can at least give me a problem and a market with customers that they likely can get. And I'll try to pick the one that is most likely to succeed from my standpoint.
I will give some more information here. I have observed that consumer-oriented, B2C, need some extra juice to really scale-up to be big. You aren't selling to people who use other peoples' money and you need MANY, MANY customers to succeed. Unless I see a true comet of an idea, I will usually pick startups that sell to organizations and businesses because each sale made inevitably covers many users and revenue possibilities. The business does the work of finding many users for you -- and you are selling to people who want to spend on creating value for their organization. I also of course would look at hybrid.
These B2B are the types of everyday startups that my friends and the people I know have had success with, whether $1 or $200 Million in what they ended up with. Not one acquaintance, dating back the past 15 years, from founders of insurance to sports to anything else has created a consumer-oriented startup that has had more than a few hundred customers (to my knowledge).
But there is an exception. If you are creating a consumer-oriented startup for something that consumers will inevitably need in the future that doesn't exist in an area where the demand is growing fast, I would consider it.
Luke, what industries are you passionate about? I personally wouldn't want to partner up with someone who's not very passionate about the industry I'm in, as that's unlikely to work out in the long term. Sports, finance, education, healthcare, gaming, food, something else?
How many years of coding experience do you have? Backend, frontend, both? What are your weaknesses, from a technical standpoint?
Assuming that things work out and you're really committed to something, how much time are you looking to spend per week on the project/business?
Mind sharing more specifically where you are based? (Edit: noticed now that you've included this on your profile - my bad.)
You are something of a unicorn. I'm surprised there aren't 100 people emailing you right now reading your message who are actively looking for a tech co-founder. It's 99.9% of the messages talking about tech co-founders, the non-techies who can't find one. Of course, part of their problem is that they have no clue how to find you or let you know about their desire/opportunity.
So tell us all, because I'm sure there are hundreds of people who would like to know, how do you want to be approached? Where are you listening? What do you need to know to be persuaded?
To answer Paul's question, what I am really looking for is A) for potential founders to take a step back, and just tell me what problem they are looking to solve...even at its most simplest form.
And B) if they can also tell me or show me that they can pull in customers, it would be great, too!
@David is right, that a "founder" is someone who works on the business, not just a first employee or a first technical employee. They typically have a say in the way the business develops. But, here on CFL, most everyone posts because they can't find a technical person, which is why I said you were hard to find.
@Luke, you're right that many people looking for a co-founder don't have a business, they have only an idea, and some of them can't even express that idea well. A lot of times people expect someone else to turn their idea into a business and what they're really looking for is to use someone else's time and money to do it. That's not being a founder, that's being an idea-guy/gal.
And Dave is also right, that being technically capable doesn't make you a founder either. You still need to share the vision for the company and think through consequences of business decisions, not just program stuff.
I understand where you're coming from Luke. Eager idea people want someone to build it for them and offer the title of co-founder without having done the pre-work to prove there's a business to be built.
What makes you more unique than average is that you're interested in working on someone else's (right) idea, and that you're not prioritizing an idea of your own.
Luke, it appears you might want to evaluate yourself as the business. One thought that came to mind was for you to create an LLC whereby you are a technical consultant. Evaluate where most entrepreneurs are struggling and what skills you can offer them to satisfy their business needs. In doing that, you will likely find a place with a company or numerous companies. I basically did this very thing. Several years ago I was answering in forums just like this. People liked my answers and saw that I had more than merely book smarts like many in forums who get out of class or finish reading a book and jump on and regurgitate with no working knowledge and experience. People kept reaching out to me regarding how to not only start a company but build one. So I expanded my focus from a few projects to anyone with any question/need in entrepreneurship. And while I guide entrepreneurs in that process, the companies I find an interest in, or can and want to help build, I contract a role as a Chief Operating Officer or advisor. But you are also being extremely vague. the more detailed you can be about what you are offering, the more you are putting yourself out there and marketing what you need and where you are wanting to go...that guides you and more importantly others toward you.
Honestly I have been told to look for a technical co-founder. I have tried, but most of them want me to do business development for their projects. Personally I have spent to much too focused on that instead of moving my business forward. At this point we are about to launch an MVP and I am currently in an NIH grant assistance program, so I am further along than what you are looking to join. I will likely hire a fractional CTO until I build my own technical team.
It seems like you are in the right area to find a startup. Also, Startup Week and Startup Weekend has plenty of founders in need of a CTO. I would also connect with accelerators in your area. They will come across some of the best founders in need of a CTO.
Luke, I appreciate where you are coming from. But the challenge again is if you can't define where your technical skills are, how will "non tech" entrepreneurs know how to utilize your skillset..whatever that even is? For example, currently I am actively involved in about a dozen startups and I advise on many others. Some utilize blockchain technology, some crypto currency, some software applications and engineering, some medical based technology...etc. The engineers with these companies who are the backbone to the design usually have a passion for the specific field they are creating products for. And within those fields there is specific technical competence required. Artificial Intelligence tech ability is not the same as software app development technical ability. No one is going to try to figure out what you are good at or where you would be beneficial in their company. You don't have to restrict yourself or box yourself in, but you have to define what you are good at, better yet illustrate it. Simply saying you are good at technology says absolutely zero. Your evaluation of consumers is a bit convoluted. Everyone is a consumer and every successful business is consumer oriented. Nothing changes whether it is B2B or B2C. B2B has an end user consumer, always. People get caught up in business terms and MBA'ism like "best practices." But in the end, it is simple, supply and demand and needs. Whether selling to a business or a consumer, the reality is there is a consumer at the end of it all that is either having a need met or not met. Meet the need and do it competently and with value, and there will be success...don't and there will be failure. If you are as brilliant as you are alluding to, and I am not doubting..you may very well be...and if you are own it confidently, then go out there and "pick" the companies you want to work with. But thinking someone is going to chase you down and try to recruit you when you are not specifically defining what it is you do is beyond a stretch.
David, on B2C vs B2B, I find so many successful entrepreneurs who have shared this caution (that they are not the same -- that is selling to businesses vs. end consumers) that have been successful -- what is your experience with startups or businesses that would lead you to believe that nothing changes between the two?
On specific expertise, yes, I agree that startups in AI, for example, would seek that expertise, but I have no such specific deep expertise so I cannot claim to, unfortunately. I would argue many developers wouldn't even need it, however.
Are you aware of the capabilities of Hadoop clusters? They enable startups to do work on huge data sets. They can be set up in a relatively short period of time and you can use AI on your data sets at whatever app you are working on. Again, basically any of us programmers can set them up. College students have set them up to do industry-grade analysis on big data sets and they don't need expertise in AI. They just need to be capable in computing.