Minimum Viable Product · Finding cofounders

Need to develop my MVP: wait to find a great tech founder or start with development agency?

Danielle Couvelaere Looking for a Co-founder!, a profile matching network for expats

October 9th, 2016

I have been getting very contrasting advice on this matter. I am non tech looking for a passionate and dedicated tech co-founder but still haven't found anyone. I am however ready to start building my MVP ...should I start with a 3rd party developer/agency (paying for this service) or should I wait until I do find the right co-founder? Thanks for your feedback!

Joe Walling CTO, software developer, software architect

October 9th, 2016

Danielle, I would expect you would get many different opinions on this depending on how the person answering has been burned. Many will tell you that you must have an internal person because they will not run off, however, I have known many startups where the CTO left because they got tired of not getting paid or their full time job got in the way of their putting in much time on the startup.

The real issue is finding someone with the correct level of integrity and software development skills that you can trust. If the developer is not experienced with what you are trying to accomplish, your odds of success are slimmer as they will be making mistakes that may limit your chance of success. Look at their experience both with developing software and with understanding how business works. Make sure they can communicate well with you and can understand what you are asking for. Above all, verify their experience and talk to some people they have worked with in the past.

Just because someone is not an "Employee" does not automatically mean that they will not stay with you for a long time. I have clients I have worked with for 20 years and although I am not their employee, they know they will be able to get hold of me on the phone. I am sure there are lot's of other developers like that.

Also note that there are software development companies like mine that will take an equity or royalty stake in lieu of all cash for the development of the project. Companies like that, similar to an employee with stock, have a vested interest in seeing you succeed. Since they have had experience developing and possibly marketing other products, they can probably offer good advice in addition to the development.

Feel free to message me if you would like to have a more in depth discussion based on your specific needs.

Steve Owens

October 10th, 2016

It depends.  Generally speaking, if you are trying to invent a new technology, then you need a tech co-founder.  If you are trying to use a technology in a new way, much better to outsource it.

BTW - the best method I have seen for managing product development is to hire one firm to do the work and another to manage the first.  

Francesca Hogi Matchmaker, Coach, TV Personality, Speaker:!

October 11th, 2016

Danielle, I have been asking myself this same question for two months now, and I have JUST yesterday found the dream co-founder I was seeking. 

But - I was about to proceed with a firm not to design the MVP, but a clickable prototype. After interviewing different firms I realized I really didn't want to invest a ton of money in an MVP that might get thrown out - better to hire someone to help you create wireframes/user flow/prototype first and then test it before building MVP.

Paolo Dotta Co-Founder @Altar Technologies, @10kstartup

December 22nd, 2016

Each way has pros and cons.

To be honest, you have four options:

- You’ve known your Tech Cofounder for a long time

- You outsource to an agency

- You hire developers

- You learn software development

Leaving out the last one, if you know the right guy well (that has both hard and soft skills) onboard him as a CTO. As pros you have all the famous example of startups built in garages in Silicon Valley. As cons, let’s say, not everyone has the Soulmate CTO within reach!

Hiring developers could be another great solution: no strong commitment (as if it was with equity), and flexible. On the same page, you should also consider some other aspects, which are, among others, your level of experience in managing developers and the capabilities of clear communication between you and them.

Going for an agency for the MVP (Minimum Viable Product), gives you time to focus on launching the idea, without worrying about managing designers/developers.

In this case you must be focused on picking the right partner.

I’ve just wrapped up what’s inside this very well written article (thanks to my-cofounder Daniel): CTO, Developers, Agency? What’s the Best Way to Build Your Startup?

It’s an in-dept analysis about the different scenario that you’re gonna face if you decide to move forward. I strongly suggest you to read it!

Thanks for reading,


Gopi Mattel Director, Local chapter at The Founder Institute

October 9th, 2016

You should now if you can. Tech co-founder may take time to find. Their key contribution would be technology stack to use, but you can get a tech advisor added to your company instead to get the basic technology stack recommedations. Or just ask about 5 tech people what tech stack products to build your MVP on.   You are going to rebuild your app a couple of times anyway so actual app coding can be recreated.

Rod Abbamonte Co Founder at STARTREK / @startupHunter / @startupWay / @CoFounderFound / @GOcapital / @startupClub / @lastminute

October 9th, 2016

I personally believe that for you to develop and validade your MVP you need a Tech Co Founder. You can not open a restaurant without a Chef.

Paul Chambers Founder, Nymble Technology

October 9th, 2016

My main concern would be whether the 3rd party developer/consultancy will have enough to go on to make all the selection & trade-off decisions that will be necessary to build the MVP.

One question for you: can you afford to treat this initial MVP as a throw-away effort, when you do find a tech co-founder? he/she may want to start over, for various (valid) reasons.

An outsourced effort without technical oversight is likely to result in a proof of concept than a true MVP that can be taken to market.

Joe Walling CTO, software developer, software architect

October 10th, 2016

@Steve: With that caveat, one could make it work...especially if the managing person has great technical credentials. It may still create some tension, at least initially, but it could work. I would think in this case, that it might be easier and cheaper to get a cofounder or technical adviser. Since the tech cofounder is not asked to do as much work, you may be able to find someone that you could not find if they were required to work full time.

I think we are in agreement that it is very hard for a non technical person to have any judgement of the technical aspects of the work. There is definitely a need to find someone that can be trusted to oversee the technical aspects as soon as possible whether that person is internal or external.

Danielle Couvelaere Looking for a Co-founder!, a profile matching network for expats

October 11th, 2016

Great news Francesca so there is hope!  All the best on your next steps..
I also agree on having a visual aid that serves for 1st validation to your target audience and "'brief/pitch" for finding partners/co-founders...that's what I have done and it is proving that a picture is indeed worth a thousand words and saves time and miscommunication! ;)

Joe Walling CTO, software developer, software architect

October 11th, 2016

@Danielle, yes, that is a good summary. Also, @Fransesca is correct. do not proceed to the development phase without doing mockups/wireframes and getting feedback from prospects. It is much less expensive to find out that you have missed the mark in this manner than after you have done expensive software development. This will also make development go faster because the developers have an idea of what they need to code.