I'm founding a tech-startup and I'm at the pre-funding stage and I have no cash. Much of my tool has already been built by tech-nonprofit who makes their source code available free for commercial use--I want to copy their code, and set up a database to start seeing how users behave with the tool.
A couple of tech entrepreneurs say I have an exciting idea that developers would help me set up for free if they see the same potential I do. I'd also love to find a tech co-founder in Los Angeles, does it makes sense to see if anyone is interested in helping me set up the tool as a pre-working relationship? Or does it make more sense to try to find a college student that would be willing to set up as a learning project? If the latter, do you advise I try to do online or go to a campus in-person and try to recruit somehow?
Note: I often see on this site and elsewhere that developers don't need to work for free and many want others know they would never work for free. If that's the case for you, I agree that your time and effort is valuable, so I beg your pardon if my post seems to suggest otherwise.
I am not sure that my answer will help you concrete but I am going to write you my honest opinion based on my experience in Software Development and also as organizer of some contests and startup initiatives.
There will always be developers who will say that they don't need to work for free. That is absolutely correct. I am the first who appreciate my own time. But, I will always look forward to interesting projects where I see great potential. Even for free if time allows me to do that. That's not about developers, that's about people generally. There will always be people ready to work for free now in order to achieve something in the future, but also people who are not ready to do that.
For your case specifically. If you find developers who are working full-time and are ready to help you in their free time, you will probably have quality but also lack of commitment (full time work, private time, family time,...). On the other hand, student(s) will be more interested in your project and ready to commit their self in order to learn something new and in order to build something big (if they believe in idea). In this case you will have motivation but development will be slower. Depends on your needs.
Maybe, the solution is to combine two approaches. Maybe it will be good for you to ask some of your friends who have experience in a software development to help you with mentoring and setting basic things and to find student who is able to work and learn and who want's to learn from someone more experienced.
Online or campus? I prefer in-person. If it's technical college try to reach some of professors who will recommend some students. You will need motivation and basic engineering skills, everything else can be learned by ease :)
CEO and Co-Founder of Unitfly