Technical co-founder

What is the best approaching to finding a tech co-founder to join your team?

Barima Opong-Owusu Jr., (Ph I'm a focused clinical pharmacist looking for a partner with app building background to create.

April 11th, 2018

At this point I have an idea some validation and mock-ups and would like to bring in a co-founder to help build the MVP and grow with the company. How is that conversation approached at local meetups, online etc.

Matt Mansour Technical CoFounder

Last updated on April 20th, 2018

You will have a good chance of finding an experienced technical cofounder to work for equity only upfront if you have done the work to answer at least some of the following questions:

  • What are the marketing/distribution strategies?
  • Have you used these marketing/distribution strategies before?
  • How much will the marketing/distribution strategies cost?
  • What is the cost to acquire a single sale (or user, or ad click...)?
  • What is the profit margin on a single sale (or user, or ad click...)?
  • How do you know you have product/market fit?
  • Are you going to raise capital or are we bootstrapping it together?

If you bring to the table a competitive advantage you should be able to find an experienced technical cofounder pretty easily on this site or at entrepreneurial Meetups.

If you're only bringing to the table an idea and mock ups it will be harder to find a solid technical cofounder to work for equity only.

If you cannot answer at least some of the questions above you can still get lucky: You may find a novice techie who has not yet been burned by "Field of Dreams Syndrome". However, she or he will probably lose interest quickly when there is little post MVP traction, and no funding, growth hacking, or marketing budget in sight.

Building an MVP is often the easier part of the process. The go to market strategy is where the real challenge begins.

An experienced technical cofounder will want to know what the marketing/distribution strategies are - along with their estimated costs and how they will be funded - before writing one line of code.

Alyssa Kwan Co-Founder and CTO of Celestium Computing

April 12th, 2018

There's some factors to consider. In markets with a heavier tech presence (which is where you want to be anyway, because the bar is higher for operating as a tech professional), we're in demand. Assuming you are oriented towards women, you approach a senior technologist the same way you approach a conventionally attractive woman. I'm approached a lot by non-technical founders with product or service ideas. So implicitly, any given non-technical founder needs to compete with the rest of the pool. Assume that there is no opening line that works, in business partnership or in romance. Trust me, we've heard it all before.

The way you compete, at least for me, is:

  • Show you are willing to do grunt work. You're not some MBA strategist who views the world as a chessboard where you move the pieces.
  • Start making progress on the fronts you can. There is virtually no product that is pure tech, unless you're writing firmware or an OS kernel. Do you automate a process for a customer? Then paper model it and show you've actually tested the process flow.
  • Display resourcefulness. If you can't raise capital, what can you do with what you have?

I'm sure there are other things. I'd love to get thoughts from other senior technologists.

Oh, one more thing. If a senior technologist is too eager to work with you, just as with a conventionally attractive woman too eager to jump into a relationship, that's a red flag. Ask why.

Bobby Baker Learning Machine

April 12th, 2018

Great Question! I am also looking for the same thing;; It would also be nice to know how to communicate with potential partners without being too descriptive about your idea.

Ayush Singhvi Technical Product Manager passionate about helping startups find product market fit

Last updated on April 20th, 2018

TL;DR - You probably don't want a technical co-founder, there are better alternatives.

Disclosure: I provide a service that specifically helps non-technical founders build software products.

Unfortunately, it’s pretty difficult to find a technical cofounder. More than anything else, I would say that your proposal and pitch have to, very clearly, be superior and display more potential than the 500 other pitches and requests the engineer has received. Furthermore, engineers typically work 40 to 50 hours and spend most of that time writing code. By bringing a technical co-founder on board, you’re asking them to commit 20 more hours and pretty much give up their social life. For free. This is rarely sustainable.

Having said that, I would argue that you probably don’t want a technical cofounder to build an MVP. There are a couple of reasons why -

  1. The opportunity cost. It takes a LOT of time and effort to find someone that has the skill you need and shares your vision and passion. This is time you could be spending doing literally anything else for your business.
  2. Reliability. I provided an example of what a typical part-time cofounder’s schedule looks like and also what it takes to convince one to get on board. This, coupled with the other frustrations that come with starting a business, will cause a strain on your relationship. In my experience, partnerships between strangers last 1 to 2 months.
  3. Speed. Building an MVP is typically not quick. Roughly, a dev shop takes 8 to 12 weeks to build a product generally with a team of two engineers, a designer and a project manager. Compare that to a part time engineer working 20 hours a week. The engineer’s schedule may end up being the bottleneck in your go to market timeline. (note: the amount of time a dev shop actually spends on your product is questionable so take the math with a grain of salt).

So what should a non-technical founder do? If you’ve demonstrated that there is a real need for your product AND you’re prepared to spend several years trying to build a business then I would take the plunge and spend some money to hire a firm to help you build the product. Feel free to reach out to me at here or on linkedIn if you have any questions or would like to chat further.

I've made some assumptions in my answer to this question:

1. You're in the idea / validation phase

2. You're trying to build a software product

Barima Opong-Owusu Jr., (Ph I'm a focused clinical pharmacist looking for a partner with app building background to create.

April 13th, 2018

Thank you for the insight Alyssa.

Ami Vider Content Writer / Editor at Satellite / Hardware startup

April 15th, 2018

@Alyssa -- seems as you had (have) some negative experience (or have seen / heard of one) and it has left an impression. It's good to be cautious, but you can always "verify" (as Reagan once said).

@Barima : you need to clearly and carefully define what you need. If you have "mock-ups" you probably can detail what your product / technology / idea does. If you can show also competitive products, that would be really useful. If you can show someone what problem you are solving and who is interested that is even better. Try to cut your description and business potential to "hierarchy" levels. One page as an introductory. Executive summery, a few pages to see how a potential partner understands and his interest. A final detailed plan which you can protest with an NDA.

There are lots of places to "network" - from traditional high level (and now even called "old school") like LInkedIn and blogs, all the way to github (where developers post their personal projects) to stack overflow and other technical portals. There are also lots of portals (like this one) which cover specific market sectors. I don't know of medical ones, so find ones which medical / clinical products are discussed and promoted. Good work in getting started, good luck!!!

Dan Hubbard Founder, www.FocusedAgility.Solutions/

April 16th, 2018

This depends entirely upon the idea, market/segment/vertical. PEOPLE, please do not be afraid to detail your idea (without disclosing IP)! That is the ONLY way to get valuable feedback, versus worthless speculation.

Aji Abraham Proven Tech Cofounder, open to new ventures

April 19th, 2018

Please understand most of the tech people who would be your potential partner is already working on their idea. You need to convince them, your idea and you have a better chance to succeed. There are two things you need to establish to attract co-founders

1. Why your concept is going to win . I am assuming you have done this with the help of pitch desk, screens etc..

2. This is more crucial. Why you are the best person to make this idea win. Main items your potential co founder is looking for would your experience in the space, how you understand how to sell the completed product to potential clients due to your experience. Other thinks that can help – some unfair advantage in your favor, you have rich uncle who can fund it . In other words how would earn your portion of the equity.

I wrote down how not to find a tech cofounder after talking too many wantaprenuers ( I am not suggesting you are one them)

Shivam Sheoran CEO at Travians

April 14th, 2018

@Alyssa Kwan, I would like to know, why ?

Alyssa Kwan Co-Founder and CTO of Celestium Computing

April 14th, 2018

@Shivam Sheoram: I apologize if my syntax was ambiguous. I meant to say, "ask yourself why." If someone who is supposedly really in demand wants to jump into bed with you, then why? Are you really that awesome? Or are they not actually in demand for some reason? Or do they have some other situation going on? Codependence? Desperation for attention? Many of us, including myself, have certainly been in romantic relationships with people who, on paper, are great, but in reality, not.