Cofounder · Founder equity

When the salary is low, what else are technical cofounders looking for besides equity?

Abdul Kaium SEO Expert

April 10th, 2017

I know technical cofounders get a lot of low salary, high equity offers. So many that when they make a decision, they must be influenced by something other than the size of the equity, I’m assuming. I’m curious to learn what those X factors are. Size of existing user base or MRR? What else?

Art Yerkes Computer Software Professional

April 10th, 2017

There are a few things, depending on the person.

Something you might think about is whether you can offer something more meaningful or interesting than their 9-5. Somebody toiling in a demanding, unfulfulling feature factory no matter how much it pays is probably looking for an escape from it.

Something you can do as prep work that I believe will be very helpful is to provide project management, community management or other assistance to an open source project in a somewhat related area part time before trying to found a company that relies on software a lot. Not only will you make a lot of contacts, but you'll get immersed in a project that both delivers value and is pleasant enough to work on that people volunteer for it.


- Don't emphasize how brilliant you are or how many successful exits you have unless you're willing to pay well in money on day 1. Especially speaking of exits, employees often get the short end of that stick. There's no way to make such bluster credible. If you act like a partner, the experience can be valuable even if the venture doesn't pay or ultimately fails.

- Don't be a demanding, unfulfilling feature factory, and demonstrate that you know what that means. Involve them in decisions and make sure not to be a boss if you really want to collaborate and attract someone. Let them validate ideas if it can be done quickly validate your own ideas in the same way.

- Show that you know what you want from the timeline. Is it one big delivery at the end or a start-from-zero webcart with photos of shoes on day 2. Even if you have a big overarching vision you're going to have to make demands from your cofounder and there's nothing worse than getting both kinds. Get more than one person who excel at different time horizons if needed and possible, otherwise it's probably better to stick to one horizon early on.

- If something interesting can be released as open source if the venture fails (or even if it's a bit successful), it might make the venture less risky from their perspective. Their sweat can gain them reputation and visibility in the programming community, which can be as or more important than monetary rewards, especially if they're moonlighting.

- Your technical person might be willing to work for free for an important or interesting cause, probably not for a me-too social coupon app unless the upside is quite certain (for example you're bootstrapping and can see revenue from the very beginning) or you've done a few successful revenue generators before. Note that leaving behind a running revenue generator is much different from an "exit" in this context.

- Most programmers have been through the "raising money" dance and will write off the idea that money will be raised unless you're a seasoned pro at raising money. "We're talking to", and "I'm hearing great things from", and "I just got the LOI back from" mean "blah blah nothing yet" to somebody who's been in the industry a while.

- Have their back with support in areas where they're weak. They likely haven't been saving up to start a company, and may not share your vision well, have designers lined up who can offer design support. Most programmers aren't designers, but they're not incapable of making credible UI either, so there's probably a balance to be struck. The person you get may be weak in other areas where you need work even if they're very good (for example, iOS and Android tend to be specialized apart in software companies, but you will likely need them together ... getting a whiz in both might be harder than getting more people good with either).

- Show that you know how to alternately encourage exploration and crack the whip. Impose deadlines occasionally, not all the time and not in an unfriendly way. They're not an outsourcer, so make sure they know that you understand the flow of software development. A friendly "Can you crunch on the cart until Monday and try for a prototype?" can be fun. "When can we have X?" generally isn't helpful because it invites too much corner cutting and doesn't allow for uncertainty.


April 11th, 2017

'other' things heavily depend on a person:

* technology (cutting edge vs established or a fit with the personal interest)

* scale

* impact (some non-profits might be very attractive)

* challenge

* decision making position

* other...

Dmitri Toubelis

April 14th, 2017

Great answers here. One thing to keep in mind tough is that people follow people not companies or even ideas. If you passionate about your project you open to collaboration and you are willing to work hard and do whatever it takes don't be shy to demonstrate it. Really talented people like to be excited about what they do and in many cases this valued above the money, so if you present a compelling case they may even work for free ;-)

Dimitry Rotstein Founder at Miranor

April 10th, 2017

I'm not sure I understand the question. High equity is sufficient motivation in and of itself. A more interesting case is a technical cofounder who accepts a low equity and low salary offer. I did it once for several reasons, but one was that for that project I was going to build a software system that was supposed to be used by governments all over the world. That was a great ego boosting, not to mention a superb line for a CV.

Pamela Gustava Curry Helping Rideshare Drivers Generate Revenues Rocks

April 11th, 2017

Here are 7 Techie Baits ( aka incentives to lure technical cofounders to join your team )#1 of 7: Remember, techies need love just like you and me, techies are human too! ( although some may not think they are ) hug them, tell them they are smart and nice and generous. Many do not have intimate relationships with others humans. So make small bite-sized sandwiches to give to them. I once attracted some young Russian techies because they see me as the Mother figure, or Auntie their 'Karmel Kolored Kabushka' that truly cares about them. Be a 'Big Bro' or ''Sis' and take them for drinks with your friends and introduce them as your new 'Bruh'. ( #2 Coming soon )