Leave a comment
Get the GH Bookmarklet

Ask GH

So you have a brilliant idea, but not capable of developing the product, how would you go ahead to find a co-founder that fills in all the gaps you have?

I have an idea, a workplace, a business model with a realistic revenue stream and the seed capital. How would you suggest I start my search for a developer who can help me execute and develop what I have on paper?

  • BP

    Brandon Pindulic

    over 5 years ago #

    As a non-technical founder looking for a technical founder, you have 3 choices.

    1. learn to code <--least practical, probably won't be any good unless you dedicate a ton of time and are interested in it.

    2. Pay for a developer. Obviously expensive, and managing developers is very, very difficult. You need to at least have a basic understanding of what they do, how they do it, etc. Just saying 'build this, because it's cool' won't work too well.

    3. Prove there's a market through landing page sign ups, pre-paying customers, etc. then look for a technical co-founder who is willing to take the plunge with you. If you can't code, you have to be the hustler, which requires bringing in initial customers, pitching investors (if you need to), and everything else. If you can bring in money, a dev will trust you, or at least more so than just another person with an idea.

    Best way to find a developer once all that in place is first through your network. If you can't do that, find a technical friend who can help you see who's good and who isn't. Otherwise, you won't really understand that on your own if you're not a developer.

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 5 years ago #

      Great response Brandon. I used a very technical friend to interview my developer cofounder and it worked great... But I had also received pretty big investor commitments.

  • AT

    Alan Tsen

    over 5 years ago #

    I really struggled with this question when I first started a new product out of an existing business. I found this article by Mark Suster really helped me re-centre my core thinking about finding a 'co-founder'. I'd go as far as to say it's a must read on the topic.
    http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/2011/05/09/the-co-founder-mythology/

    • KM

      Khaled Mousa

      over 5 years ago #

      Thats was a great read, Thanks!

      • AT

        Alan Tsen

        over 5 years ago #

        Glad you found it useful!

        I think, provided that you are a strong business lead, this is the perfect paradigm to think about the co-founder issue through.

        It really helped me focus on validating my idea and now I'm in a strong position to bring in others on terms that reflect the value they bring. All the best with your idea.

  • JL

    Jamie Lawrence

    over 5 years ago #

    How do you find developers? My advice is to look at meetups. If you're building a web app, hang out at Ruby/Rails meetups or Ember or Node or whatever (if you're non-technical, you might need to seek some advice on general technologies that apply to your idea). If it's a mobile app, hang out at an Android or iOS meetup.

    Now, don't walk in and start handing out business cards and leave before the talks. Be genuinely interested. Why? Because you need to be genuinely interested in the technology because, whatever domain you're operating in, if the technology is the core of the business than you'll be running a tech company. Genuinely talk to devs there, find out what they thought of talks and maybe ask about a technical approach to your business. Don't pitch the business!

    Now, about that confusion between 'co-founder' and 'developer': It's tempting to believe that if only you can convince a developer to join your company for sweat-equity then you'll be ok. There are many problems with this approach but I'll list a few:

    - developers can command great salaries with needing to take a chance on your startup. Heck, they have enough ideas of their own that they could work on. So, it's hard to find one who'll give that up to work on yours for "free".

    - if you're bringing them on as a co-founder they can't just bring technical expertise to the table. They've got to have a nose for business and an interest in it. You want a co-founder that you can bounce ideas off, discuss pricing strategy and sales pipelines and all that stuff.

    - likewise, you don't want a co-founder who isn't passionate about your business and it's really, REALLY, hard to create passion when it's not there. It's also impossible to buy it.

    - if you've found an experienced engineer, with a nose for business, and a passion for your product… congratulations! Oh, but he's 35 with a wife and two kids. He can't wait months or years before drawing a salary. Bummer.

    My advice: raise enough seed money to hire a developer to build an MVP*. Get the product to the stage where it solves the single biggest pain for your market. Now, get a few customers. If possible, use the income from the MVP to bootstrap the business by paying the developer to iterate on product development. If your business model won't let you bootstrap, take the MVP and initial customer base and raise some more funding.

    * but where do you find that developer: see above, meetups. Also, meetup organisers would have a pretty good handle on who's looking for work etc. And there's no need to confine yourself to your current location: contact meetup organisers in other countries, or look at who's attending that group and do some Googling to see if they're available.

    My point is: keep the relationship with the developer on a proper footing. Money lets you buy the services you need, with no commitment in the likely event that priorities change, or your relationship breaks down, etc. Once you've got the product and business established, you can look around for a full-time CTO or Co-founder and make that decision based on how they best fit your business instead of just what cheap labour they can provide initially.

  • BR

    Bartolome Rodriguez

    over 5 years ago #

    Do you know builditwith.me ?

    • KM

      Khaled Mousa

      over 5 years ago #

      Just had a quick look after you suggested it..Are these people freelancers or..?

      • BR

        Bartolome Rodriguez

        over 5 years ago #

        I don't think so. I used it one time to find a partner for a project. You can use its searcher to look for somebody like "developer" "without ideas" "starting now" and then visit their profile to find one that you think can complement your team (or several profile to create the team).

  • RD

    Rob Deegan

    over 5 years ago #

    I started to look for a co founder when I began my startup. I've a tech background but I've moved more to research over the years. I tried every site and network I could find but failed. I decided to outsource and for a few months I built my app ran some iterations and refined, but the process was slow and painful. In the end I cold emailed a load of strangers on LinkedIn ... I met with a few guys and hooked up with one I gelled with and have another who may be our first technical employee. LinkedIn is a great resource, but in my case having a few months work done and an early alpha product sealed the deal.

    • KM

      Khaled Mousa

      over 5 years ago #

      I dont know if it's appropriate but could you share the structure about the cold email you sent? A lot reflects from the way a person writes and I want to know if am doing it right.

      • RD

        Rob Deegan

        over 5 years ago #

        I'm overseas now but can check when I get home, but it was really casual. Like, "hi, I'm rob, I came across your profile when looking for a cofounder for my startup closr.com I'd love to buy you a coffee and chat about it if you've some time, if not thanks for reading and sorry for the weird approach :) "
        Keep it short, direct and jovial, and get them intrigued. I got a 70% response rate! not all were interested in confounding! but just wanted a chat and put me in touch with some from their network.

  • JC

    Jason Champion

    over 5 years ago #

    BrandonPindulic's answer is great. #3 is exactly right. I'm a kickass engineer with more than 12 years of experience. I can build pretty much anything. At any given time there are at least 100 things I could do, most of which would be a lot more fun/interesting than any project you could come up with. Almost all of them will end up being a waste of time ("hobby projects") for lack of market validation and customer traction. That's what you bring that an engineer will find useful. Prove that people will buy something once it's built and that we'll be much more likely to jump in.

    If you can't bring at least that much to the table, why bother? We can always build whatever you thought of without needing you to be involved. And nobody will care that we built it.

  • PG

    Pushkar Gaikwad

    over 5 years ago #

    I always feels that you should look for Character instead of Skills in the co-founder since skills can be built, character can not. Also you want to find a co-founder who complements your skills and comes from your friend circle as most of the partnership fails not because the startup failed but because the trust between founders failed.

    I am a single founder and have tried to find a co-founder through startup sites but it never worked out and I don't think now the ship has sailed!

  • ND

    Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré

    over 5 years ago #

    You may be able to find someone here:

    https://angel.co
    http://clarity.fm

    • KM

      Khaled Mousa

      over 5 years ago #

      I dont know if you would agree, but I would only want to work with a co-founder full time and present in same city. Angle.co and clarity would have helped me, but the question is generic. What if the founder is hunting for someone in lets say somewhere in the Middle East or Dubai, to be precise.

  • JL

    Jeff Lane

    over 5 years ago #

    Just throwing a few ideas out there:

    1. AngelList
    2. HackerNews
    3. Github (find the coder and reach out directly)

  • SC

    Shana Carp

    over 5 years ago #

    I know some people aren't going to like this answer:

    Hire play for play or learn to code yourself.

    Often, good engineers have their own agendas - they may not be interested in yours. So you have to prove it is interesting

    • KM

      Khaled Mousa

      over 5 years ago #

      Yes, thats true. Convincing will be hard but thats step 2, I am stuck at step 1 where I am unable to find a coder willing to join and take the risk with a startup

  • JB

    Jack Barnes

    over 5 years ago #

    I found my technical expertise while trying to code my own solutions. In one case, a friendly voice in the PHP help forums has become my Director of IT, after months of helping to fix small problems I was having, he was already investing his time in the development of the project, I just formalized it.

    In another case, I saw an expert in a documentary. Found their Twitter Handle. Followed It, and started a dialog with the expert. Today, he is the President of my start up.

    One of these experts is in Norway, the other is 3,000 miles away on a different coast. None of us have met yet. Distance is not an issue. Passion for your project is.

    Your idea has to be compelling enough, and the equity offered, sizable enough to motivate experts out of topic, to spend time the time on your topic to become your expert.

    Project: http://Agdata.info

  • BH

    ben hoffman

    over 5 years ago #

    watch this insightful 17 minute video - it's very eye opening - http://thisweekinstartups.com/do-you-need-a-cofounder/

  • MR

    Matthew Rose

    over 5 years ago #

    I struggled with this myself for a while and didn't really know what to do. I tried looking for advice on the internet, but couldn't really find any.

    I first tried to see if I could get semi-reasonable quotes from freelance developers, but the work involved meant that it would cost a ridiculous amount and was definitely not feasible.

    I then spent hours and hours looking for places to find people, I stumbled across Founder2Be.com, looked through a couple of profiles and messaged one that sounded great. We talked for about a month or two and then decided to meet, we signed NDAs, met a few times, discussed the idea and agreed to found the company together. I was pretty lucky in that my co-founder (Kirsty) and I instantly gelled and found that we were extremely similar and well suited. I'm sure that won't be the case for everyone, but hopefully you find the same with your co-founder.

    As well as using Founder2Be, I put out an ad on workinstartups.com to see if I could get anyone that way, the majority of responses that I received were pretty awful, so this may not be the best place, but it's definitely something worth looking at.

    Before I found Kirsty, I tried learning to code on Codecademy, but didn't really have the time or the interest to keep it up and get to a level where I could execute my idea well (if at all). Unless you're willing to dedicate loads of time to it, and basically put the work on your startup on hold, this really isn't an option worth wasting your time on.

    My advice would be to use things like Founder2Be, Angel List, Work in Startups, LinkedIn and your personal network to reach out to people. You sound like you could have an attractive proposition, so you probably won't have too much trouble getting people on board. Just make sure that you nail your pitch, which is something I didn't do, as that will make it much more likely for people to be able to see your vision and have the desire to work with you.

    Good luck!

  • SF

    Sandy Fischler

    over 5 years ago #

    We're in the same boat and I'll share our path so far.

    We opted to learn the basics of code so we could build a demo ourselves. This what we've done so far:

    Taken an overview of programming at Lynda.com
    Taken an overview of object oriented design at Lynda
    Taken One Month Rails and learned how to build an app in Ruby on Rails
    Taken a few more RoR courses.

    We STILL don't have the skill level to build a beta version, which was our intent. However, we can have a detailed conversation with a developer now. We speak enough of the language to communicate our needs.

    Once we realized it would take us another year to get good enough to build the first version of our app we changed course and built out a demo version so that we can run manual tests with a group of early customers. (We should have done this to start with, but the path is not always clear when you're starting out...)

    Once we've tested our idea and run these first few campaigns, we'll be a LOT closer to product/market fit and be ready to think about getting something built.

    Once we reach a stage where we've gotten the validation we need, we plan to apply to some of the local accelerators that offer seed funding so we can hire a developer. From there, once we have a working beta, we'll run a kickstarter campaign to see if we can get enough traction to fund the next level build out.

    So, my advice is to work in stages. Figure out how you can test the idea manually, even using WordPress or basic html. Whatever you can do on your own to make sure you're building something your market needs and wants. THEN figure out how you are going to get your next seed fund to build something that will gain you traction. Then you figure out how to fund the next step.

    Instead of thinking you have to build a fully functioning application, think in terms of how can you test the idea in incremental steps.

  • JA

    Jenna Abdou

    over 5 years ago #

    We spoke with the founders of Hukkster, ZinePak, and Rebelmouse about how to find co-founders and cultivate the relationship - We put their responses in a Slideshare. Hope this helps your search, Khaled. http://slidesha.re/1jKfjog

  • MR

    Maxim Razmakhin

    about 5 years ago #

    From my experience, it turned out to be a lot more challenging to find non-technical co-founders even if you're not a techie yourself. Developers tend to be very motivated people, so if you have a great idea or solve a big problem that they personally care about, you shouldn't have too many problems. Obviously, you'll need to hustle, but it's totally worth the effort.

Join over 70,000 growth pros from companies like Uber, Pinterest & Twitter

Get Weekly Top Posts
High five! You’re in.
SHARE
10
10