To the Coders...what would you consider acceptable terms to join a new start up?


If you were approached by an idea guy (one with not much money), and lets say that the idea itself was an 8 to 10...what would you consider acceptable terms to join the start up? If you could give 2 or 3 different ideas and options that would be great. Also, what are the things you, as a coder would be looking for?

Up to this point, we have had more investor interest then we ever expected. And they have all come to us, we have not approached, or even looked for an investor yet. However, they all pretty much want us to be further along before they invest. Understandable, since we are not even incorporated yet. That should be done next week. We have been shocked, and pleasantly surprised by this interest, as we are obviously very early stage.

So, we are starting to look for a programmer and possible co-founder, but don't have much money to start. We want to find someone that we can grow with, and just need to find a good starting point. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!

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asked Aug 24 '12 at 09:57
164 points
  • It sounds very weird, first time I have heard about exited investors about the idea. This is exceptionally unusual. Even if the idea is ultimately great and have huge potential, investors will be "nice", but not "exited" to invest money. They simply encouraged you but this doesnt mean that they will ever invest any cash or that they like the idea. – Andrew Smith 11 years ago
  • ps. If they like the idea, it seems that they might want to invest money and sell it, but probably the best part you have already done - the idea, the rest is a different kind of business. – Andrew Smith 11 years ago
  • Thanks Andrew. I DID think it was weird believe it or not. I never expected to be introduced to so many investors so fast. However, we didnt get funded. Not yet anyhow. They all said that we needed to be further along. Hence this post, and why I am now looking for that rock star coder. Ive been humbled, yet Im still excited to have gotten the attention we have. Thanks again for posting. – Derek 11 years ago
  • Rock star coders are myth in today world. It's even recommended you dont hire any "stars". The best option is to hire "analyst" kind of guy, who is neuro typical ;-) – Andrew Smith 11 years ago
  • Hi Andrew. I have read that myself. I wish I knew what being a rock star coder even meant! As I am not technical. I went to a meet up last night and met an experienced coder, and he is interested in coming on board. Ive checked out his work, and to me it just didnt look that great. I worry about bringing on the wrong guy. However, after talking to him, the words "neuro typical" come to mind. lol – Derek 11 years ago
  • This is it. You need a person who is interacting socially in a natural way, not being too serious and keeping up with relationships well. Analysts are one of the bests for start-ups, like John Carmack – Andrew Smith 11 years ago

4 Answers


Sorry if this will be too harsh, I'm trying to be helpful and honest.

Something is fishy here. In another question you said you were "carefully protecting" your idea. I think that is completely counter-productive, but I also don't see how would any investor approach you, if you have no product yet, and you don't even advertise the idea. Furthermore, investors don't care about ideas, they want to see either traction, or a proven team, or both. If I had a dime for every time somebody told me my idea was awesome, I'd be a millionaire. There is a world of difference between a guy who claims to be interested (usually means he's polite or tactical) and an actual customer/investor of your company. Never confuse these two.

Also, there is no such thing as the "idea guy". Either you have useful practical skills for a startup, or you don't. If you are non-technical, you'd better be a great design/sales/marketing guy, or at least have the will to become one. Some essentials on the topic: About the tech co-founder, it is extremely hard to find a good one, because most coders don't need or like to take risks, and also because "idea guys" keep pitching them 24/7. Demand is an order of magnitude higher than supply of tech co-founders. Your only chance is to find someone with an entrepreneurial mindset, who falls in love with your vision. This took me 2 years. Quite obviously, under these circumstances you have to be very fair about what you offer. Equal equity split is the minimum, I'd say.

But you don't need a tech guy to validate an idea and generate traction. Why don't you just put together a landing page with launchpad and mailchimp, and start getting subscribers? Why don't you get out and talk to potential customers? Why don't you start a crowdfunding campaign to see if people are willing to pay for what you have in mind? After you've done all these things, it will be a lot easier to find a technical partner, or even an investor. Your job right now is to show what you can do, and not to find somebody for the stuff you can't do. Somebody once told me that you don't find your co-founder, but rather earn it. So start working!

answered Aug 24 '12 at 14:24
Mihaly Borbely
715 points
  • Mihaly...thank you. I actually appreciate your straight forward answer. Let me explain how we came to where we are now. We have been designing and wire framing our idea and business plan for the last 7 to 8 months. At first we fervently guarded our idea, but eventually (through this site and other input) realized that we really have to get out there and start talking to people. I went to a Meet Up and met a very helpful CEO/CTO that was nice enough to meet with us, and advise us. He loved the idea, but was to busy to help in a programming fashion... – Derek 11 years ago
  • A few days later I received an email from a local angel. The programmer we met had referred us. I met with that investor, and he in turn introduced me to another investor, who introduced me etc... They have all told us that its a great idea, but we need to be farther along. The last investor we met with is the managing partner of a VC firm, and he is introducing us to some tech talent, but its all down in the bay area. We would really like to stay in the Sac area if possible. Our original plan was to find a coder slash possible tech co-founder to help us get to a MVP/prototype, but... – Derek 11 years ago
  • stopped looking because I wanted to see how this whole investor thing turned out. It was unexpected to meet so many, so fast. I now know that we are probably not going to get funded without some kind of matter how good our wire frame and business plan s. So now we are looking for that co-founder/CTO. The good news is that at least we do have that investor interest. I just got back from another Meet Up and Im a little buzzed. lol So I hope this post helped. Please feel free to follow us, and like us on Facebook. Just search Human Challenge. Or register at – Derek 11 years ago


A company runs between 6 months and 1,434 years (oldest company in the world is the construction company Kong? Gumi from Japan, founded 578 AD) See Wikipedia: what does the "idea guy" do after the second week? what will the "idea guy" do in year 5? What in year 50? You think the guy who thought in a shower that it'ld be nice to have a company that sells machines to businesses could actually found and run IBM, if he had no other skills than the mere idea?

There is no need or use for an idea guy. Idea, yes. Idea guy, no.

As people wrote you before me, you better be good at something other than "having the idea" -- design, marketing, sales, pitching to VC's -- anything of real value. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Ability to execute is 99.99% of the success.

If someone approached me with a great idea, i'd say that's a great idea and start writing it myself if I found out that guy has nothing to offer but "the idea". If he can't be of value to a company, he's dead weight. Coming up with the idea is not enough. Ideas are born every second, in showers, toilets, planes and streets. I would never sign an NDA before hearing an idea. No VC ever will too. What if I had the same idea 2 weeks ago? ideas come up all the time. I don't want to constrain myself from doing something I might have done in the first place.

answered Aug 25 '12 at 05:14
Ron M.
4,224 points
  • I need to remember that there are certain WORDS that you can not say on this website, unless you follow with a resume. Those words...Idea guy. If you use the term "idea guy", then you better include you resume as well. Because everyone will fixate in those words, and you wont get your question answered. In one sentence you pretty much said that if you heard my idea and liked it, you would just just write in yourself (steel it), but in the next sentence you said you wouldnt sign an NDA. I hope a dont run into any developers like you. Sorry for being so blunt, but I asked a question for help. – Derek 11 years ago
  • As much as you might question the moral side of the statement above it is unquestionably the truth that you need to hear. As a programmer with many years of experience and currently looking to go and start my own enterprise I can assure you I wouldn't for a second consider partnering up with someone who has no immediate value for the company I am attempting to establish. – Maxim Gershkovich 11 years ago


If "investors" were genuinely "excited" they'd put you in contact with some people who could help you, including technical people, that they had worked with previously.

The issue really is that there are so many cases of "idea people" who don't have a lot of money, so it is hard to get motivated, especially when idea people tend to think that the idea is where all the value is and execution is almost an afterthought.

Here's an example: I have an idea that creating business applications is hard, takes too long and costs too much, so why not get business people to build their own applications, without the cost, time and stress of developers, project managers, etc. From a business point of view, that is a compelling idea, but it is worth nothing without the execution.

answered Aug 24 '12 at 16:35
Steve Jones
3,239 points
  • Steve...thanks for the input. I agree! However, our idea is a little more then just an idea now. Its a full business plan, and a completely wire framed idea that has been in the works for about 7 months. Its been extremely well thought out, and has hundreds of hours invested into it. I know we all think our idea is the best...but ours is! :) Please see my above post to Mihaly. I didnt expect to have to defend the post, but I understand why you would question it. Im hoping to get some helpful answers to my question. Thanks really is appreciated. – Derek 11 years ago
  • Derek, from your additional posts, it is clear that you are further along than I first thought. As I mentioned, way too many posts here and elsewhere are along the lines of "great idea, no money, want slave", so it is easy to become jaded. – Steve Jones 11 years ago
  • Hey no problem. I totally understand. We do have some money...just not much. So Im just trying to come up with a couple of good options that will be good for all of us. I want our coder to be happy and prosper with us. Thanks again for you input, it is very appreciated. – Derek 11 years ago


I know your venture needs the money (because you have none), but shouldn't you're investor know someone else who could help with the technical side? Certainly at their level they have more contacts than you do.

Can the investor make any commitment to put in a certain amount of money if you get a product going by a certain date? No one is going to give you an iron-clad contract, but a letter qualifying this person has the money and an inerest in the idea would go a long way. That is going to help you bring a programmer on board for no pay, but a more solid promise of future funding. If you can attract a quality programmer, your investor may put a little money upfront.

It doesn't sound like this investor is really going out on a limb here. They have the money and like your idea; of course they will 'think' about investing after you execute. You already have a programmer on board who put in the sweat-equity to build the product, what would you do with the investor's money that would make it worth giving up a piece of your company?

answered Aug 24 '12 at 23:39
Jeff O
6,169 points
  • Good answer. It gave me a couple of things to think about. Thank you. – Derek 11 years ago

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