Where to find designers / programmers for equity


Investors want to see the finished project (+ maybe private beta results).
I came a long way, but I have the feeling that I cant run the last couple of miles without being surpassed by competition.

I think there are only three kind of people who can (almost) fully commit themselves and have the right knowledge:

  • School dropouts
  • Early stage employees from other high traffic sites.
  • Opensource programmers

Since I've used widespreadly used technologies I don't think it will be hard to find the right programmer.
However i guess i have no clue how/where to find the right designer(with front end programming knowledge).

I'm looking forward hearing your stories about where/how you've got your first equity based employees & any other thoughts about where/how to get them.

Some other facts why potential designers/programmers are going to like working with based on equity instead of cash.

  • Change someting "big" in this world
  • Tremendous outcome (when released on time)
  • Befriended Lawyers > air-tight contract both sides
  • VC's already showed interests.

Are there smart ways to find employees working for equity locally without trying to convert employees cash>equity?(i'd like to do at-least a physical interview before hiring)

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asked Sep 12 '11 at 00:23
6 points
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2 Answers


As the organizer of the co-founders meetup, whose goal is exactly what you are asking about (finding equity partners), I can tell you that what matters is shared passion. And then, as #2, is whether you, the one looking for a co-founder, is credible or not.

By credible, I mean: Ok, you have an idea that I also have been thinking about, so now I have two options, work with/for you, or ignore you and do my own thing. Why would I be better off joining you? If you have VCs lined-up, that's a good reason. If you have attracted large customers ready to sign-up, that's another good reason. Because it's your idea? Bad reason.

answered Sep 12 '11 at 01:25
Alain Raynaud
10,927 points
  • Thanks for your answer, i really appreciate it. However i'm not really searching for a co-founder type of guy. More somebody that knows a couple of tricks, is reliable & know how to get things done. More of a doer than a dreamer. I don't think I can find these kind of programmers & designers @ meetup (at-least not near me, I took a quick look). I think that a perfect co-founder will come along eventually, however i don't want to force myself to settle for "good" just because i'm searching for a codemonkey. – Equity 12 years ago
  • It doesn't matter how you call it, but convincing someone to work for you for equity only is a kind of co-founder. – Alain Raynaud 12 years ago


Your question doesn't make the situation clear enough to give the right answer.

Are you a technical guy who is already close to finishing the beta product, or a business guy who needs technical help? Are you the only founder or do you have a co-founder already?

Either way, I have the feeling that some things are messed up here. Employees don't usually work for equity only. At least you will have to give them a sub-market salary. Otherwise you'd have to give them a lot more equity, and call them co-founders. I also don't get your statement about "co-founder type" meaning "dreamers".

VCs "showing interest" means nothing. In fact, none of your "facts" about why would somebody work for you are facts. They are all assumptions for the future. If they are true, then you should roll out the beta as fast as possible (cut feature list in half is a good start), secure some deals with the VCs, and hire afterwards for real money.

If you can't finish the beta and start iterating on your own, then I think what you need is a few good co-founders, definitely not VC and employees.

answered Sep 12 '11 at 03:09
Mihaly Borbely
715 points
  • Technical guy, I can finish the beta on my own, only I have the feeling not in time. (every day/week/month means more risk of 0 outcome). About the sub-market salary, of-course that could be an option, however after the VC funding. Why would i give up a lot of equity for some basic assembly line work? All the thinking, dreaming and planning is done. I just need some codemonkey which can connect some dots. Giving up a lot of equity for that amount of work doesn't make a lot of sence to me. – Equity 12 years ago
  • Being the first mover in a market is much harder and usually doesn't give you much advantage, if any. So if you are worried about time for that reason, don't be. (sorry, sent by mistake, will go on by editing) – Mihaly Borbely 12 years ago
  • I'll be a bit harsh here, don't take it the wrong way. Thinking, dreaming and planning has as much value as an idea, which is close to zero. What you need to get right is execution, both with business and development. Until you tested your idea and found product-market fit, you have nothing, and equity in your idea is worthless. At this point going after VC is the worst idea ever. What you need is a team, and a product with market fit. And by team I mean people who respect each other and make decisions together, not "codemonkeys" who don't get salary. That is disrespectful to say the least. – Mihaly Borbely 12 years ago
  • First of all thanks for your answers. About the first mover advantage, the competition only consists of billion dollar companies in a totally undefined market. I think that for our product/situation it is a tremendous advantage. About the beta tests & product-market fit, yes thats obviously true however if we successfully get both in a reasonable time frame & launch it there will be a massive ROE. Doesn't that compensate for the lack of a (good) salary. I didn't mean "codemonkeys" in a bad way (else i would have outsourced it to India, Russia, China anyway) – Equity 12 years ago
  • however for this project there are no real decisions to be made, everything is almost done. Its just the last couple of percent that has to be finished. I'd like to take the equity based approach because i could reuse the knowledge they gained, are already comfortable with workflow, etc in new projects. I think i could best convince someone to work for equity only until this project is finished, pay them regular salary after VC funding. – Equity 12 years ago
  • Reaching product-market fit is a lot harder than you might think. If you are before private beta, it's most likely that your idea needs at least a few more iterations and changes before (if) you get there. Getting exactly what people want is the most difficult part of the whole process, and I have never heard of a project where they got it right at first. I think you are at the very beginning of the story. Nothing is almost done. You will have to make hard decisions every day after beta launch if you really want to get this right. – Mihaly Borbely 12 years ago
  • Moreover, you are seriously handicapping yourself with the lonely founder approach. But I'm getting more and more confused, what do you mean by "when this project is finished"? You already have the exit strategy? Or you mean beta coding is finished? I hope you don't think you are done with the work when you ship the first version. :) – Mihaly Borbely 12 years ago

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