How do I find good developers to join a start-up on a low-budget


Im located in Minneapolis,Mn. Im starting up an online business here in U.S with market focus in Africa.Im building an e-commerce (auction) site for the growing African savvy internet users.
I am looking to have at least 2 programmers work on this site to develop a prototype now before we go seeking for funds later. But finding freelance developers on a low budget in the twin-cities area has proven tough.

How do i find guys that will assist/partner with me develop this site without costing me arms and legs ?. I do value the skills of developers, but isn't there a place to find guys that are willing to show of their skills and creativity for a small fee ?. I've been thinking of placing a few ads on some area colleges in their graphic-design and computer science departments Cool?. Craigslist just provides me resumes of people i cant afford to pay $12/hr. Should i offer equity ?

Thanks a lot !!!

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asked Nov 27 '11 at 17:43
Onu Kaycee F
21 points
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  • If you can't afford $12/hr you should probably re-think the whole thing. – Steve Jones 12 years ago
  • $12/hr will not get you developers in the western hemisphere. It *use* to be able to get you east european engineers 10 years ago. but today you won't even find Indian programmers who will work for that amount. Or to put it the other way, if you DO find $12/hour programmers, your chances of launching something that actually works in the real world aren't great – Ron M. 12 years ago
  • I have to disagree with ron M. You can easily find programmers in India, Romania, Ukraine, and other countries who charge $10 or less and get very good code from them. MVC compliant code in whatever framework, ZF, Cake etc. OOP, classes, SVN list goes on there are very good coders around the world working for under $10 – Anagio 12 years ago

5 Answers


I disagree with bkparikh in some parts of his answer. Think of it like this, when one graduated from a college/university, what are they trying to do? Get a job. What are people with less skills or less experience need? More jobs! The problem with freelancing online on websites such as Elance and Odesk is that, you are not getting awesome developers who are really passionate about coding, developing, designing or whatever because those professional coders, developers, designers are fully booked and doing tonne of their own extra projects along with their normal day jobs.

If you want to find passionate developers, you should goto Google groups, or discussion boards for developers and try your luck there. I found my cofounder/developer via Google groups. The best thing is that you can narrow your search by going into the group of the language you want to code your site (ex: PHP). Then you can pick a person, say the top 5 contributors, click on their name, fill in the little Google captcha and you get their personal email. You aren't going through layers of other websites, paying some money to post a classified, you are using a discussion board!

The coder I found is so awesome, understanding and best of all, passionate about what he is doing.

answered Nov 28 '11 at 14:20
Bhargav Patel
784 points
  • +1. 99% of the people on elance are crap code curn shops. The OPwants something good - very hard to get for low pay, but your approach is reasonable. – Net Tecture 12 years ago
  • Just for clarification, oDesk/eLance aren't ideal but can work. We built a v1 of a web-app with someone for $6/hour. The code base was bad which made it difficult to add new features, but we had paying customers and product worked. We ultimately got funded based on this version built by an outsourced developer. After initial traction we rebuilt the site from scratch with an internal resource. – Bkparikh 12 years ago
  • You guys are awesome, Im def putting all these into works. Yes we can !!! – Onu Kaycee F 12 years ago
  • I recently got a developer to work on my test application for about $60/h (which is obviously way more than $6/h). The work was done in about 4 hours and it was done almost perfectly. I owe the dev $240. However, I wanted him to change a lot of the stuff and add additional features. He did not charge me a cent more. Its just who you end up finding. Look for guys who have done more than 20 jobs on Elance and you should be good. Try to see what kind of a person they are. If they sound like they are full with ego, drop them and find another. Also do not compromise quality for cheaper hourly rate – Bhargav Patel 12 years ago


It's unlikely that you'll be able to find a good local developer for less than $12/hour. In addition to have a compelling product, you'll also want a designer who thinks through the user's experience on the site. You can do a lot of the design work upfront by using a tool such as Balsamiq Mockups to create simple mockups of your website that you can test on your friends and family to make sure the messaging and actions are intuitive prior to actually having anyone develop them.

Here are a few options for development:

  1. or : With either of these options you can find developers at a low cost, though quality will vary - some would say it's like finding a needle in a haystack. But because of the marketplace approach, you'll be able to see prior ratings and portfolios. Using either of these sites will require a lot of your time in terms of product management and the code may work, but more often than not will be poor quality requiring a re-write. The relationships with outsourced workers usually work best if you can provide high-fidelity mockups such a photoshop PSD file of all the pages of your web application along with what each button does so the developers know exactly what you are looking for. And since you are launching a new product, I'd recommend staying agile by going with an hourly rate if you use this approach. This approach has a lot of risks and takes a lot of time but has worked successfully for me in the past as a way to build a first version quickly. After which, we were able to get funding and rebuild the site with an internal resource.
  2. Find a technical co-founder : It's sounds like you are at an early enough stage where you would have to give significant, founder-level equity, 20-50% depending on the developer's experience. With this option you could find someone local and likely get someone who is truly invested in the project, unlike with option 1. Note that you'll actually have to convince this person that you are bringing more than just your idea to the table. What will you be doing to help the company succeed. As someone who has been on business side myself, I know that convincing developers to build something for you is a difficult task, since the value of a "business" person is not as clear early on.
  3. Learn to program yourself : This depends on how much time you have. But with sites like Squarespace and Wordpress, the difficulty of getting a website online has significantly gone down. You could try to learn the basics and get a site up so you can validate your idea. At some point you'll need programmers but this could be a good way to start, and makes you more marketable in the future. It also shows potential investors and employees that you know how to hustle.
answered Nov 27 '11 at 18:07
610 points
  • Thanks for your answer. Option 2 and 3 sounds good to me so far. As for my contribution to our success will be streamlining the company values with the design team, establishing business contacts with suppliers, logistics firms and financial institution As-well as putting out ad campaign online/offline. I will look into technical co-founder to see what happens.. Thanks again – Onu Kaycee F 12 years ago
  • No problem. I understand that you'll bring value but definitely be prepared to pitch potential technical co-founders as they may not see your value as readily - speaking from personal experience. – Bkparikh 12 years ago
  • Thanks again for your opinions . Thinking of all these and more , what if i decide to higher a developer for a fee ,and if he/she decides to stay then we can approach investors for support? – Onu Kaycee F 12 years ago
  • I'm not sure I understand this question. But approaching investors is a completely separate topic than hiring a developer. Having a good team is a necessary but not sufficient requirement for funding. I'd suggest opening another question around what you need for investment. Re: hiring a developer, if you can afford this and can dedicate the time to work through the design and understand your potential customers, this might the fastest way for you to get started. – Bkparikh 12 years ago
  • Yea i go t side tracked there. The question is still about finding a developer to work through this with me . thanks – Onu Kaycee F 12 years ago


You need to decide what you're really looking for.

Do you really want (one or more) cofounders? That would make sense based on where you've got to so far. Finding a CTO is a whole different proposition to hiring a coder - and it's a great validation step, as cofounders are investors too.

Are you looking for someone who'll risk share, but not a cofounder? If you want great, it's likely that great costs. And the chances of finding great for less than $12 an hour aren't great. But if you have a clear route to fundraising or/and monetisation, and you're willing to part with some of the upside through equity, revenue share or work-for-hire with a risk multiplier then you have the basis of a conversation. You find great by finding work you like and asking, "who built this?"

Do you want something tangible, at a low cost? If you have a tight specification, then most of the online freelance sites let you work in a way that you only part with your cash when the work is delivered. So get that spec (or an outline) online, with a budget, and see who bids.

But most people (in my experience) who aren't experienced developers or hirers of developers haven't got a spec, just an outline. In this case, you're pretty exposed if you set out to hire a cheap developer: most likely you'll spend your money and get 60% to your first goal. So spend your own time mocking up the app and its workflow - hand-drawn, or using one of the many mockup tools out there. Then, either keep your money in your pocket - a good mockup gives you a good pitch - or hire a designer just to polish it for you.

My guess is that you need a cofounder. But plenty of startups buy in design and development, so all these options are valid.

Whatever you decide, good luck!

answered Feb 21 '12 at 04:30
Jeremy Parsons
5,197 points


You can't offer someone zero percent of nothing so offering equity isn't an option.
This always seems to me like the wrong way to go about things. Trying to get something done for next to nothing only to prove what? If the product has any kind of value then getting funding to do a prototype would be a good place to start, then follow that up with another feasibility study and get funding to roll out the full product.


answered Nov 28 '11 at 20:28
146 points


Having been down the equity path and totally burned on it, I must say, you need to learn to program yourself if you don't have the funds. You just are not going to find people, very good people anyway, that will do this.

You need to be able to implement the idea, not just come up with them. What happens is, you have all this time on your hands and your developer does not. So you keep coming up with ideas to implement that your developer doesn't have time to do. It is a vicious cycle.

answered Feb 21 '12 at 11:57
Bill Leeper
123 points

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