One of my friends is starting a company and he's looking for a technical co-founder to work with him to build a web app. Where should he look for technical co-founder?
Some more details: He is a great product visionary who understands a big market (personal development), he's got a cool product for embedding subliminal affirmations into music, and he knows how to talk to people and sell. His customer surveys indicate that people want his product and they're willing to pay for it.
Where should he look for technical co-founder?
Hire someone. As a PHP programmer, I find that too many people have an idea, but they have little idea of how to implement it technically. Very few have a viable business plan to go along with it and most of the time, the idea is only a copy of something that already exists with not enough to differentiate itself in the market.
From my perspective, this is the way I'd prefer for someone to come to me for a CTO position in a new product/company:
The bottom line is: Don't expect someone else to do all the work for your product with no compensation up front and no sign that you've done any work or research. Ideas are a dime-a-dozen. Back up your idea the best you can. If you're not willing to put money into seeing it happen, it probably won't happen.
One thing to try would be local tech entrepreneur Meetups or other events in the area. I participate in several in the Boston area, and they're a good way to connect to other startup fanatics (be they technology geeks or business geeks).
One of the things that makes these connections hard is that tech folks and business folks often don't hang out in the same circles. Startup events often pull in both kinds of people.
One word of warning, if the concept that you wish to create is only just that at this stage be very careful with whom you share your secret sauce. Ideally, you would have wanted a technical founder to be someone you've known for some time and can trust as you stand the risk of being "Zucked" (see Winkelvos brothers and Mark Zuckerberg regarding Facebook).
There was a recent PHP group Meetup event in September and one of the presenters were two marketing and sales guys that had an idea that could work but there was no real way to defend against any of the techies in the room just stealing the idea and coding it themselves, so unless there is some aspect of your concept that makes YOU personally invaluable to its implementation, engage a long search and trust cycle for your hunt. You can mitigate against the urge of people you share your idea from wanting to "borrow your idea permanently", you can offer a big chunk of equity up front, as they will make your engine go, (heck build the engine!) it is important to make them feel like an owner, you don't want to get Zucked!
I found startuply.com VERY useful
Might be worth your friend learning the skills and becoming a technical co-founder himself. It is extremely hard to measure what you don't yourself already know about. Not that you can't get lucky and find someone. But you can minimize risk and maximize gain.
Check your local tech Meetups, events, user groups, etc... I am sure you'll find some in your area. Also, if you are in Austin, TX you can check the Co-Founder Austin Meetup and if you are in the valley, then the Co-Founders Meetup is there.
Get out and start attending local events, nothing beats meeting people (potential co-founders) in person. Not even social media sites.
I second Van's answer. Even trying to do the tiniest bit himself would teach him insanely great lessons. Even if he's terrible at it, the knowledge would go far in helping him hire people who are actually good at it.
Jason Fried at 37signals tried to cobble together some PHP and it helped him tons when he actually went out looking for a PHP programmer to do things right and found David.
I would ask the same question, but in the reverse!
I think ultimately what matters (at least for me) is chemistry and complement. It shouldn't be forced and there should be a strong line of distinction in terms of my responsibilities and the more business oriented co-founder.
A lot of technical people find it tough to listen to pitches about working for equity, so I would advise your friend to have some short term financial upside for the developer.
If he knows what technology he wants to work with, I suggest he network in the user groups around those technologies (Ruby on Rails, PHP, .NET, etc.)
I don't think you can discount the amount of time it takes to find a co-founder, regardless of whether they're technical or business oriented. Find a connector in your network to line up meet and greets with some technical people w/ startup success under their belt.
I assume we are talking about founders, and not outsourced / "by the project" developers.
I think many techies are not too interested in startups that don't have funding, market research / validation, and experienced leadership. To get involved with a startup requires a tremendous leap of faith - one cannot guarantee that the effort will turn a profit (yet there is an absolute guarantee of hard work).
Suggest that the non technical founder focus on defining & presenting a compelling reason to join him / her in developing the business rather than engaging them with "speeds & feeds" type discussions. Sure, you need to validate skill set, but you shouldn't be talking to someone about your idea without already understanding their capabilities.
Start with people you know through work or other similar "professional setting" (could be open source work, a non-profit, etc etc).
Cofounding requires more trust and it should obviously not come from a normal recruitment procedure. Usually we'll have friends who's talented enough managing the technical verticals of the startup. If it's truly a visionary product, the idea can be shared in an abstract level and find some of the known high profile developers/technical managers.
Those who founding something, he should have a clear idea on what to do. Not how to do. Even he can outsource if it's hard to find resources or too expensive to maintain the resources for a long time. Also highly capable contract developers are available to meet their requirements. Technicals cofounder is something similar to co-founding in understanding. It depends on the innovativeness of the idea. If it's possible to convince VCs and raise the fund, even they can help you to find the right person or their money will help you have the right person in the company.
Co-founders are overrated. I think if you have an idea for a business, you should go out and make it happen on your own, if you have to.
Do your own research, create a wireframe (use Balsamiq, AXURE or ProtoShare), and really putting together something a programmer and graphic designer can see and understand. And from there you can setup a payment arrangement over time and maybe even get payments deferred until launch. The point is to get started! Then after launch you can find a technical co-founder at a 60-40 split, or whatever.
Honestly even if you find a technical co-founder learn to code yourself. Client side code (HTML, CSS and a little JS) you can learn in a weekend (I like w3schools.com ) and then continually use.
Then you have to learn a programming language and a popular web framework like Python/Django or Ruby/Rails. This step will take a longer, but we are talking months not years. This stuff isn't brain surgery, it just takes motivation, patience and practice. Create some scripts that assist you in your day job.
There are huge benefits to this. First, you won't have to dilute yourself as much if you actually understand what you are asking for. You will also have a better idea of a timeline. Not to mention these skill sets are probably the most valuable and in demand skill sets to have. You don't have to be a code genius, and it is probably a good idea to still hire/partner someone but do yourself a favor.
By the way I would give the same advice to a programmer. Learn Accounting, marketing, legal issues, and take a part time sales gig just for the experience. No reason to spend all that money on an MBA.
We are sort of in this la la land educationally. I'm fairly certain programming will be taught alongside reading, writing and arithmetic a few years down the road. Until then most of the workforce is in sort of in one box or the other.
All interaction involves risk, but in the situation you're describing there's a specific task - translating the technology underneath an existing product into a web app. That has complexity - it isn't just an application port - so a co-founder with complementary expertise is a good way to go.
So your friend needs to go where prospective technical co-founders hang out: startup Meetups, user groups, startup weekends, hackathons. Don't go to every meeting to pitch - go to learn the culture and to get to know people who have the right skill sets. Develop relationships, and when there are a few people who are emerging as skilled, evidencing results as well as intentions, able to collaborate - then is the time to start pitching the opportunity.
In my humble opinion, you should first answer whether you need a tech co-founder. If your business' main competitive edge is driven by technical aspects, then obviously the answer is yes. However, for most SAAS platforms at least, the competitive edge is not at all in the look and feel of the website, rather its with the business partnerships you create and sales/marketing/user acquisition strategies. In this case, just outsource or contract your development work out. Of course, apply code review and software development processes to them so that you could shift development to someone else later on. DON'T BE A HOSTAGE TO A TECH CO-FOUNDER! I am a tech guy and I have been on both sides of the coin.
Look for and create the IP (intellectual property) in your "idea". I favor patents and trademarks.
While patents can be pricey, there's a great book, Patent It Yourself, that is a great starting point. A big plus with the patent process is that getting to a "patent pending" requires only a "provisional" patent application, which is much simpler than the full patent application, provides most of the same benefits, and give up to 12 months to file the final (and more costly) regular patent application. (This also provides time to test/validate whether the invention is worthy of spending the additional time/money to secure a regular patent.)
Trademarks are also a good place to create IP, especially if you come up with a very catchy/signification name. Trademarks can be created by simply following the rules for trademark usage (plenty of info via Google) or by filing a trademark application (around $350) at the US Patent & Trade Office (USPTO) for US or similar agency in other countries.
Patents pending (and to a lesser extent, trademarks) provide leverage when talking to others and especially when looking for partners/investors.
Also, remember to use a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) when talking about the idea with others. Sharing details about the "invention" without an NDA or confidentiality agreement may constitute a "public disclosure" that may equate to releasing your "invention" to the public domain, thereby giving up your patent protection rights.