How do I find a technical co-founder?


22

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?

Co-Founder Recruiting CTO

asked Oct 10 '09 at 09:09
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Nivi
157 points

20 Answers


10

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:

  • Research your idea. Look at the market size and the number of competing products. Find the weaknesses of other products and address them with your product. If it doesn't or can't address an actual need in a unique and compelling way, abandon it.
  • Do an initial financial projection based on other prices to see if your product is financially viable. If it's not financially viable, abandon it.
  • Decide on the absolute minimum feature set of your product. Hire someone to do a working prototype/proof-of-concept. Sign that person to an NDA if necessary.
  • Test your prototype in your target market. Rework it as necessary. If it doesn't test well, abandon it.
  • Gather your market research, your business plan, and your prototype and make your presentation to potential CTOs. If your presentation is compelling and detailed enough, you might be able to get them to become a full partner. Otherwise, you would have to offer actual compensation (read salary) in addition to corporate shares.

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.

answered Nov 24 '10 at 10:10
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Virtuosi Media
1,232 points

9

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.

answered Oct 10 '09 at 10:52
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Dharmesh Shah
2,860 points

12

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!

answered Oct 10 '09 at 10:53
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User34
169 points
  • Didn't know about being "Zucked"? :) Maybe Jason Calacanis should start using it. He hates Mark and always accuses him of stealing other people's ideas. – Tony Henrich 8 years ago

6

I found startuply.com VERY useful

answered Oct 10 '09 at 10:00
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Justin Vincent
176 points
  • to hire someone – Simpatico 8 years ago

4

There was a recent thread on Hacker News which had a running list of folks looking for co-founders - quite a number of solid technical folks standout.

Here's the posting for co-founders.

answered Feb 8 '10 at 21:43
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Alex Lam
699 points

3

One of the users on this forum has a startup called FairSoftware and it looks like it'd be a perfect place for you to find help and share revenue for a new idea. I haven't used it personally but it looks interesting.

Alain Raynaud is the founder of FairSoftware

answered Oct 18 '09 at 04:48
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Daniel Crenna
236 points
  • Another thing to note about FairSoftware is its legal founder agreement, which protects co-founders IP before incorporation. – Alain Raynaud 9 years ago

4

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.

answered Oct 10 '09 at 14:34
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Van Nguyen
482 points
  • Very big learning curve though. Personally I think it's better to maximise your strengths and find others who are brilliant at what they do to fill the gaps. Sure you need to know something about the tech side. But you don't have to be able to do it yourself. Plus there is more synergy in a team than one person working on a project. – Susan Jones 8 years ago

2

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.

answered Dec 29 '10 at 03:13
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Ricardo
4,815 points

2

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.

My analogy is: have you ever seen a good football coach who has never played a single game of football?

answered Oct 21 '09 at 03:33
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Nathan Kontny
1,865 points

1

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.

answered Oct 10 '09 at 09:53
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Danpickett
263 points
  • Agreed. Most good technical people get the "working for equity" pitch on a regular basis. Even if your idea is good, we've all got to eat. – Paul Mc Millan 10 years ago

1

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.

answered Feb 16 '10 at 10:44
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Jim Galley
9,952 points

1

Check out this Google document of a bunch of hacker meetups.

Almost certainly by attending some of these gatherings and networking you can find a co-founder.

answered Oct 6 '10 at 09:10
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Superjoe30
176 points

1

There's a website called techcofounder.com where coders post pages with their specialties. You can look there.

I agree with @superjoe - networking is probably a better way to go.

Also, check out this previous question.

Let us know when you do find it and tell us what worked and what didn't!

answered Oct 6 '10 at 16:44
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Bruno
81 points

1

Start with people you know through work or other similar "professional setting" (could be open source work, a non-profit, etc etc).

answered Sep 23 '10 at 14:31
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Ask Bjørn Hansen
141 points

1

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.

answered Sep 23 '10 at 22:13
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Sarat
134 points

1

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.

answered Jul 31 '11 at 18:04
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Jeremy
11 points

0

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.

answered May 28 '11 at 13:36
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Doug
31 points

0

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.

answered Jan 23 '11 at 18:28
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Jeremy Parsons
5,187 points

0

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.

answered Oct 13 '11 at 09:26
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Sri
16 points

0

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.

answered Nov 24 '10 at 03:40
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Cesel
128 points

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