Programmers Working For Equity


I've been having so much trouble finding a programmer to work with. I don't have the money to pitch out to hire a developer, I've tried and failed to code on my own, and I rarely get responses from anyone else. any suggestions? are there programmers out there who would actually work for equity only? and has anyone tried the findthetechguy guide?

Co-Founder Equity

asked Apr 1 '11 at 15:27
36 points
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  • I will never work for equity only. This is taking double risk. 1) no pay 2) risk that startup will fail. – Ross 13 years ago
  • SOy ou look for a smart idiot? Smart because programmers have to be, idiot because he wastes a LOT of money he can get as a contractor for working into a non-funded startup? Lottery ticket instead of payment? – Net Tecture 13 years ago
  • 1. Do you bring something to the table other than an idea? Previous successful startups, funding in place, your dad is a VC, an MBA from Harvard? 2. Do you offer meaningful equity, in the 50% range? If you answered no to either question, people with ideas are plentiful, developers who will work for equity are not. – Tony Ben Brahim 13 years ago

9 Answers


The real problem in finding a programmer who will work for equity only is that such a situation is only viable for someone who can make ends meet without drawing a salary. Independently wealthy developers comprise a very small subset of the community.

To locate such folk in your area, you'll want to crawl the local business press to identify software companies that have recently been acquired. At least a few of the engineers there will have gotten enough of a pay-out that they will be able to forgo a salary and be highly risk-tolerant.

Just be prepared to blow them away with your idea and a real co-founder's share. Once an engineer has "F-U money" they're not going to take kindly to being nickle-and-dimed.

answered Apr 2 '11 at 02:41
Adam Crossland
297 points
  • I dont think such programmers are rare. Freelaqncer programmers arn a lot of money, and some months off are always possible without too much hassle. The main reason is: this is a SIGNIFICANT contribution in money for a small non funded startup. – Net Tecture 13 years ago


It's near impossible i'd say. Unless they are intrinsically motivated by your product/service/idea. Nobody likes working for free, especially programmers (they get shafted enough as it is)

So, what can you do then?

Become an advocate for change in some sort of large selfless movement. Why? Well sir, then you will have a huge volunteer and/or young work-force to pick from.

Colleges, Universities, Large Companies etc... or even the Government have Co-Ops, Internships, and Placements for people looking for one or both of the following:

A.) Volunteer Experience

B.) Work Experience

If you can`t afford to pay anyone, then at least you can offer both of the above. Win-Win!

answered Apr 1 '11 at 17:00
121 points


Saw this on Hacker News a few days ago:

answered Oct 17 '12 at 00:51
Dmitry Leskov
606 points


Thats funny.. I must be a good sale man because I have three developers helping :).

I think the trick is you have to be a developer yourself to convince other developers. Thats why I think developers are so much more valuable than MBA or business person on your team because they can recruit other developers.

So you need to get one good one and have him do the recruiting.

answered Apr 2 '11 at 01:13
Adam Gent
186 points
  • good for you that you convinced then, but usually that doens't last long if there is no money coming soon or you should be God of Charisma – South 11 years ago


To find a programmer, you need to give him a lot of equity, and make him your technical co-founder. People who will work for equity are rare, but you can find them because they tend to hang out around start-ups, and understand the early-stage game.

In fact, there are a number of programmers (maybe 5% of overall programmers) who seek out the early-stage ventures such as the one you have.

Of course, if you can not get those guys on board, then it is directly a reflection of your business not sounding appealing to them. Could you share about what kind of an idea you have?

answered Apr 2 '11 at 01:22
1,821 points


A key area of importance here is SALES! In the beginning you are better off getting a very good sales person as an equity partner. I have sold applications to companies with just a few mocked up HTML pages and screenshots and most importantly the product vision behind it. A really good salesperson can sell your product on an enterprise level with just a demo and a vision. Tell the customer you are in development and you will give them a solid SLA with give backs if they dont get what they want when they want it. You then have weeks/ perhaps months to develop and deliver it. You always want top revenue generating sales people FIRST and then you can hire all the best developers you want after you have serious sales rolling in the door.

answered Oct 16 '12 at 05:38
9 points
  • *You then have weeks/ perhaps months to develop and deliver it* - Really? You must have found desperate people to give you money up front... – Karlson 11 years ago


Yes, the programmer I work with wanted equity only- we originally agreed on a price per hour but then he wanted equity, so we switched to that format. I found it unusual (who wouldn't rather have cash vs. uncertain returns) but that's what he wanted.

answered Apr 1 '11 at 20:00
1,747 points
  • -1. please learn the difference between an answer and a comment. – Net Tecture 13 years ago


Unless this is some social change movement where you can get people to volunteer because of the "greater good" you're going to have to pay people to work or be a very good salesman that can convince a dev that it's a sure bet to render services now for future profit.

I'd suggest maybe offering a very low pay rate, with the bulk of pay in equity. you might get some entry level developers fresh out of college willing to take the chance on you to work for peanuts.

answered Apr 1 '11 at 22:46
Alan Barber
406 points



I see no end of people on this forum and others who will tell you that there are no developers who will work for equity. I have only worked for equity since 2001 and rarely take a salary even when the business starts to do well. It amazes me the short sightness of many fellow IT contractors.

4 Types of developers

1)Part Time. You will find open source projects that have thousands of hours devoted to them by individuals part time for no money at all. See if you can find an open source project that partly solves your problem, then your half way there. Most of these guys will jump at the chance of money for there hobby.

2)Indian Freelancers. This can be hard to manage if your not experinced in knowing what to ask for but there are talented indian guys out there who will work for so little money you can afford them near fulltime. You find them on Freelance Developer Websites.

3) A Full Technical Partner. Somebody like me will take equity in your business in return for developing applications. We probably are harder to find but we are out there get onto freelance websites and IT websites.

4) Backing from an IT company. If your idea involves massive development go another way take it to a software house and get them interested as a new piece of software they can sell or partner you in.

When trying to get people to do this be realistic. Your idea may not be so great to everyone. Be prepared to give a reasonable amount of equity. I work as a full partner and so get my full share. Although I have been know to build small ideas for a defered license fee.

1) How big is your idea. Everyone wants an all singing all dancing software platform but now your asking for a massive commitment. If you can keep it to core ideas something that can be built in a few weekends or a few weeks. Everybody thinks that any idea of merit must take months to develop. Yet ideas involving things like SMS gateways can often be very powerful and take days not months to develop.

2) Be prepared to compromise. Yes you want it to look fantastic and run on every browser and every phone but do you really need that from the start. A basic website might have you up and running. Be prepared to work to your developers strengths and be mindful of features that add very little but may take alongtime to develop. If your developer is working part time try to work round his schedule.

3) Will a prototype do. Does it have to be production ready code. Think can a prototype that demonstrates the basic ideas be enough to get VC interest. Slap a BETA logo on it to get started while developing the quality code.

I will happily discuss your idea further if you like.

answered Apr 7 '11 at 10:39
1 point

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