You are struck with an amazing startup idea. You are convinced that it has the potential to be the next big thing in the market and can’t wait to get started on it. The only thing lacking is finding a technical co-founder. Sounds relatable?
The world of startups is full of examples of successful tech companies that are spearheaded by a combination of tech and non-tech founders together at their helm. A number of successful tech giants including Apple, AirBnB and Snapchat were initially ideated by non-tech founders. If emulating their success formula is what you are looking at, getting a developer on board is the best you can do.
But how do you actually go around finding a technically proficient person to come onboard? How to find a technical co-founder who is as passionate about your dream project as you and is willing to hustle by your side in order to turn your app idea into reality? How can you find the Wozniak to your Jobs and the Blecharczyk to your Chesky and Gebbia?
Answer the “Why” before the “How”
The first step in finding a co-founder from a technical background is introspecting your own needs. Do you really need a technical co-founder? What are the reasons that you are searching for one?
Need someone to code your app for free?
If this is the motivation behind your search for a technical co-founder, you are probably starting off on the wrong foot. The role of a co-founder isn’t limited to someone who would do the coding free in exchange for the promise of equity in the hopes that the app makes it big someday.
There’s no such thing in the world as a free lunch and if you are just looking for a development partner, hiring app developers or a custom software development company would better suit your needs. There won’t be any freebies but you stand a better chance to be successful rather than relying on the hopes of a tech co-founder who would single-handedly so the coding for you.
Have someone oversee the development?
Another reason you may be looking for a technical co-founder is to have someone on board who would oversee the technical aspects of app development because you don’t understand the nitty gritties involved. It still isn’t a good enough reason to be hunting for a technical co-founder.
What you avail is CTO as a service instead. A technically competent person joins your startup as a consulting chief technology officer. The CTO analyzes your existing process and gives it the direction that your company needs to maximize your chances of success.
So why should you look for a technical co-founder?
Technical vision and domain expertise
While you may feel that your app idea has the potential to disrupt the market and set it on fire, chances are it may not be that unique after all. App ideas are floating around a dozen for a dime and it is entirely possible that one similar to your may be in the pipeline or already out in the market.
Uber and Lyft weren’t the first cab hailing services out in the market. A number of similar ideas already existed. It was the execution that mattered and led them to succeed.
Having a technical co-founder lends the much-needed vision to your development efforts leading to better execution of the app idea. As a result of technical experience in the industry, he/she is also better positioned to figure out the technical intricacies as the product undergoes development.
Commitment and ownership of the project
Being a co-founder requires significantly higher amount of commitment and dedication that would be required from a typical developer. If your startup idea seems promising enough to lure the developer away from a six-figure salary job, you can be rest assured that he/she would be fully committed to the project.
The co-founder is going to naturally be more driven than your average developer because the product’s success is directly tied to their own success. In pre-seed/seed stages of a cash-strapped startup, the technical co-founder brings in the drive to work longer hours and do whatever it takes for the project to take off.
A partner who shares the long term strategy
Building a startup from scratch involves a number of business decisions both big and small, which need to be taken. Having somebody with the technical know-how for taking combined decisions removes the risk of the company being caught blind-sided with rapidly changing market scenarios.
A technical co-founder is a partner whose long-term goals align with yours and does whatever needs to be done to help your startup succeed. Unlike the employees you would hire in the future, the co-founder doesn’t work paycheck to paycheck with the chance of leaving when the next big opportunity arrives.
How to find a technical co-founder?
Now that we have cleared the air about when should you look to find a technical co-founder, it is time to address the actual question. How should you go around looking for a cofounder with technical expertise to spearhead your startup? (Hint: Hanging a sign like the one below isn’t going to work!)
Let’s get real. Working as a developer is a lucrative deal these days. You get to draw high salaries, enjoy the associated perks like paid time off and unlimited leaves. There is no shortage of recruitment offers and those with an entrepreneurial mindset are already working on personal projects often as a side hustle with their current job.
Why would any talented developer worth his salt leave behind all these perks and agree to co-found your startup?
Since you clearly can’t leverage yourself on money and associated perks, you can’t offer salary and security as incentives. Freedom to work on passion project may work but that won’t take you far. It is only the business value that your startup offers that will compel the developer to come on board and build up your business as your partner. Here’s what you need to do.
1. Become a spellbinding storyteller
You have a startup idea. What makes it so brilliant? What problems does it solve?
Storytelling is a compelling art. Only if you tell engaging stories can you hope to win people over to your side. This isn’t limited to just the co-founder. It applies to the investors and customers as well.
Telling your story is just another way of selling your ideas. Richard Branson has famously said, “The Virgin Story- its ups and downs, opportunities and challenges- is what attracts people to its products and services, as well as attracting employees to join the Virgin family. We would be nothing without our story”
Great communicators have the skills to draw people on their side. If you can win over the co-founder with a compelling story, chances are you would fare nicely in an investor pitch as well.
Instead of making the story about the idea, center it around the problem itself. Fall in love with the problem and figure out creative ways to solve it.
Your story is your pitch and the problem your plot armor. When you focus on the problem and show the potential benefits associated with solving it, it automatically makes you an attractive co-founder.
2. Learn to code yourself
Learning programming would give you significant leverage when engaging with potential co-founders. It not only gives you a common language, but it also shows that you are willing to go that extra mile to get your product out in the market.
Learning to code doesn’t imply that you become a code ninja yourself. That isn’t a viable solution but you should certainly get familiarized with the technology and terminology used and keep yourself abreast of recent updates that take place.
Being a non-technical founder can be challenging but it doesn’t imply that you should be technically incompetent. Steve Jobs was called a “learning machine” by his wife Laurene Powell because he surrounded himself with super skilled people, became totally teachable in technology and applied all his knowledge into the business.
How can you expect to communicate with the technical team if you don’t speak the language you do? You don’t have to go back to college and become a software engineer to do that. A number of online resources are available to get you started. If it still seems like too much to do, hire an engineering team that has experience working for first-time non-technical founders and you should be good to go.
3. Network with the tech guys
Where can you connect with the techies? It’s not too difficult if you know where to look for. Developer meetups and tech conferences are a good place to start. You may not understand much (unless you are already working on point no.2) but you would surely be connecting with the right crowd.
If you want tech talent to come onboard, you have to be where the tech guys are. Work on your pitch, hone your storytelling skills and be prepared to network, a lot!
A generalized claim that you would handle the business side of things isn’t going to be good enough while networking. You have to show what exactly are you bringing to the table.
Are you a marketing wizard? Outline how you plan to achieve the product/fit. Design is your thing? Bring along the wireframes that you designed. Are good at managing team operations, show them what you can do. Back your claims with irrefutable proof and your networking efforts won’t lay waste.
4. Build the initial traction
Pitching the potential co-founder with a stereotypical “I have an idea” isn’t really going to cut it for you. Chances are they would have already heard the line or some variation of it hundreds of times and would likely be sick of it by the time you approach them.
Just a vague idea pitch would take you nowhere. Start with something concrete instead. Build the wireframes or prototype and bring it along with you when you go to see the tech guy. Building a product prototype doesn’t really require much technical acumen. There are tons of prototyping tools that you could use to build one from scratch.
You need to build the initial traction of the product yourself and validate your idea out in the market. How do you do that you ask?
Build the prototype, keep increasing its fidelity in every iteration and collect feedback. Alternatively, you can also take the MVP approach and build the minimum viable product yourself, which brings us to the next and last point in our list.
5. Start building your product
You have two founders approaching you. One approaches you with an app idea and possibly a power-point presentation about how he envisions the app to manifest. Another brings a basic version of the app with him. It’s nothing flashy, just the bare minimum, but it works nonetheless. He has validated the ideas and has actual users who are benefiting from it. He is full of ideas as well and wants you onboard to make it even better. Who will you be more likely to pick?
If you keep waiting for your co-founder to come onboard, you are likely to miss out on the market opportunities. Get started with building the first version of your product, get market validation and finding the right technical co-founder would no longer be a task.
Uber’s first version was built by a company in Mexico. It was only after the app received acceptance did they bring the development in-house.
Working on a version 1 of your app shows traction, validation, progress and ability to execute. A custom software development company is your gateway to getting this done.
At Arkenea, we have 9+ years of experience in designing and developing mobile apps for clients ranging from upcoming startups to fortune 500 enterprises. We know what goes into building a business from scratch and have worked extensively with non-tech founders which makes us best suited to be your development partner.
Feel free to contact us. We would love to hear more about your app idea.