It’s the same old dilemma within the startup world — “I have a great idea, but I don’t have any technical skills. I need to find a technical cofounder”. Technical co-founders are in high demand for startup founders as the ability to build a quality product is essential in order to grow and scale the business.
From personal experience and being involved within the exciting world of startups, the one question I am always asked is how a founder finds technical talent. Based on the problems of securing a technical partner, here are seven tips to help improve your chances of sourcing the best tech co-founder.
1. Be clear about your business model
Before any engineer or talented hacker decides to come to your startup, they want proof of an actual opportunity and a viable business model. No, this doesn’t mean you have to have huge revenues but it does mean you have to be able to show that people or companies want to use your product.
It’s important that potential co-founders see you are solving a problem. Who would care about your product? How does the business make money? How much can it make? To really increase your chances, actual data about the opportunity backed with customer validation is the perfect combination for a proven business model which will incite an engineer to come on board.
2. Offer more than just equity
Equity is an interesting topic of discussion when it comes to building the core team of founders for a startup. That’s another issue altogether. When it comes to technical talent, you want the best on your team. Offering equity may not be enough.
You may need to pay a partial wage, but there are many other factors that make your startup attractive: team culture, empowerment to make decisions, flexible working arrangements and belief in the opportunity. Ultimately, it will come down to personal circumstances but keep these non-monetary factors in mind when making your case.
3. Make sure they understand tech is just one factor
Many technical people place a huge emphasis on product development and don’t realize it is only one factor of growing a successful business. One beautiful thing about the world of startups is its fast progression. In many cases, you can validate a business and even generate revenue without acquiring technical talent onto your team. Marketing, sales, finance and networking are all vital and essential components for your startup.
Tech co-founders tend to focus on building a beautiful product. That’s good, but they should also be actively contributing to making sure your business is viable and continuously refined to satisfy your target market. They always should be looking for opportunities for growth. Does your candidate tech co-founder think like this?
4. Understand their needs
Good technical people are highly valuable in the market. They can be very selective when deciding which startup to partner with. They will want to be sure that you appreciate their value and can understand the advice they are giving. You need to have an appreciation of the difficulty and time it takes to build a quality product.
So, if you aren’t technical, how can you increase your understanding of tech to grow your business and be a better partner to your tech co-founder?
Consider learning product management or even learning to code. There are many great online resources such as Udemy, Treehouse and Lynda where they will show you from the ground up, how to build a quality minimal viable product and how to to attract customers, talent or capital.
5. Attend local meetup groups
This is a must if you’re serious about your startup idea. The startup community in not only Australia but around the world, have thousands of meetup groups where you can find brilliant technical people. Australia is one of the most active meetup communities related to startups in the world. Take advantage of that!
6. Go to hackathons. That’s the focal point of awesome talent.
Hackathons are one of the best experiences you can have. This is the focal point where the best talent within your community or local area — come together and build awesome apps in a weekend.
Why do I say come along to a hackathon? Two Reasons. First, because all types of startup talent will be there everyone from hackers (programmers), hipsters (designers) to hustlers (business/marketing). Second, because some of the best startup mentors will be there and they are full of great advice.
7. Online platforms
If you can’t find a technical co-founder online or within your network, then finding one online is another solution. There are many platforms that exist for the sole focus of finding a technical co-founder including CoFounders Lab & Founder2be. You can also go ‘outside the square’ and target sites where tech talent congregate. Sites like Hacker News and various subreddits related to programming on Reddit are excellent for this.
My final word is this, if you’re serious about your startup, then you don’t find a technical co-founder, you earn one. You have to put in the effort to prove the value of your business concept and show that you will be an excellent person to partner with.
Dan Siepen is the director of growth & product strategy at Titan Vine. He is also the co-founder of Coder Factory, a coding school based Sydney. He loves everything growth hacking and you can tweet Dan @dansiepen
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