There are two scenarios you may find yourself in if you are starting a tech-based business on your own: either you are a tech person (scenario 1) — a developer/programmer/coder (whatever you wish to call yourself) or you are a business-type person (scenario 2) with an idea. There is a 3rd scenario where you are endowed with both skills in which case you are a talented little so and so and can go and play outside. In scenario 1 you will find it easy to get your idea off the ground but then will have to learn the business side as you progress, however in scenario 2 you will find it very difficult to get the ball rolling in the first instance and, as this was the situation I found myself in, this is what I will concentrate on.
I am going to start off assuming you have already planned your MVP and have wireframed it all out etc, etc. This is important as it will show to any potential partner that you are serious about the idea and aren’t just another dreamer thinking your developer can read your mind. The pre-development and even development period will require significant input from you still so don’t think for one minute your roles are completely segregated.
There are several options when looking for a developer/tech co-founder:
- A friend (or friend of a friend)
This may be one of the easiest ways to get started, but as with borrowing money from a friend, you must be very careful. When you are discussing your proposition with the friend ensure you hold them to the same standard you would any other potential partner, don’t compromise because they are a ‘mate’, this is someone you will be most likely spending considerable time with and who you will be sharing your business with so you better make sure they are competent, reliable and as committed as you are. Treat it like any interview; they must be the right fit and if it doesn’t feel right don’t be afraid to walk away, they’ll forget about it soon enough.
2. Speed-pitching/meetups/forced networking
There are many events around nowadays that focus on connecting developers and people with ideas, usually in some form of speed pitching or speed dating format where you will get 30 seconds or so to give your ‘elevator pitch’ to a room before a period of ‘do they like me?’ commences where you canvass opinions while wandering around attempting to find your significant business other. These are good places to network and get some different viewpoints (along with seeing how attractive your proposition is) but I would imagine have fairly low success rates, given that a lot of developers are there for the free pizza (happy to be proven wrong!), but they do elevate your probability of finding a partner above 0 so that’s good.
3. Online co-founder ‘dating’ sites
There are a few of these around, the one I used and liked was CoFoundersLab. When I joined it was a separate company called CoFounder Dating and required references from other members or professionals on LinkedIn, which helped ensure that there was a certain validity to members of the site and not a load of spammers. On a site like this you will fill in a profile (the more detail you put in the better unsurprisingly), maybe link your LinkedIn, add your strengths and areas of interest (from a business perspective), then start explaining your business idea and what you are looking for. As I have explained elsewhere, I don’t think telling people your high-level business idea is a huge risk really (although maybe don’t go sending them your business plan…) and it means you are more likely to garner interest from prospective partners. Once you have exchanged a few introductory messages, set up a call or meeting with them and go from there.
4. E-lancing sites
There are a number of these around, one of the most popular being UpWork. What happens is you essentially put your project out to tender on the site to a group of developers who you then interview, based on their proposed approach, feedback and rates. You can do things like set up milestone payments in Escrow that are delivered upon mutual agreement of milestone completion to mitigate your risk of being screwed over. The key things for these sites are to make sure you are explicit in your project, to do sufficient due diligence and to keep in constant contact with your developer. For me I would also recommend getting someone you can meet in person if it is a larger project, or at a minimum in the same time zone, but if you only require a small piece of work that is relatively non-complex then looking further afield is less of a risk.
The examples above are non-exhaustive, just the ones I considered. Some people trawl LinkedIn, others might go through Universities’ Computer Science departments, or maybe you have another ingenious way you have thought of to attract top talent.
In short there isn’t a ‘correct’ or ‘best’ way, however I would advise meeting with as many people as possible before making your decision and don’t let anyone pressure you into it, make sure you are comfortable working with them and don’t settle because you feel like you don’t have the power in the negotiation.
Now go out there and partner up!
Where to next? What about this:
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