Finding cofounders · Cofounder

Best Strategy for Find a Technical Cofounder vs. Hiring Freelancer to do dev work?


July 14th, 2014

If I am looking for a technical co-founder, how do I weed out the scams from the legitimate requests?  I've found that it is SO expensive, and that the temptation of going with a team abroad is high.  In the past I have been scammed by teams abroad but know that a lot of people use teams abroad to get things done on a cheaper level (when hiring for Freelancer).  

Is it better to search for a technical co-founder, or go with hiring a freelancer and coughing up the money (rather than the equity)?

What should you ask the potential candidate to figure out if they are the right fit?  Should it be based on years of experience, or what they have created?  And how can you tell if someone has actually created an app that they say they have?

Zvi Epner

July 14th, 2014

I've had this problem in the past, and it really takes direct vetting. I've worked directly with teams in Buenos Aires and India that were of a very high quality. ($30-$60/hr) The thing is, they are cheaper, but only by about half, so expect some padding for devs and PMs (worth it).

Sandy Fischler Experiential Marketing Director | Event Producer | Event Management | Entrepreneur

July 14th, 2014

We are facing this challenge as well. On one hand, we'd like to have a third team member to take the technical side away from us but on the other hand it would be simpler to hire someone on a project basis. 

The thing with bringing on a technical co-founder is that you are making a significant investment in that person, you are adding a business partner and it is a financial marriage. You have to consider skills set, sure, but you also have to consider culture fit, work style, work ethic, and communication style. You not only have to nail those things, but you have to find someone who is in love with your idea and the problem you are solving. Someone who isn't emotionally committed to the problem will never put in the hours and devotion to making the best solution possible. 

Finding a for-hire programmer is a lot easier, but that has pro's and con's as well. Hiring out means you better have your idea together and be able to clearly communicate your needs. To paraphrase one of our incubator mentors "the good thing about hiring out is that they do exactly what you tell them to do. The bad thing about hiring out is that they do exactly what you tell them to."  You are purchasing a service when you hire out on a project basis and that service has a defined scope of work. That person isn't on board when you decide to pivot and they aren't necessarily contributing to your creative process. 

We're leaving the option open to go either way, which is why I registered for FD. It's also why we go out to RoR meetups and hang out with programmers to get to know them. We want to have all options available until we formally choose one road over another. 

Candice Hughes, PhD, MBA

July 15th, 2014

My experience is similar to Anthony's in that there are very few qualified people who want to join a startup rather than be an employee or create their own startup. This is especially true if you are looking for more unique skills rather than more common ones (like create and maintain a website). 

I also agree that if the "non-technical" co-founder doesn't know anything about tech, they will have a very difficult time. In my opinion, even as the "non-technical" co-founder, one should know some basic aspects of your tech plus some other skills. For example, I had already created a number of websites (entirely or as a team member) especially focusing on UI both on my own and for my employer. This allowed me to handle our early-current websites while hiring contractors for our game development. 

I feel the main problem for anyone including someone who wants to start up a co-founder vetting service is that there aren't enough tech co-founder potential candidates and a vetting service can't solve that problem. 


July 14th, 2014

In my opinion any technical co-founder material should own/operate/maintain their own servers on which they host their own site and content, be an expert in one or more languages, and own the implementation of technologies all the way from the back end to the front end, while being able to integrate 3rd party APIs in a stable way. 

I think a fair test of this would be to request them to create a basic web application allowing secure authentication and a demonstration of using a 3rd party API with local persistence. Such as a sample check-out workflow using Stripe (free to sign up and create this test with). 

Require that they are also required to provide traffic and click analytics. Seeing how they solve this will give you your answer if they are qualified. This would ensure they are able to maintain their webserver to put up this new content. This would ensure they are able to create a user store. This would ensure they can maintain rational persistence. This would ensure they can consume a 3rd party API and integrate its results with their own system. 

Stripe is especially useful for this since you could create the account, give them just the Test API keys, and watch the results in the Stripe dashboard. 

 All of the UI fluff with javascript/angular/etc is nice and all. But without core competencies outlined above, that stuff is useless. If they have core competencies, then those abilities are icing on the cake.

And knowledge of how to do all of this will be essential to someone leading a team of people needing to do the same.

Rob G

July 14th, 2014

Seems to me there's a business model here.  It seems that with the volume of requests on FD alone for 'non-techs' looking to vet tech co-founders as well as techs looking to vet non-tech cofounders that one (a small team) could build a decent service vetting cofounders. VCs have discovered this need and some are building internal capabilities so they can vet candidates for their portfolio companies. Does anyone know of such a service that exists formally now?  This could apply no only to founders vetting co-founders, but vetting contractors as well. Not a huge market, but big enough. 

Tucker Balch Co-Founder and CTO at Lucena Research

July 22nd, 2014

If you are a technology startup you need a technology executive.  Name all the successful technology startups without a technology co-founder.  Maybe you can, I'll be interested to see the list.

Anthony Zeoli Digital Strategy and WordPress Consultant and Trainer

July 14th, 2014

First, to find a qualified technical co-founder, you are going to have to put out some up front cash and equity. No one good is working for for free, unless it's their own project or a project with a group they've worked with before and they are invested in it for other reasons. The problem with most start-up executives that don't have a technical background, is that they don't understand how to produce requirements and manage a technical team, so they default to hiring a "technical co-founder" who they want to offload all of those critical decisions. As a somewhat technical entrepreneur who has been involved in many projects, I've had to learn everything from requirements documentation to information architecture and user experience design. I work with my developers and do my best to understand all of the challenges confronted and decisions that need to be made. As the product owner, you have to become the product driver. You have to do the management. You have to make the decisions. And, if you don't know how, then you need to look for another line of work. Best regards, Tony Zeoli President *Meet us in Asheville NC • New York City NY* WordPress | Digital Strategy | IA & UxD | Scrum Agile Dev ✉ | Visit Our Site Main ☎ (877) 237-8318 | Mobile ☎ 917.705.4700 We organize the WordPress Chapel Hill Meetup Social: [image: Facebook] [image: Twitter] [image: LinkedIn] [image: Meetup] More words: Digital Strategy Works founder Tony Zeoli spoke at WordCamp Asheville 2014

Rob G

July 14th, 2014

And to answer your question directly, Aaron, i say the most important action is action - do things that move the ball forward each day.  If you have ready access to a large pool of potential co-founders, then start meeting and pitching and vetting those candidates immediately and do that with focus and vigor until you have your co-founder on board. that sound MUCH easier than it is.  It takes a lot of time and effort and it should. spending a ton of time picking the wrong co-founder and spending time and money unwinding a bad relationship is, IMHO, worse than no co-founder at all.  Same goes for freelancers/contractors, but those relationships are easier to unwind.  I find it most efficient, if you have the financial means, to start with contractors to get things moving - build a MVP/rev 1 and get going.  in parallel be looking for potential co-founders.  You may find that one of your contractors could be a potential co-founder.  You will find that the pool of potential co-founders increases as you make progress on your product - some may fall out because they don't want to take on someone else's code, but don't let that stop you. just get moving. 

Ian McLean Developing Startup Grunt, Tech Co-Founder

July 14th, 2014

I've been known to help advise non-techs on tech founders or on outsourcing operations/architecture. Advisors can be great for guiding you through unknown territory. Also before committing to a need for a tech founder make sure there isn't a much easier way for you to launch your product through the auto-manual technique. For instance buying diapers from local supermarket and shipping per email order to before taking the jump to a software solution. To your customers its all the same.

Alejandro Olchik Catalyzer. Life-long learner. Consultant. Entrepreneur.

January 8th, 2016

The model we are experimenting is positioning ourselves as a technology enabler for startups. We engage on projects that we believe we can't contribute offering advice on technical and product decisions and software development skills. 

We usually start building a relationship conducting product envisioning and, if we move ahead, developing an initial version of the product under contract.

This is usually enough to decide if it makes sense for both parties to have a cofounding relationship, in which case we participate as a part-time/full-time cofounders.

We have already engaged in many projects. Part of them as cofounders, and one of them is starting to poll VCs for funding. That's our current stage.  

Experimenting this approach remotely and abroad (Brazil) it is also something that imposes significant challenges.