... or do you also enjoy taking part in the vision and MVP early design?
Disclosure: I provide a service that helps founders build products. I've built a tool that automates the MVP process, reducing the cost and time of development by 50 to 70%.
I've been on both sides of the spectrum - a founder desperately looking for someone with some technical skill to help me and, after learning to code, a programmer trying to fend off non-technical founders/friends asking me to work for them for free. I think I can definitively answer your question. And the answer is... it depends.
It really does. There are so many factors that would influence a decision like that for me.
First and foremost, is the founder bringing something to the table? Have they demonstrated demand? Are there customers clamoring for the product? Have they secured LOIs from potential first customers? Have they secured funding or a commitment from a reputable third party? Does the founder have significant experience in the industry they're targeting? Do they know earned secrets? I'd be more willing to work for equity if I'm convinced that the project has been de-risked.
Second, are you paying me? It doesn't have to be whatever the market rate is - willing to put capital in to pay an engineer is a sign of commitment. It shows me that you're committed to your vision and that you value the time and effort I'll be putting into the project. It also tells me that you're less likely to abandon the project at the first sign of trouble.
Third, is the product / vision so amazing that I would be willing to sacrifice most of my free time to work for you? There is a significant opportunity cost associated with working for an early stage company. The onus is on the founder to prove that their vision is going to make the engineer more successful than other options.
If a founder satisfies these criteria then I'm more likely to be vested in the long-term success of the business and interested in being involved with early design. If a founder doesn't satisfy these criteria, I'll want to see the money before I start writing. And for everything in between... it depends.
Hope this helped!
You need a technical person during MVP design, however this does not mean that this technical person needs to be your engineer. You need someone there at the beginning with the technical know-how to tell you if a feature is too complex to implement for an MVP.
Considering you need a technical person during early design, it would make everyone's life easier if that person is your engineer. This gives the engineer time to think and begin to engage with the product at the same level as the original founder. Especially at this young stage of your company, you want your engineer to be enthusiastic about the product and not just a code monkey.
I would have no interest in joining as a co-founder once an MVP is progress....
The vast majority of "Programmers" want to spend tons of hours "reinventing the wheel." Their focus is on writing code... not delivering a finished product.
Also, many "Programmers" haven't honed their craft... So, there are frequently "baked in flaws" that will force you to throw pieces or the entire application away.
Never underestimate the insidious nature of building an application with a Development team that is not quite up to par... I've seen this more than once... A company goes "belly up" with millions of dollars in sales... Simply because their code was so horrible it could not be salvaged.
In my case, I detest "reinventing the wheel." That is why I built a platform that takes me from idea to an Enterprise web application in a couple weeks. No wireframes... No prototypes... just production code. :-)
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” - Dr. Albert Einstein
Thanks all for your answers!
@Ayush: you have valid points. Being involved from day 1 indeed often implies that there is no cash on the table, no obvious sign of traction... Therefore it is a co-founder role.
Money aside, do you like creating a company from scratch or do you prefer focusing on the dev?
@Jamie: Understanding technology clearly helps to design a reasonable MVP!
@Rich: yep I have experienced that as well. You go to dev without design/wireframe?
@Peter: thanks ;)
I enjoy the vision and MVP and bringing it to life