Building a team · Cofounder

From a technical cofounders' point of view...?

Marco Louters Working on a new project: Qlumbus

Last updated on January 18th, 2019

Four questions related to the 'when', 'what', and 'how' of finding a technical cofounder.

The past year I've been working on and adapting a new startup idea. Now, the time has kind of come to ask for an extra set of hands: the technical kind. It's time to work on actually building the startup.

A few questions I've been struggling with and would love to hear answers from the technical cofounders' point of view.

1. In which phase does a technical co-founder want to join a startup?

A technical cofounder could join in several different phases of a startup. For example: I'm currently in the phase where the overall solution is pretty clear and the user-side of the market has shown a real interest in the product. However, the more zoomed in parts of the solution ("major-ish details") still has some open spots for design and creativity. And then, of course, you have the "minor details," which will always be there anyway.

I can imagine that if a technical cofounder joins around this phase, he/she feels more connected to the startup, partly because he/she was still a part of the early design process, rather than just joining to build.

On the other hand, potential technical cofounders could also of course still brush the idea off on the fact that there is not enough "proof" yet, and that the more mid-major details should also have been tested strongly.

I'm really curious to hear your opinion on this. How far should an idea be developed? In how much detail?

2. Which factors are most important in deciding to join a startup/founder or not?

3. What does a potential technical cofounder want to hear in the first (2) pitch(es)? Please notice that this question actually differs from question 2.

One could see a first pitch in two ways. First, there is the initial message, often very limited in the amount of words. For example: a connection request. One wants to raise interest in this potential cofounder, so he/she can later continue to the second, more expansive pitch, after the connection has been formed.

I can imagine potential technical cofounders receive A LOT of requests from people with new business ideas. When would one stand out with his idea? What should be in these early messages?

4. Lastly, what is the best way to actually find and contact potential technical cofounders, while not being annoying?

For example, one has platforms like AngelList and CoFoundersLab. On CoFoundesLab one has to send a connection request. On AngelList one could do the same, but also post more information about the startup. Others say, be where the potential founders are, for example on the campus of a tech university.

What is the best way? What is seen as most annoying? From which channel should this 'first contact' preferably come?

Love to hear your thoughts!

Sina Experienced CTO - Hire us as your virtual CTO @NuBinary

January 18th, 2019

There is a time limit for on boarding a co-founder to your startup, it's definitely not after you launch your product, raise some capital and get traction. Of course, you can always add a CTO to your startup but technically they wouldn't be a co-founder after a certain stage, so I assume you are asking about a stage when they are eligible to become a co-founder, the "founding" stage.

Anton's answer perfectly summarizes it, I will add my two cents:

1. A technical person is very unlikely to join your startup if you just have an idea, but in general, you can find a technical co-founder at any stage, it's just harder to convince someone the earlier you are in the founding stage. Seems like you are passed the idea stage and you have done research and talked to potential users, which is great.

I would take one step further and try to start somewhere building a business around the idea. Sometimes you can start with a service company providing the service your product/idea is supposed to provide but "manually". You are building a market place? start an online shop selling similar products. Are you building a software for automating an industry? start getting into that industry by servicing customers in traditional/manual way. In many cases there are white-label solutions out there that you can start with without any technical knowledge. Start a blog about that industry and start building an email list. Start a social media page. The further you go in investing your time doing anything except the technical product development to increase the chance of succeeding after the product is launched, the more attractive your startup is for a technical co-founder. Even things like formally incorporating the company opening a bank account and investing some of you own money shows how serious you are about the idea and so a potential technical co-founder considers it serious.

Ask yourself: am I going to build this startup no matter what? do I believe in this startup so strongly that I'm going to invest a lot of time and money to make it happen? or am I looking for a technical co-founder to build a proof of concept to taste the waters and see if it's worth pursuing? if it's the first case, you are in the sweet spot of attracting a technical co-founder and it's the time to look for one.

2. The most important factor is You! Most startups pivot at some point, the idea changes, but the founders stay the same people. Your personality, professionally, track record and experience is the most important factor. The success of the startup after all lies on the shoulder of the founders. If you have built an startup before, you have much greater chance of attracting a technical co-founder second time. Other factors:

- Your field expertise about the idea: are you trying to disrupt an industry you have years of experience in? Are you a real estate agent trying to revolutionize real estate market? wonderful, I'm gonna join you on your journey giving you a technical hand. But if you are working on a startup that doesn't have anything with your experience, it might be not the right idea to work on after all!

- How fundamental and meaningful is the problem you are solving and how much you believe in solving it?

3. I think you are approaching the problem in a bad way. Harsh truth: cold calling people to ask them being your co-founder is the hardest way to find a co-founder and least appealing to one. You wouldn't need to pitch to your co-founder. They are excited enough about the idea that they want to know more about it. I would start with asking for feedbacks and advise about your idea, probably in meet-ups, among your close network and face to face. Since you are looking for a technical one, ask them for technical advise and feedback. Most people with entrepreneurial personality likes to help others in their field expertise and if they like the idea too, it can lead to conversations about doing it together.

4. The best potential co-founder (no matter technical or not) is probably in your existing network. If you do not have many technical people in your network start to grow it, ask for introductions and be present in meet ups. The fact is that, a co-founder is much more than a colleague. They are going to work closely with you for years, invest a lot of their time in a business that YOU are half of it and someone who knows you, trusts you and believes in your capabilities and is comfortable working with you -- a friend -- is much more likely to be your co-founder. They are going to take a big risk on you, so they have to know you and trust you. Though it's much harder to find a co-founder on platforms like CoFoundersLab, it's not impossible, I wouldn't go directly asking someone to be your co-founder. Maybe start with a contractor with potential to turning into a co-founder. Asking directly to be your co-founder is like asking someone to marry you on a dating site! You have to be picky about your co-founder as well, you have to define a trial period to work with each other, get to know each other in a work environment and make sure you are a good match.

Ivana Petkova entrepreneur

January 18th, 2019

Hi Marco, an year ago I struggled with the same issue but I was fortunate enough to find a guy who currently helps me with the development of my business idea. My advice is to validate your business idea first and to have some idea about what you want from the actual product- features, UX design etc. Only then you will have at least a vague idea of what kind of tech skills you need. I personally posted a job ad in some of the biggest Data Science Facebook groups and many people contacted me in return. I set up lots of interviews but I was lucky to quickly find someone and never regretted my decision. Apart from the right skills you also need to consider their personality. You need to find someone you can work with. Please dm if you want to discuss this in more detail but it is not impossible to find good people online ( despite the advice from others I received an year ago).

Anton Murauyou I can be your CTO / Tech Co-Founder.

January 18th, 2019

Hey Marco, that's a good question!

I'm a technical guy, having already 11 YoE, looking for co-founders and while everyone's (of non-technical founders) claiming it's hard to find a technical co-founder, I had round-table experience - last year I've been looking for non-technical co-founders to start a venture and it was not an easy deal for me. I ended up making things lonely on my own :) Wish CoFoundersLab or something similar could fill that gap, but not at the moment so far.

I'll answer the questions for my own situation - I've been hungrily searching for non-technical co-founders last year, so don't take that as a rule - I would imagine other tech guys are never making it that way.

1. First: Market research performed! Second: Idea and business model (sometimes also business plan) documented or clearly defined. Second is not that hard - I enjoy discussing and bootstrapping idea into a viable business model.

2. Your perseverance and confidence. I could check, research or even fill in all the rest.

3. Whatever was mentioned in #1: Facts on market and opportunities research, business model, plan. Also, I'd silently estimate how realistic co-founder is about the product, opportunity and especially timelines :)

4. I don't know - I'm wandering on both, but don't experience any "overwhelming" interest to tech co-founder. Could I be not that good?

Other than those thoughts above - feel free to reach out to me and I'd love to have things started ;)

Tai Iki Hello

January 18th, 2019

Yes not easy find partner online . I find and find and no . All need first money not idea business

Marco Louters Working on a new project: Qlumbus

January 19th, 2019

Thank you all for the feedback. This is highly appreciated. I've marked and noted the information you shared.

To what Ivana said: "...have some idea about what you want from the actual product- features, UX design, etc." To what Anton said: "Facts on market and opportunities research, business model, plan. Also I'd silently estimate how realistic co-founder is about the product, opportunity and esepcially timelines."

The idea is indeed to collect everything in a simple document so that these potential cofounders can have a real idea of what it's all about. The question I asked: "Which factors are most important in deciding to join a startup/founder or not?" was kind of meant for this document. So, this is great feedback of what to make sure to include. If you have any additional points... ;)

To what Sina said: "I think you are approaching the problem in a bad way." To what Ivana said: "I personally posted a job ad in some of the biggest Data Science Facebook groups and many people contacted me in return."

That is indeed a way better way of looking at it. Thank you for that stream of new ideas.

To what Sina said: "I would take one step further and try to start somewhere building a business around the idea."

The problem / question I have with this in my current case could probably have its own thread. I agree that this is usually the best way to actually measure if a business idea would work.

In my own case I'm working on a gamification model to help users find new leisure and travel experiences. Basically, completing objectives and earning achievements, working your way to what the world has to offer.

The idea is to start this small (small city kind of scale) but not too small (1 company-scale). The issue with gamification is that it has to be the already more complete experience from the beginning. Half a gamification model wouldn't work.

Instead of building a full on app from scratch, the idea is to do a first MVP prototype test in a browser version. Early adopters: students. There are about 20.000 students in this town. By creating a 'City Challenge', one could really see if this is something that has to be build on a wider and grander scale.

Now, this would actually already require a more technical person, but would not take too much time in comparison with building the entire app.