Entrepreneur

How to find a techie co-founder for your startup

I’m not a tech guy, but even before I knew what a startup was I wanted to make one. Finding tech co-founders has been the biggest challenge for me in building one. Over the course of three years, I’ve made countless mistakes and wasted a lot of time.

But I did manage to build an awesome team of three tech-savvy co-founders, and I hope my advice helps you have similar success in much less time.

Finding a tech person

Good tech nerds can be found anywhere, but you won’t be able to tease them out if you are scared that they’ll steal your idea.

People steal ideas much less than you might think. Everybody already has their own ideas, and there’s a good chance that your idea is still immature.

If your idea is so simple that any developer could build it in a short time, wait until you find developers you trust, then share your idea only if they understand that you are indispensable for its success.

If your idea is complex and clearly relies on your expertise, people will probably understand that. If the idea is cool, they’ll want you to help make it happen.

Shout it out

And making the idea public will reduce the chances of people stealing it.

But you have to make the idea public in the right way. Make a video in which you clearly explain it. Explain what kind of collaborators you’re looking for, and clearly describe what you’re willing to give in return for their time and expertise.

The cooler your video is, the better it will work. Like this one, for example:

Even if your video sucks, like this one I made, it might still work:

That video helped me find my first co-founder.

Not just any tech person

You don’t need just any tech person; you need a tech person who wants to do startups. And this species of tech person can be hard to find.

Not every geek wants to leave his or her job and follow somebody else’s idea full-time. This might mean committing to one or two years of stress, worry, and very little money.

My advice: Look for startup-savvy tech people in their natural habitats: hackathons, startup weekends, and startup schools (like www.Innovactionlab.org). Start roaming all the techie events you can find. This is how I found and selected my second co-founder.

Such events not only allow you to meet face to face with the people you might work with, but they help you build a network that can be a source for references about prospective co-founders in the future.

Also, look for Facebook groups on startups. You might get lucky.

Plant seeds for later

You might try to persuade your friend with a full time job to join your startup. Software engineers eventually freak out and leave their jobs.

One day that person might freak out after the last quarrel with his Project Manager, quit, and call you to ask you if you’re still working on that weird idea.

This is how I found my third co-founder.

The part-timer problem

If your tech person is part time, then you need two tech people.

Simple, right? Just find another person who’s willing to work for free!

But no matter how hard it is, it must be done. When one person is busy the other might not be.

Be indispensable

Startups solve problems. As a non-techie principle, you have to know the problem your product addresses better than anybody else.

Unless you have a one in a billion idea, your chances grow considerably if you have a strong area of expertise. This will give your company a strong competitive advantage, and it’ll make you more valuable as a co-founder.

Be diverse

Most startups are founded by college-educated twenty- to thirty-year-old male developers (or economists). But this can create a room full of people all with the same ideas.

Extraordinary ideas are often born out of extra-ordinary experiences, diverse backgrounds, and weird personal interests. Staff up accordingly.

The experiences you gain from volunteering, traveling, working part-time jobs, or chasing some obsession/passion you have, might end up contributing to great ideas that bubble up later.

Damiano Ramazzotti is the COO of Talent Garden, one of the leading co-working space networks in the digital sector in Europe. He’s also CEO of WeTipp, an online platform aimed at helping non-profits, grassroots organizations, and co-working spaces engage their members. 


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32 comments
Maxim Razmakhin
Maxim Razmakhin

Great post. Finding a technical co-founder is always a challenge, but I found it more challenging to find talented non-technical partners such as sales, marketing or PR pros. Techies are generally very motivated people that like creating stuff, so all you got to have is a great idea and something else that you  can put on the table. Non-techies care more about having a stable job and a steady paycheck, which is fair too. Obviously, I'm speaking in general terms here. 

Emmanuel Straschnov
Emmanuel Straschnov

Another thing is that it's becoming easier and easier to build tech and product without technical skills. General-purpose programming tools are emerging recently (like Visual Basic in the 90s, see Chris Dixon's post cdixon.org/2014/04/13/software... ).


So this is auto-promotion, but Bubble (http://bubble.is) is one of them (I’m a cofounder). You can build your product without code on Bubble. There is a learning curve, as it’s programming, but this is with a visual interface that gets rid of the coding aspect. Our users have build crowdfunding platforms, marketplaces, all starting from a white page (no template) and without code.


There are more and more tools like these and they're actually getting to a position that enables people to really build things without code. If you have the wireframe, you pretty much have all it takes to use Bubble. 

Gari Gou
Gari Gou

Great article! I would also ad the schlack factor - which explains the paradox of repetitive luck. Find out more in our tech co-founder opportunity: http://doyoucode.strikingly.com

Richard Ortega
Richard Ortega

I want to punch the author repeatedly in the face. How about this (what I did)... Be a business guy, can't find a tech cofounder who will work forever for no money (cause that's what you're asking), outsource and go into debt, then decide holy shit I can just BE a developer. It's not impossible, it's hard but you can create any idea you want afterwards

Jeff Durso
Jeff Durso

Lose the word "techie" from your vocabulary if you want to recruit a competent technical co-founder.

Fabien Snauwaert
Fabien Snauwaert

This article suffers from a bad case of scarcity mentality. People think their ideas are "so great" and people are going to steal them... Here's the thing: ideas are cheap. The value is in *producing* ideas. If all you are bringing are ideas, you're not bringing much. (Plus, you won't know if your idea is any good if you keep it to yourself.) Check out some Eben Pagan , for example, to get out of that framework and operate on a more constructive level. Also, before becoming a "cofounder", why not get the tech skills yourself? It doesn't mean you need to reach a very high level but you should know enough to be able to discuss the topic and know how the bulk of things works. It's gonna help you hire, understand what's obvious to the rest of your team, etc...

Duane F. King
Duane F. King

Or you could, well, you know, ask one of us who have this skill set. We exist; the hard part is finding people we can trust to work with as Technical Co-Founders are usually undervalued.

Martin Schultz
Martin Schultz

I'm such a tech guy and have the inverse problem, finding a sales guy.

Usman Ahmed
Usman Ahmed

the sort of people who actually have time to read the bullshit this page churns out.... I'm unfollowing this shit, The Verge is enough and proper quality. you should shut yourself down venturebeat

Narjeet Soni
Narjeet Soni

This is the problem space I tried to solve with my company The Lean Apps (www.theleanapps.com) 


Usually a bootstrapping team is low on money and lack good technology guys to build products.  Due to my experience, I knew tonnes of technology gurus. Now I work with startups, as part of their team and  build awesome products. 

Michael Hughes
Michael Hughes

Check out CoFoundersLab. Over 40K entrepreneurs, all looking to join, or be joined, a core founding startup team.

Nick Dodson
Nick Dodson

Or you can just send me offers, haha.

Damiano Ramazzotti
Damiano Ramazzotti

ehmm.. I think it tried to make that exact point! =) "Good tech nerds can be found anywhere, but you won’t be able to tease them out if you are scared that they’ll steal your idea.

People steal ideas much less than you might think. Everybody already has their own ideas, and there’s a good chance that your idea is still immature."


Damiano Ramazzotti
Damiano Ramazzotti

@Martin Schultz Maybe I should write an article about that too! =)

Jokes apart I think some of the criteria apply.. letting people know, roaming startup events and initiatives can be a great scouting opportunity, and looking for possible non tech guys with a strong area expertise in the sector of interest (I guess not all sales guys are the same and might be more or less strong in a certain field)


Tim Kilroy
Tim Kilroy

There is also the better-known, community-driven experience of www.founderdating.com - it is where I met my co-founder. Terrific experience for me.