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.
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.
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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