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3 Essential Steps to Acquire a Potential Technical Co-Founder

A technical co-founder is needed to handle tech related processes, as the business “side” can’t be the only part that is taken care of in your company.
By Devon Vo | EnvZone Staff
on October 09, 2019 | 10 min read

Technical co-founder, according to Medium, is a technical founder is one of the key roles in a company. It is a person who will be responsible for all the tech-related processes and have a share of overall profit. In this case, he or she will also call you a co-founder of his company, a non-technical co-founder.

Mark Suster has stated that: “If you don’t have somebody inside your organization who is setting the technology direction then I’m convinced you’ll never head for greatness.”

I do greatly agree to the statement as for today, the generation of programmer, the idea of non-technical co-founders has gone from bad to meme worthy.

There is a question: “How can you successfully show your value and find a technical co-founder?”

To answer this question, we will credit an informal research project conducted by Hacker Noon. This project spanned 50+ technical and non-technical co-founders. Their meta-analysis involved a quantitative component, where they used these founders’ blogs and writing to count the desired characteristics of non-technical founders, and a qualitative component, where they validated these ideas in a series of 1–1 interview.

At the end, those founders agreed on one thing: viable companies can’t be split inorganically into business and technical “sides.” Experienced technical people know this. Instead companies require a melding of expertise, traction, and technical skills. As a non-technical co-founder, you need to build evidence you’ll make the business happen, not just handle the business “side.”

There are three factors, which are defined as keys to look for a technical co-founder:

#1. Expertise: Show that you are the only one who can grow and sell the idea.

#2. Traction for your idea: Prove that your idea is valuable and has traction.

#3. Technical proficiency: Develop the technical skills you need.

3 strategies to find a technical co-founder

Show that you can grow and sell the idea

To put it in another way, ask yourself a question: Why would the wanted technical founder wants to work with you. Instead of another entrepreneurs? Or with someone else who is technical?

To prove your worth, show that you, and perhaps only you, can grow and sell the idea. The majority of our founders agreed that you need to show expertise in the users and the problem.

Take the case of Zott, a rapidly growing entertainment distributor company focused on children in hospitals. One of the co-founders, Taylor Carol, was diagnosed with Leukemia at the age of 11. For the following five years, he was in and out of hospital wards, occasionally, stuck in isolation rooms for weeks at a time. As he put it: “Video games were my escape while receiving treatment for months at a time.”

Outsourcing Insights-Technical Co-founder - 3 Essential Steps To Accqire Your Own-fig 1
Courtesy: Gamechanger Charity

Taylor isn’t technical. However, what he does bring is a deep understanding of a patient’s experience. It’s hard to imagine creating a patient-oriented content company without him or someone like him. So, when he began Zott with his father, they had technical leaders looking for the opportunity to join.

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Courtesy: Zott

One tip in attracting a technical founder is that, you should show that you are the connecting glue between he or she and the company’s product.

Your story is your pitch. So, document and show your experience, failures, successes around the product. Convince industry insiders to advise you and advertise their support. All of this makes you an attractive co-founder.

Build strong evidence that the idea is valuable and has traction

A significant portion of the founders argued that a non-technical co-founder is in a stronger position when they have an idea that already has traction. The reason for this is simple, because you can’t start a company by simply writing code.

How can a traction for an idea be built? As our founders argued, you have to test hypothesis with increasing amounts of fidelity; then track the results and show the interest.

Take Airbnb for instance. Airbnb’s non-technical founders Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky’s created their first iteration of Airbnb with a simple email. Its contents were straightforward: you could rent an airbed at their house during a local conference.

Outsourcing Insights-Technical Co-founder - 3 Essential Steps To Accqire Your Own-fig 3
Courtesy: Airbnb

These customers loved the experience since they faced the price problem acutely and a few people signed up. With this initial data, they recruited their first technical co-founder — Nathan Blecharczyk. After proving that plenty of visitors wanted this product, they built a platform and expanded, supporting other hosts to set up their own Airbnbs to get their own visitors.

What Airbnb did, was create hypotheses, which were increasingly close to the real thing. Then they tracked the results using easy-to-understand metrics — such as number of sign-ups, number of people who have used the prototype, etc. When they approached a co-founder, they weren’t coming with simply an idea; they had the beginnings of a small customer base excited about their work.

Develop the technical skills you need

Finally, the majority of founders agreed that being the “non-technical founder” does not mean that you’re technically incompetent; rather, it means that technical development is not your focus as a founder. You can contribute technically. However, make sure it’s an area you can learn quickly.
Take front-end. Interviewed founders agreed that non-technical founders should learn front-end and a little backend. Learning front-end is important because it’s technically easier and can help you iterate quickly through products.
The key word here is “need.” Unless you want a career change, you’re not going to become CTO of the project. As Vinicius Vacanti, co-founder of YipitData put it, “I realized that the goal wasn’t for me to become YipitData’s CTO. My goal was to build a prototype that got traction.” Your goal is to learn enough to be useful; but, not focus so much on coding that you don’t spend time on your value proposition, finding product-market-fit and attracting early customers.

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Image credit: about.me/vacanti

Many founders argued that having technical skills is about developing empathy and credibility. The more technical you are as a founder, the more you understand the trade-offs. That empathy, in turn, leads to credibility. When you propose a strategic move, your co-founders know that you’re coming from a place of understanding.

Where to find the right one for your company

CoFoundersLab

CoFoundersLab is a platform that helps entrepreneurial-minded people access the resources they need to thrive. It’s one of the best options to find a technical co-founder for a startup.

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Courtesy: CoFoundersLab

To find a co-founder here, first, you need to register on the platform, answer a couple of questions about you and your business, and then navigate to the search page. The platform has both free and premium version.

Founders Nation

Founders Nation is another place where you can find a startup co-founder. It’s not so big but still a platform with similar options like CoFoundersLab. It was built to connect dreamers that wish to make the world a better place through innovation and technology.

Outsourcing Insights-Technical Co-founder - 3 Essential Steps To Accqire Your Own-fig 6
Courtesy: Founders Nation

To find a technical founder on this platform is quite similar to the previous one. You register on a platform and then find appropriate people using filters for better accuracy.

Angel.co

Angel.co is a popular platform created for startups, investors, and professionals to find each other.

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Courtesy: AngelList

The website is very simple, as well as the previous two. All you need to do is to register as a recruiter and post the vacancy. Also, there are filters available to navigate through the professionals’ profiles.

Co-founders’ subreddit on Reddit.com

Co-founders’ subreddit is a thread on the popular Reddit platform.

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Courtesy: reddit

To find a technical co-founder or a partner here you should register and then navigate through a number of threads and also create your own thread describing your business and your needs. Again, it may be a bit difficult to find information because of the structure of the service. But Reddit has lots of great tech professionals all over the world. It’s definitely worth using.

Indie Hackers

Indie Hackers is a relatively new platform for entrepreneurs to learn from the founders behind hundreds of profitable online businesses. The platform was built to connect with others who are starting and growing their own companies.

Outsourcing Insights-Technical Co-founder - 3 Essential Steps To Accqire Your Own-fig 9
Courtesy: Indie Hackers

Looking for a programmer partner or finding a technical co-founder on this website may be a bit difficult because it’s all about communication here. No filters, no structure, but lots of professionals speaking with each other in a kind of a forum. But nevertheless, it may be also an effective tool for finding a technical co-founder or another professional you need.

Tech partner

Finding a technical partner for a Startup is another quite popular option which is often even more goal-, time- and cost-effective than looking for a programmer partner, CTO or a co-founder. In this case, you use the services of a special company which has a considerable experience in tech development and provides “CTO-as-a-service”.

This significantly reduces such risks as “it’s the wrong person”, “they’ve got not enough experience”, “they work too slow”, and “we need more money than expected” that you face when trying to find a CTO, freelance developers, or even a technical co-founder.

This solution benefits:

#1. There is an experienced team of professionals who keep the terms and the requirements.

#2. They are not just contractors who are waiting for your directions, but a partner who cares about your business and takes all the technical matters in their hands, such as, creating an architecture, planning the works, platform design, scaling, monitoring, coding, etc.

#3. It is often even more reasonable prices compared with freelance teams.

Final lines

It is undeniable that finding technical co-founders is not an easy thing, as they are enchanted by many factors such as big tech, other co-founders, their own start-up ideas. So, don’t just sit there and wait for a co-founder, you need to take action by firstly building expertise, traction, and technical proficiency. On EnvZone enterprise and startups platform, we help founders to find trusted technology partners across industries from healthcare, retail, e-commerce, to logistics. You can search for team here.

This article is also credited to HackNoon and Medium

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