Where & How To Find A Technical Cofounder – A Guide

So you’ve come up with a brilliant idea for a startup and decided to start working on it. One problem, though: you’re not from a technical background and don’t know how to code. How do you go about finding a technical cofounder to help you make your vision a reality? More importantly, where do you find such a person?

Here’s a guide to help you.

What Is a Technical Cofounder?

A technical cofounder is a person who can take an idea that you have in mind and bring it to life with the technical skills you lack.

They are an expert who understands the inner workings of your business and has the skills, experience and resources necessary to implement your vision. 

A technical cofounder can be an experienced developer, designer or marketer depending upon the startup’s needs. Their technical expertise makes them great for the following roles:

  • They will guide you and teach you how to design, build and launch your idea into the market.
  • They will handle any of the coding or web development tasks you don’t have time to do.
  • They will work with you on product strategy.
  •  They will help you solve problems and develop solutions to problems you may face.

Why Is It Hard To Find A Technical Cofounder?

It’s important to find a technical cofounder who shares your entrepreneurial spirit and your passion for your idea, and your ability to see the product through to completion. A great technical cofounder can help you make your idea happen and be your business partner, mentor, coach or advisor.

But it isn’t always easy to find one. It can be challenging to find a technical cofounder as they tend to be in demand. Not only do you need someone with the technical expertise, but you also need them to have an entrepreneurial mindset. 

Remember, you’re not hiring an employee but a partner to work with. They should have the skills needed to build the startup from scratch and the know-how to identify and understand opportunities in new industries. 

But most importantly, the person should be someone you can trust and work with for an extended period of time. And this trust should be mutual.

But people are hesitant to entrust a startup idea formed by someone who’s not a developer himself. It’s risky for them to take on the role of technical cofounder. This is because many startups fail when a team is not properly put together, and there is no clear vision for how to move forward.

So before you even go out to look for a technical cofounder, make sure you have a clear understanding of your business model, your product concept, as well as your plan for scaling up and how you will handle growth. If you can do this, then you’re ready to start your hunt for a technical cofounder. If not, stop and rethink.

Where Can You Find A Technical Cofounder?

There’s no one pool where you can choose your cofounder from. It’s different from hiring a CTO

Hiring a CTO is hiring an employee who knows how to code. With a technical cofounder, you need to hire someone who can bring your idea to life. You should first identify your skills, what you do best and where you lack. Make a list of your skills and then use it as a guide to look for a technical cofounder.

It’s a good idea to make this list before you start your search, as this will make the process a lot easier.

Your Existing Network

Start by looking within your network. Talk to friends, family and business partners to see if they know of anyone that fits the bill. They may have a great friend or business partner in mind.

It’s also a good idea to create a job description of the type of person you are looking for. For example, consider it as a technical hiring gig. Write down what all do you need so you can have a clearer idea of what you are looking for. It will also help you gauge if they fit the role. 

Online Networking

Offline and online networking can be very powerful in finding the right cofounder. Get out there, talk to people, and make the most of your connections. If you don’t have a lot of business or social capital, it may be best to build your network before making any headway. It will take some time to get things rolling with online networking and will need to start slowly.

Start by building a network of mentors and investors. These are people who you know and trust. If they trust you, then they’ll help you in your business journey. You can also join communities on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. Start by following people who are doing something you want to do or have done already. Connecting with other entrepreneurs can really pay off. You can learn a lot from them. LinkedIn is the most popular platform for business networking. 

There are several tools that may help you identify and find new contacts. These include CrowdTangle, Buzzsumo, and LinkedIn Premium. These can also help you connect with potential leads, including mentors and investors. 

You can even automate this process by running a LinkedIn drip campaign or directly emailing your leads.

Offline Networking

Startup events, conferences and meetups are another great way to network. Startup events like StartUp Grind, Founder Meetups, TechCocktail, Startup Weekend, Demo Day, Pitch Nights, etc., are great opportunities to meet entrepreneurs.

Startup events and conferences are a great way to build connections. Networking is important because it is how you get in touch with people who can potentially become your cofounder. It’s also a great way to learn what others do and what their goals and aspirations are. You can also learn a lot about what the startup community is all about by attending events.

Look at the events and conferences in your industry. If ones in your area are a good fit, make it a point to go.

You may also consider joining a local chapter of a startup networking group. Local groups can be a great place to meet people with similar interests.

You can find such networking events on  Meetup.com and Facebook events.

Online Platforms

If you think you’d find a platform dedicated to founder matchmaking, you were probably right. 

  • Y Combinator’s Cofounder Matching is one such platform where you can create a free profile, write about yourself and your preferences, and search for technical cofounders.  
  • Another platform is CoFoundersLab. You can sign up for an account for free. The best part is narrowing your search using filters, skills, and location.

Besides this, there are other good platforms like Starthawk, Github, and Angellist.

How to Evaluate Your Tech Cofounders

The truth is that the role of a technical cofounder is much broader than just coding. It’s about understanding the business and seeing where there are gaps in what you have on paper. It requires a person who knows how to work with others, has a passion for the idea, is willing to work hard and knows how to be creative.

Here’s how you can evaluate and identify the perfect partner for your startup: 

Identify The Right Type Of Person

You should always clearly understand the kind of person you want to partner with as your technical cofounder. You may have already done a little research on some of the common characteristics of tech cofounders. If not, there are a few things to consider:

  • Technical ability – When it comes to technical skills, there is no doubt that you’ll need an engineer to come up with the product. Your technical cofounder should have deep knowledge of programming languages like Java, Ruby, Objective C and Swift, depending upon what’s required. Someone who has this skill can really help you create something that works.
  • Experience – While it’s true that an inexperienced person can learn the skills they need to build a product, an experienced person will usually know what needs to be done and how to get there. Look for at least some experience with the technologies that you’re using to build your product.
  • Creativity – A good tech cofounder will help you identify what problems you need to solve and how you can use different techniques to get there. They are good at identifying new ways to achieve goals and think out of the box.
  • Communication Skills – Communicating is a critical part of being a good tech cofounder. You’ll be able to work closely with them on everything from the design to the marketing. You’ll also need someone who can communicate their thoughts effectively.
  • Team skills – The two founders must have the same approach to teamwork. You need someone who can see the bigger picture and has a team mindset. You should also find someone who is willing to go to bat for the project, even if it means not getting the credit.
  • Leadership skills – While the role of a technical cofounder isn’t necessarily the startup leader, you should find someone willing to take charge and lead by example. They should be good at delegating, inspiring, and guiding others.

The next step is to put all these characteristics into action and start looking for people you feel would make good partners.

Evaluate The Potential Of The Person

Once you’ve identified a person with the right qualities, it’s time to assess whether they’re worth the project.

There are a few ways you can do this:

Ask questions

You need to learn more about what kind of person you’re talking to and how they can help you with your idea. Here are some questions to assess:

Person personality:

  • Why do you want to build a startup?
  • What motivates you?
  • What are your personal and professional goals
  • Will you consider this project as your primary activity or a side project?
  • What is your expected time commitment?

Personal Priorities: 

  • What are your cash needs in the short run?
  • Would you be able to work without getting paid?
  • Which location suits you best?
  • What is your ideal working environment?
  • Will you be willing to travel for the project? If yes, how often?
  • How much time would you like to spend working on the startup per day?
  • Have you ever failed at anything? If yes, how did you handle it?
  • Success to you is?

Professional Experience:

  • How many years of experience do you have?
  • Have you built something similar? 
  • On a scale of 1-10, how skilled are you at …?
  • Can you show examples of projects you’ve worked on?

Working Styles and Culture:

  • What values do you look for in employees?
  • How much equity do you think should we keep for our employees?
  • If you were to come up with 3-5 words to describe an ideal workplace culture, what would they be?
  • Do you believe the people who work for you are your friends?
  • Do you prefer to work in isolation or in a team environment?
  • How do you deal with a conflict? Suppose…

There will be several other questions relating to the business and its needs. Meet often, discuss stuff and make sure to get answers to everything that’s needed. Ask everything needed but don’t make it sound like an interview because that will just give off the wrong impression.

Start With A Smaller Or Different Project

If the person seems like a good fit, take them out for a test run. Start working with them on a smaller project (which could complement the main project or could be a different project altogether) and find out how they work and interact. This should help you understand if you can depend on them.

Evaluate Your Compatibility

You can’t find out everything about the person before you decide to partner with them. What’s most important is that you find the positives and negatives of working with them. 

For example: If they are bad at something, do you want to learn about it? What are they really good at? Would you trust them? Why? Do you like working with them?

Find where you complement each other and what’s remaining that can be worked out. Be clear about the expectations When you first talk to the person, be clear about the expectations.

But make sure you’re here for a technical cofounder. Don’t expect great business or marketing skills. It’s a different kind of role than someone who just likes building apps.

Negotiate And Evaluate The Offer

If everything seems to be going well and you both seem to understand one another well, it’s time to negotiate and evaluate the offer. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What value does the tech cofounder provide to the startup?
  • What should be their equity based on the value they provide?

With these answers in mind, come up with an offer for your tech cofounder. Negotiate the terms (included salary, equity percentage, etc.). Offer them to come up with their terms as well. This way, you can both know what you agree to.

Sign a contract (founder’s agreement) and send it over when you have everything agreed upon.

Bottom Line?

A startup is a lot of work, and it takes a good team to push it forward.

The key is to hire people you trust and feel comfortable working with. People who share the same values, have the same goals and want to see the project succeed.

Finding a good tech cofounder can be tough, but it’s worth it in the end. Go with the person that you know is trustworthy, hardworking and passionate about what they do.

Always remember that it’s a two-way street. You’re not just hiring someone; you’re also going to be working with them for a long time. The last thing you want to do is hire someone and not be able to trust them and get on the same page.

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Where & How To Find A Technical Cofounder - A Guide

by Aashish Pahwa