‘Founder’s Tech – Tech trends, tips and advice for founders, entrepreneurs and bootstrappers’ is a recurring column by Jake Hare, founder of Nashville-based Launchpeer, a web & mobile application development agency focused on startups, entrepreneurs and bootstrappers.
Usually when our agency hears an entrepreneur say, “I’m looking for a tech co-founder,” what they’re actually saying is, “I’m looking for a developer to write code for little to no cash in exchange for equity in a non-existent business.” It’s everywhere: message boards, chat rooms, Reddit, Quora, your local co-working space. Non-technical founders everywhere seem to be having trouble finding these incredible tech workers interested in working for free.
You would think that offering a good bit of equity would help woo one of these potential technical co-founders to work with you, but that’s usually not the case. Why? For one, these techies probably have well-paying, full-time jobs that take most of their time. Or it could be that your idea hasn’t been proven to the point that the risk they would take to jump on board is mitigated by the relatively high chance of startup success.
So what can you do to get a technical co-founder? Prove your worth. Prove that you’re a competent, trustworthy and understanding employer and product manager who the future tech co-founder can trust. Be able to show that you’ve already gone through the process of validating your idea to the point that people are begging to buy it right now, or, even better, that they’ve already given you money for it.
Every startup our agency works with has to first go through validation, a packaged phase designed to get the company early traction with prospective customers. Sometimes the startup has already gone through the validation stage. This is awesome because it saves a lot of time and heartache down the road when months have gone by and thousands of dollars have been spent on a product that ultimately isn’t wanted or needed enough for prospective users to pay for it or download it.
Obviously this advice pertains mostly to early-stage, pre-funded and pre-product startups and founders. I know of some startups that are looking for a tech co-founder for high pay and equity, which they definitely deserve if they’re being leaned on as the go-to tech person at a tech company. After all, ideas are everywhere. The hard part is implementation, which means your tech co-founder should be looked to as a prime component of your business, not simply someone willing to work for free.