Bring your idea to life: How to find a technical co-founder

Why is it so hard to find a tech co-founder?

Put simply: supply and demand.

There are more people with start-up ideas than there are people willing (and able) to build them.

In fact, the local start-up meet-up is likely comprised of the following:

  • 65% are ‘idea guys’ wanting to get into start-ups
  • 25% are just looking for free beer
  • 8% are developers looking for free beer
  • 2% are actual developers who may want to join you as a technical co-founder.

Of course, these figures are completely made-up but the point is, there is a small pool of viable candidates.

Now, to throw in a few more variables:

  • Software development is currently the most in-demand career around the world (Source: Business Insider 2015)
  • Software pays very well. Nine of the 15 highest paying companies in the US are tech (Source: Glassdoor 2015)
  • Software is everywhere – from consultancies to digital agencies, start-ups of all sizes, freelancing and any industry with custom software.

All of these elements make it difficult to snare a technical co-founder.

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How can you stand out?

1. Show me the forest and the trees

While you may think your ‘Facebook for Dogs’ idea is revolutionary, if it comes across as airy-fairy, potential co-founders will lose interest. Software engineers are generally logical and will appreciate some granularity to your big vision.

Explain your idea and back it up with:

  • Facts and figures: How big is the possible market? What is the existing competition?
  • Information about pricing models: What are your projections?
  • Assumptions to be tested: For example, can dogs even use social networks?
  • Details about you: Exactly what will you bring to the table? Never say your work will begin when the product has been built.

2. Break it down

Once you have piqued a potential co-founder’s interest it is important to explore every feature (whether visible or not). A tech co-founder may eventually help you with some of the finer details but it is important to understand the process involved in developing your Minimum Viable Product (MVP). For readers without a tech background, the MVP is the initial version of a new product, which has just enough features to gather validated learning about the product and its development.

Consider the following:

  • User Stories: There are many good user story tutorials online
  • Invisible features: Will it have text/email authentication? What will happen behind the scenes when the user clicks icons?
  • Flow through the system: Where can users go from each screen and link?
  • Validations: When a user fills out a form, are there any specific validations or requirements?
  • Minimum Viable Product features: Which features are show-stoppers that must be in the first version?
  • Nice-to-have additions: Which features could be added later?

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will ‘Facebook for Dogs’. Facebook itself went through many incarnations, starting very simply with a niche user base then expanding as its popularity grew. Luckily, there are plenty of resources to help you decide which features are integral to your MVP.

3. Paint a picture

This is where many people go wrong. At the idea stage you don’t need to hire a designer to create pixel-perfect designs, nor a coder to build something to visualize your idea. In fact, you don’t want someone else trying to decipher your idea into something visual at all. That’s your job. 

Giving potential co-founders visuals when trying to get them on board is essential. It separates you from the thousands of other ‘idea guys’ out there.

  • Screens/pages: What screens do you see when you think about your idea?
  • Features: What exactly can the user do on these screens?
  • Do they sign-up? Then what’s next?
  • Layout: This is a general idea of what could go where. Is the navigation at the top? Do you want a logo on each page? A footer?

Thinking about these elements will inevitably suck you into a wormhole of other questions. Don’t stress about colours or whether you’re wireframing correctly. Keep it simple and gather inspiration from your favourite apps and websites.

But where can I actually find a tech co-founder?

Yup, this is the trickiest part.

You could try local start-up weekends and meet-ups but those attending are often not technical and simply want to pitch their own ideas. There are a few online sources such as the CoFoundersLab or the Co-founder Sub-reddit but I cannot really vouch for the quality.

Get out there, go to all the start-up and tech events you can and make yourself known. Create a website pitching your concept (using one of many great free tools) and include your contact details. Share your idea on social media, get your friends to share it and email people. Basically you have to hustle your arse off. Good luck!