How to Find a Technical Co-founder for your Startup

The budding entrepreneur finds his technical co-founder in a crowded university library, but he doesn’t know it. Destiny, as they say. They lock eyes and share a vision of their success. All that was left was to work hard and build their fated, fairytale startup! After many years, they finally reveal their startup story with their introduction into the startup graveyard.  

A Startup Tale

Bad fiction aside, let’s cut to the chase. You’ve got serious vision. Your idea has gone through rigorous development, revisions, and edits with the help of many smart, talented individuals. You think know your startup will end up in the successful 10%, but with your business-focused skill set, you can’t do it solo. 

From the get-go, you need to understand that finding a technical co-founder probably won’t be easy or quick, even if you have an extensive network. The search will take time, but you need to find the right one if you want to boost your startup’s chance of survival. 

Let’s check out how you can find an excellent startup CTO.     

Why should you find a technical co-founder? 

On your own, you may have already:

  • developed a $1,000,000,000 idea
  • perfected your pitch deck 
  • struck a rare deal with investors
  • acquired users with an early-early build of your product

If you’ve done any of those things, especially the last two, congratulations!

Even then, you probably don’t have the technical expertise to properly scale what you’ve envisioned. Moreover, you should play to your strength in business, rather than your ‘weakness’ in technology. 

Before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s define the role of a technical co-founder.

DEFINITIONA technical co-founder is in charge of all things technology (leading software development, troubleshooting IT issues, etc.) but has a say in the overall vision and direction of the business. 

A technical co-founder will, therefore, be your partner, not just another colleague or employee. Oftentimes, the relationship between co-founders is likened to marriage. Not only will your technical co-founder be your emotional support system, but you will also have to be the same for them. No one will understand the unique stressors of working on your startup as much as your technical co-founder will.     

Clearly, you need to find the right person to help you build this dream of yours from pretty much the ground up. 

Key questions to find the right technical co-founder

You’ve worked hard to get your foot in the door with people you’d like to work with. Still, you need to be in top-form to impress them as you continue to get to know them and develop your idea. That being said, you should make sure you have set your own criteria for what you want in your ideal co-founder.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to see if you’ve found a good fit for you:  

  • Do they have startup experience, or better yet, co-founding experience? 

You might meet someone who has worked exclusively at a tech giant like Microsoft. While they have valuable experience in their own right, they have yet to go through the trial of fire that is the startup life. 

A startup veteran should not only save your business from common pitfalls, but they should also harness their wealth of first-hand experience to greatly help you make the best decisions.

DID YOU KNOW?Repeat founders tend to receive 50% higher initial valuations than first-timers.
  • How’s the chemistry? 

When you meet people to discuss your startup, you should always bring along your pitch deck. This will give you a chance to collaborate (hopefully) with potential partners. 

As I stated above, a technical co-founder will be your partner, not just another employee. You will work closely with this person every single day—even on weekends, probably. If you already see red flags in your initial meetings, you should just respectfully move on from the candidate. 

  • Friend > Professional Fit?

Also, you’re not seeking a friend, per say. While not an identical case, friends who choose to be college roommates often find they have a falling out. If your technical co-founder becomes a close friend, that can be a huge plus. But just because you share the same interests doesn’t mean you can work well together professionally. 

  • Did they challenge me intellectually?

While iterating in meetings, you should find that you exchange ideas better with some people more than others. You’re looking for someone who will challenge you intellectually and improve on your vision (to name a few). You aren’t hiring a programmer who’ll build whatever you want. 

If the candidate asks you insightful questions and/or raises genuine concerns about your idea you haven’t considered, that’s a good sign they are interested and will, perhaps, be invested in making your startup a reality.

  • How do they resolve conflicts/differences of opinion? 

Sure, you aren’t the tech guy. Your technical co-founder will, of course, know more about that side of the business. Nevertheless, you should expect them to bring you into the fold, and explain the rationale behind their decisions.

If a candidate focuses only on their perspective and doesn’t listen to your thoughts and contributions, you probably shouldn’t work with them. That will save you a lot of frustration, especially when your technical co-founder will be a constant presence in your life.  

Where to find a technical co-founder

Your top priorities should be finding someone who: 

  • is dedicated to realizing your idea 
  • complements your skillset and personality 
  • has experience building startups
  • is able and willing to take a significant pay cut 

Obviously, it’s a rare mix.

Who will match your effort, shore up your weaknesses, advise you with their firsthand experiences, and work for far less than their market value? 

There are these rare professionals out there if you can make them believe you’ve struck gold.

Let’s take a look at some options that will get you, meeting candidates:

NOTE

Don’t forget the current logistical limitations you might experience due to the global pandemic. You don’t need to live near your co-founder, as you can run all your operations online. Pandemic or not, you should seriously consider building your startup remotely. Who knows? Your ideal co-founder may reside half-way around the globe. 

Do I need to tell you it’s worth figuring out the logistics to work with them?  

Communication might be frustrating at times, but it can definitely be efficiently and smoothly done.

 Search for a ‘co-founder for hire’

Some startup veterans offer their expertise and services to help you build your startup from the ground up. Most will have worked as CTOs or CEOs only, but there are decorated startup gurus who have experience in both roles. They will be able to assist you through the whole process, from fundraising to scaling up. 

Having someone with experience is particularly ideal for first-timers.  

But to entice someone with that kind of know-how, your idea needs to be truly game-changing. Perhaps you have come up with a viable plan to become the leader in a, particularly profitable space. They’re looking for bold ideas with practical plans.

If you’ve got a serious proposition, I’d love to help develop your idea. Co-founder or not, I can help you nail down what it is you want to achieve.

Tap into your network

After the ‘date and iterate’ process, you should have grown your network considerably. Make sure to have kept a mental note of the people you worked with particularly well. Achieving an organic back and forth with another person from the get-go is an uncommon and early indication that the two of you could build a successful professional relationship.  

Everyone knows somebody. 

Even if it doesn’t work out with someone you reach out to, maybe they’ll have an ex-colleague or acquaintance to recommend. The advantage is you’re getting a seal of approval from someone you trust. The downside is the candidate probably won’t have the vast knowledge and experience of a co-founder for hire.     

Founder ‘dating’ sites/apps

Perhaps the least effective method of the three, founder dating sites allow you to get the word out about your startup and help you find co-founders. Chances are, though, you’ll just find a bunch of other entrepreneurs sharing in your struggle. At least users tend to be quite upfront about what they’re looking for, so you won’t have any misunderstandings on that front. 

It’s easy to register on these sites, and even if you don’t find a good match, you can use these places as a way to build traction and interest for your startup. 

If you’d like to give it a try, take your pick!

What to remember when finding a technical co-founder

Finding a technical co-founder may end up being a long, trying process, but I know you want to get it right more than anyone else.

KEY TAKEAWAYS
  • Figure out what you do want in a technical co-founder (beyond the expertise)
  • Discover through networking the kinds of people you tend to work with best
  • Limit your candidate pool as little as possible

I’d love to hear from you.

I’m looking to partner with serious entrepreneurs who have bold ideas but realistic plans.

First time founders, I know, find it especially hard to avoid all the pitfalls of building a business from the ground up.  My extensive experience as a startup CTO and technical co-founder has given me a lot of wisdom I’d like to offer to you and your startup. 

If you think you’ve got a game-changing idea, please get in touch! 

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