Note: I’d like to apologize in advance for this verbose and seemingly “rant”-ish post, but I really can’t hold this in anymore and need to really let it all out
Too often than not I hear people asking me why they can’t seem to ever find tech co-founders, some even went on to exclaim their prospective tech co-founders would immediately shut off and end the conversation the moment they hear they are from a biz background. They also claim that it is their mistake for not studying tech that lead to them having problems finding a tech co-founder now.
Personally, I think they’ve got it ALL WRONG. If you knew tech, you wouldn’t need to find a tech co-founder. You would be the tech co-founder yourself!
Another thing, just because you’re from tech doesn’t mean you can find a tech co-founder easily. It doesn’t work that way. I am from tech, and yes, I never had problems finding tech co-founders for my ventures or even hiring developers, some of which are top tier guys. They did not join me coz I’m from tech (Heck, why would 2 co-founders from tech want to join each other! One of the co-founders has to at least know how to get us enough sales to afford bread!). They joined me because for, among many others, one major reason:
“I DO NOT SEE THEM AS FREE LABOR. I RESPECT THEM FOR WHO THEY ARE AND WHAT THEY CAN BRING TO THE TABLE BEYOND JUST HOURS OF HAMMERING CODE ON THE COMPUTER”
Yes, many tech co-founders are tired of business people approaching them to build a product only to feel like the reason these people are talking to them, is because they can code well and will do it for free if they were a co-founder. Now lets turn the tables around and have a thought exercise:
“A tech co-founder came up to you, with a very hacked up product he created, and wanted you to work for free, slogging months and months of thankless hours, to market and figure a way to sell this product. What would you do before deciding if you’d take the plunge with him?”
You would, as a business person:
a) Evaluate the product (Or rather, test and see how hacked up this product is!)
b) See if there is a potential or market
c) Figure if there’s a way for you to bring in revenue (and enough profits to afford bread within the next 3 months, hopefully!)
d) See how well you can work with this tech co-founder by giving your critique about the product, sharing your opinion, suggestions, discussion ideas, and most importantly, see if he respects your input enough to consider making the changes you suggested.
See that last line over there? Yes, that’s what you’d be checking for : whether your co-founder to be would respect and consider your opinions. Your potential tech co-founder would be checking for the same things!!
“But I show respect, I listen to all their opinions and all, but they still don’t seem interested and shut me off too fast!”
Then obviously they are not seeing the potential in your business idea and how thankless months of slogging will help them afford bread.
“But I need to build the app first to prove the business model and show we can make money!”
I’m sorry, there are many other ways to prove a business model and show you can make money. Lets take my own startup, MomoCentral, for example.
Loooong ago before we even built a shiny dashboard and platform to connect clients and quality developers together, we were running all this through basic, simple, email lists. Yes, even though we were both fully capable of coding up the whole system ourselves, we would inform people who reached out to us for development work, that we have a new model where they work directly with curated developers — no project managers in between, no account managers in between, just the developers directly, in real-time. We cut out the agency fees, we cut out the project management fees, and only charge the developer’s own hourly rates and charge by time.
Most said no, coz they preferred the traditional agency model of fixed price fixed time. For those who said yes, we would send them relevant developer profiles VIA EMAIL.
“YES, everything was VIA BASIC EMAIL. No shiny dashboard or profile matching system or payment system. We would even place the developer’s email addresses directly in the email introduction.“
Over the next 4 months, we would spend day and night repeating this over and over, ironing out the kinks and improving processes, while constantly refining the business model to attract more of both startups and developers. Within 4 months, we were profitable, powering over 15 companies and convinced this is something worth turning into a shiny platform.
“Yes, we had to convince ourselves we could turn an actual profit and afford bread before building the damn thing, despite both of us being technical folks!”
Today, we are fortunate that 6 months since the launch of that shiny new platform, we power over 150 companies worldwide (and no, we’re not a unicorn and probably never will be. We are just a business that grows steadily, like most traditional businesses out there).
So yes, there are definitely other ways to test your business model even when you do not have a technical co-founder. If you believe in your idea enough to believe it is worth a coder slogging a gazillion thankless hours on it, hire a freelancer, get the MVP out and proof your model further. Heck, even hire your potential technical co-founder on a freelance basis. It’s a great way to test if you can work together well and see how vested they are in the idea. There are many startups I know who found their tech co-founders by first hiring them as freelancers, realizing they are great people, have great ideas for the product, before later having them join as a co-founder.
“Lastly, you may not even need a tech co-founder depending on your idea.“
Sometimes hiring a tech team or lead engineer is sufficient. It really depends on your business and industry you’re in. Don’t let the lack of a tech co-founder stop you from validating/building your idea. There are many ways to get ideas built these days.
This article is written by Chin Suyuen and first appeared on Medium. This is republished here with permission.
SuYuen is the co-founder of MomoCentral.com— a real-time freelancing platform for human-verified developers & designers. Real-Time, Direct, and Efficient.