Hi, will you be my tech co-founder?

Have you tried finding a technical co-founder just to hear a lot of polite no's? Wondering what's wrong with these tech people? Let me tell you how the situation looks from the tech person's point of view. Perhaps it will help you in your search and show you the next steps.

The first problem you are facing is that good, not to mention great, software developers are in short supply. As a rule of thumb they are already happily employed with a high salary and an options plan. This means that your offer has to be lucrative enough to convince them quit their current job and help bring your idea to life. Almost impossible, considering that at the early stage most startups are not able to offer a competitive salary. Of course you can offer a share of the company, even up to 50%. But shares in essence are a only promise of future gains, while for most people there are bills to be paid right here right now.

Next, you can try to convince your potential co-founder that yours is a billion dollar idea that will change the world. Might be true, but unfortunately most startups are bound to fail, so you are asking the person to take a huge leap of faith. And this brings us to the second big problem you are facing. In my experience most engineers are not entrepreneurial. Solving challenging engineering problems, which engineers love, is very different from building companies.

Another option you have is to find an experienced CTO looking for a new gig after the previous startup or a software developer tired of corporate bullshit and looking to start own business. But let's be frank, the chances for either are small. Moreover, an entrepreneurial tech person will surely have a bunch of own ideas that they want to work on. Yet another solution is to team up with a fresh college graduate, but their lack of experience might tank the whole startup.

So what can you do? Here are a few practical advices.

First, you can keep on looking. The odds are against you, but so are they in the whole startup building business. With enough commitment you might just get lucky.

Second, you can try to raise money without a technical co-founder. Not easy at all, since most investors are looking for teams with a proven ability to execute. But if you do manage to get some money, you can not only offer salary, but also outsource development during the initial stages.

Third, and my favorite, you can learn to code! Might sound scary, I know. And sure, it's not a walk in the park, but building a successful startup is not supposed to be that either. The good news is it's not TOO hard. These days there are numerous great places online that teach coding. In 6-9 months of regular studying you should be able to create a simple MVP.

With a working prototype it's much easier to approach investors, get traction or even attract paying customers. Having any or all of these things will give you a much stronger bargaining position. Since you now have more than just PowerPoint slides, potential CTOs will be inclined to pay more attention. It's much easier to jump on board when a startup has a proven idea or when you are offered a market level salary. Hell, at that point you might figure out you like coding and you don't really need a CTO!

Boris Nechaev

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