Monday, March 12, 2012

Finding a Technical Cofounder for Your Startup

I've recently received several emails from people looking for a technical cofounder for their startup.  I promised I would write this post with some thoughts and ideas on the topic.  Here's an example of that kind of email.

"I'm looking for a partner / cofounder who can not only head the technical aspects and build a working model of the site, but someone with the connections to put a great development team together when we need it. "

Typically, this requires quite a bit more information for me to be able to respond and provide real help.  I've talked about that in lots of other posts, so you can visit some of these to help determine what you specifically need:

Key ingredients in the equation are:

Okay, so now you have it narrowed down and have determined that you need:

  1. Part-Time CTO or Technology Advisor to help guide you and close a bit of the Startup Founder Developer Gap, and
  2. Equity-Only Cofounder Developer - the first real developer that will work for equity and produce the bulk of the application.

Of course, you will want to figure out a bit more about the specifics of what this developer needs to know vs. can learn.  Your technical advisor can likely help.

Before you go out looking for your Cofounder, you should also be thinking about what will motivate them as I talk about in How to Hunt Programmers for Your Startup - A Field Guide.

The bad news is that Finding Developers is Tough Here in Los Angeles and even people willing to pay have a hard time finding Web Development in Los Angeles.   Of course, you are looking for something a little different - a technical Cofounder.  The bad news is that they can get a good paying job anytime.  The good news is that likely is not what they want.

Where to Search for the Technical Cofounder

So where might you run into the right person?  Here are some ideas:

In your company or other companies.  Find the developers in your current company and other companies that you can get inside.  Get to know the developers.  Find out who is good.  Ask your friends to do the same.  Take lots of them out for free coffee, food, beer.  Ask them about your concept.

Tech Events / Meetups - In Los Angeles, There are lots of Networking Events in Los Angeles and Southern California that are techie oriented.   You should definitely hit up the Startup Weekend events as well.  And look at for lots of startup oriented events.

Make sure you meet the people who run these events.  They often can help a lot in navigating to expertise and to possible resources.

Student Groups - Go to the local university and find out what student groups there are for programmers.  Ask around for ideas on where they hang out.

LinkedIn - This remains one of my primary tools.  It's a bit hard to use to find a cofounder, but I would certainly go ask everyone I know to introduce me to programmers they know.  And then use them to get to even more.  

Twitter - You can run searches for various types of techie terms being used in a given geography.  Follow them and reply to introduce yourself.

Befriend Recruiters - Most recruiters will not be happy I say this as they generally don't like talking to people in this situation, but they still often will have lots of ideas for where technical people in your geography hang out. 

Sites - There are a bunch of sites out there aimed at this or similar issues.  Most of them suffer from lack of activity, but it's worth a shot.  Some sites to check out:

You can try finding folks via

Oh, and often there are forums for particular technologies where you can look.

Here are a few perspectives on the topic of finding technical cofounders:

In Building a sweat equity team, Joel on Software tells us:

You simply need to network. Go to user groups. Go to tech (or other relevant industry) events. Refine your elevator pitch. Eventually you'll catch the ear, the vision, of someone who would like to jump on board, and has something you need in return.

A great post by Elizabeth Knopf , FounderDating: How I Found My Co-Founder where she breaks down the process much like how you think about a sales process.  I'm focusing on the sourcing ("lead gen" on her slide) aspect.


In Please, please, please stop asking how to find a technical co-founder, Jason Freedman tackles this a different way and suggests how you "earn a technical cofounder" along the lines of:

  • Learn to Code
  • Build the Front-End
  • Test on Paper
  • Build a Following
  • Spend Some Money

Here are a bunch of other articles on the topic of Cofounders.

  • How Much Equity a Technical Cofounder Should Get
  • 6 Ways to Find A Technical Co-Founder
  • Places to Find Developers in Exchange for Sweat Equity
  • How To Find A Programmer To Build Your Startup Idea
  • Bootstrapping a Lean Startup
  • Finding a Technical Partner for Your Startup
  • Finding Your Co-Founders
  • CTO Equity - Negotiation After Funding
  • Startup CTO Salary and Equity Data
  • Hiring a CTO for Your Startup
  • How to Hunt Programmers for Your Startup - A Field Guide
  • How I Found a Great CTO
  • We have a CTO, and so can you!
  • Why Your Startup Can’t Afford To Hire a CTO
  • Advice for CTO Founders: Don't Let Business Kill the Business
  • The Different CTO Roles
  • Why Your Startup Can’t Afford To NOT Hire a CTO
  • HOW TO: Hire the Perfect CTO
  • Finding a technical co-founder: You’re doing it wrong
  • How to find a technical Cofounder
  • Technical Cofounders are Overrated
  • A Minimum Viable Team is more important than a Minimum Viable Product
  • 7 Startup Co-Founders That Can Lead to Conflict
  • What is the best way to divide up ownership in a startup?
  • Ten Steps in Choosing the Right Startup Partner
  • Lockboxer CEO: You Don’t Need A Technical Co-Founder To Start A Web Business
  • How to pick a co-founder
  • The Co-Founder Mythology
  • Finding Your Co-Founders
  • Spencer Fry — Picking Your Co-Founders
  • Do I Need a Co-Founder: The 90/50 Rule of Startup Founders
  • How To Work Better with Your Co-Founder
  • How Do I Know You Are Mr. Right (Co-Founder)?
  • Why you can('t) recruit a technical cofounder
  • AskBob: Where do I find developer cofounder?
  • Things to Avoid When Recruiting Co-founders
  • Finding Technical Cofounders Is Hard
  • Need a Technical Co-founder? Hire a Product Design Lead First
  • Nailing that elusive technical co-founder
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