A great idea for your startup is supposed to be the biggest hurdle between you and your dreams, but what happens if you don’t necessarily have the technical expertise you need to make that idea a reality? Increasingly, no matter what business you’re in, you need to have some understanding of how you will fit into and leverage the tech landscape in order to grow and deliver your product or service at scale. What you need is a technology partner or co-founder, someone who believes in your idea but comes from a technical background and has the expertise to make it work in the real world.
Finding and recruiting the ideal technology partner or co-founder is easier said than done, however. You’re a startup, after all, so your business is only as good as the people you have on your team and what they say about your idea. If you want to attract investor interest, then you need to get serious about finding someone who not only looks good on paper but has the skills and vision to help you take your business to the next level.
The Difference Between a Technology Partner and a Tech Co-Founder
A technical co-founder is just that: a founding member of the company who has a share in the overall profit. They might not have come up with the idea, but you’ve brought them on board because they know how to make that idea happen. Ideally, they have a strong track record working with similar companies or pieces of technology that are integral to your business plan.
Essentially, you are exchanging equity for this person’s ability to reassure investors that you know how to do what you say you’re going to do. Because your tech co-founder has a stake in the profits, they also have a vested interest in making sure you succeed.
A technology partner is a little different, in that a partnership is more of an outsourcing situation. It’s more of a total package than what you would normally get from a contractor because they’re thinking about all of your business’ needs throughout the entire development process. The ideal tech partner helps you build something scalable that grows with your startup.
Finding the Right Technical Co-Founder for Your Startup
Ultimately, finding the right tech co-founder is going to come down to who you know and who they can put you in touch with. It’s important to realize that you’re making a big ask. Most people with the resumé you’re looking for can easily get a job with equity at a more proven startup, a high-paying position at a large company, or start their own project.
This information shouldn’t necessarily deter you from seeking out a tech co-founder, but it’s important to know where you stand and what it takes to convince someone that what you want to do has legs. Bank on personal connections to find people with an actual stake in you as a person. Comb your contacts to find those with the right kinds of expertise.
If they’re a close enough connection, you might be able to ask them directly. If not, see if you can get a coffee with them to ask them for advice on where to look. Chances are good they know more people with the skills you’re looking for.
Finding a Technology Partner
The challenges of finding a tech partner for your startup are nearly opposite the challenges of finding a co-founder. Many companies are looking to be a tech partner, but if you come from a non-technical background, it can often be difficult to vet them properly. You can often end up with an infrastructure that is built cheaply but unable to scale, impossible to update, or hard to maintain.
Before you commit to a tech partner, see if anyone in your network has any relevant knowledge in your prospective field. Invest in good advice—it’s likely that the potential risks are bigger than you realize. As a nontechnical founder, you don’t know what you don’t know.
Meeting with someone you know—perhaps even offering them a few percentage points of equity in exchange for becoming an advisor—can make a world of difference. This also gives you access to a much deeper network of tech references which you can consult when you do need to make a hire.
Try Building an MVP Without Code
While this might seem counterintuitive to your reason for recruiting a tech partner or co-founder in the first place, it can mean a lot to have some sort of proof-of-concept in place for your startup. Building an “MVP,” or “Minimum Viable Product,” is a key step in the Lean Startup methodology of making your idea tangible and iterating on it as quickly as possible.
There are a lot of ways to build your MVP without being able to code or with minimal coding skills. There are more expensive routes, like working with a freelancer or hacking something together yourself via a well-built template or a no-code app building platform like Bubble.
Showing someone you can create an MVP by yourself illustrates that you’re serious and lets the strength of your idea speak for itself. That makes it much easier to sell to potential tech partner or co-founder.
What You Can Do Right Now
Founding a startup is hard work, especially if you need the help of a technology partner or co-founder to make your idea a reality. No matter how wonderful your concept is, you’ll find it challenging to convince someone to take a risk and be a technical co-founder if you don’t have a direct connection with them or can’t prove that your vision can be executed.
On the flip side, making sure your tech partner is the right match may require expertise you don’t have. Seek out good advice, and make sure you have all your bases covered. Throughout the process, keep working towards building an MVP that makes your idea tangible and demonstrates how it will work.
● Decide if you’re looking for a tech partner or a tech co-founder.
● Leverage your network to find tech co-founder candidates.
● Invest in good advice before deciding on a tech partner.
● Work on building an MVP yourself so you can demonstrate how your idea works.
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