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Finding the right technical cofounders?

I am a marketing guy and serial entrepreneur with a ton of experience in the tech world and have a highly technical SaaS project I am developing. I recognize that I am not a developer or system architect and have been interviewing quite a few potential technical cofounders to build the development team. I have not found a shortage of qualified individuals, most of them have 25+ years in development and think the idea I have developed is worth pursuing. Any one of them would benefit the company with their skills.

The problem I am running into is that I need to create a team and some of them seem to lack the energy and/or positivity that I want to infuse my company with. I am running on a bootstrap model to create a lean culture and founders with real passion and drive. (Also, the younger, more energetic talent is being hired by the big names with ridiculous salaries in our area.)

I kind of feel like I would have a hard time justifying hiring some of them for a paycheck, much less as cofounders driving the culture of the business. I don't want to hobble my company with negativity but also need to find teammates with skill levels above my own.

Is anyone else running into this type of issue and if so, how are you dealing with it?

12 Replies

Michael Brill
4
3
Michael Brill Entrepreneur
Technology startup exec focused on AI-driven products
Corey, not to parse your post too deeply and it may well be the case that you somehow happen to only interview sad-sack, down on their luck types... old people that lost their homes and wives (although you edited that out, it was in your original post). But my gut feeling is that you have a prototype 25 year old hoodie-wearing tech lead in mind and no matter who you talk to that doesn't fit that model, they're likely to be dumped into the old folks trash bin despite the fact that "any one of them would benefit the company with their skills." If that's the case, then don't waste your time interviewing them and writing agist posts about your experience.

Corey Butler
2
0
Corey Butler Advisor
Entrepreneur, Consultant, & Web/Data Engineer
I had similar problems at one point. I'm a serial tech founder with strong business background, meaning I'm lucky enough to take either role when I can't find someone to work with, but I needed counterparts. I lived in Chicago for a long time, and aside from a few unique individuals, finding anybody with energy seemed next to impossible, let alone anyone skilled. My solution was pretty drastic.... I moved to Austin, TX and got involved in the startup/tech scenes. It was worth it.

Depending on which phase you're in, you might consider outsourcing the initial development... at least to get to a proof of concept stage. Energy is often built on existing momentum, and having a POC that can be shopped around to customers is a start. Developers, young and old, often develop motivation when there is momentum they can't or don't want to build on their own... i.e. show them more than an idea. If you don't already have this, it could be part of the reason you're observing low energy levels. A "highly technical SaaS" sounds like a lot of unpaid work for a cofounder. I'm not saying it is, but that might be how it comes across, which isn't exactly motivating. Again, I don't know what stage you're at, but I hope this at least provides some food for thought.
Richard Nemec
4
0
Richard Nemec Entrepreneur
Multipreneur
Corey, you must be looking into wrong barrels.
Perhaps because I come from technical side, I know there are plenty of tech experts that are good-spirited as well as excited to get some good stuff put together.
Of course, 20-something cofounders have different needs (just a pack of ramen and a sleeping bag) than 30+ (esp hexadecimal) that may have to think about the mortgage and a kid in college.
Keep tapping on the barrels, some have good stuff inside.

P.S. Apologies to the 20-something founders for stereotyping ;-)
Eugene Gekhter
7
0
Eugene Gekhter Entrepreneur
CEO, Memorable. Founder, SharePay.
Hi Corey - I was like you for many years, all marketing and idea guy, whose ideas happened to fall into the realm of very technically-oriented which required "programming" ability to implement. After many failed attempts at getting my project off the ground, I finally took to the age-old adage, if you want something done right (or done at all), do it yourself --- and dove head-first into programming. If you're struggling finding the right programmers on a shoe-string budget, learning to program, which might seem like black magic to a marketing person, is in my opinion within any dedicated, smart persons' realm of capabilities. Your unrelenting 6-12 month commitment to this new trade could get you much further, faster, than carrying an amazing idea around in your head for half a decade that only others can implement.

My 2 cents.
Russell Schneider
0
0
Russell Schneider Entrepreneur • Advisor
Entrepreneur, Value Creator, Global Explorer - New Project in the Works
What is the job description? Where are you advertising and finding these people? How are you describing the company? Is it worth the extra money up front to you to pay for what you seek?
Michael Calleia
1
0
Michael Calleia Entrepreneur • Advisor
Product/Experience Design/Strategy Leader. Founder, Humanist partnering with clients to build great products and brands
You may want to read this thread on Quora:http://www.quora.com/Silicon-Valley/What-do-people-in-Silicon-Valley-plan-to-do-once-they-hit-35-and-are-officially-over-the-hill

It's not age, it's the frame of mind you are having trouble with.

As to combating high-pay, if you think the young guns are pricy, just wait until you see what the seasoned hands at building and running team that are currently employed cost. Remember, you are interviewing co-founders, not employees. This person will be a partner in your business and the win for them is in equity, not cash.
Sandy Fischler
2
0
Sandy Fischler Entrepreneur
Experiential Marketing Director | Event Producer | Event Management | Entrepreneur
We are looking for a technical co-founder as well, but we've gone the route Eugene has - we learned the basics of programming in order to get our early test version operational. You won't be able to build a complex SaaS project in a a few months, but you can get good enough to build version 1 in something like WordPress so you can show some traction and proof of concept.

A co-founder is serious business, you don't want to just go off and marry anyone. That person needs to love your idea as much as you do if they're going to put in the hours and dedication. Those people are out there, but I don't think you're going to find them by interviewing.

Have you tried local meetups frequented by entrepreneurs? We find those to be a great way to meet people and figure out fairly fast if they're a cultural fit.
Jordan Gilman
1
0
Jordan Gilman Entrepreneur
Chief Software Architect and Founder at PeopleVine (A Spider Web Design, Inc. Company)
Hi Corey, you're discussion/dilemma is quite interesting as I'm in the complete opposite position. I am the technical founder of PeopleVine a Brand Marketing and CRM platform and I'm looking for a co-founder with a strong marketing and sales background. Perhaps you may want to discuss if our platforms have any synergy to bring them together? My platform is live and being used by fortune 100 companies. Email me at [removed to protect privacy] if interested.
Rob Gropper
8
0
Rob Gropper Entrepreneur
Director at PetHero, SPC - Member at Eastside Incubator - Principal at Tuxedo Technologies Group
Corey;

As an entrepreneur overcoming adversity must be in your DNA. We've all read plenty of stories about the successful tech startup. not nearly enough stories about the failures. It's just not as easy as it may sound or as it used to be. there is no pill. If the road you are on is not getting you there then find another. Finding the 'right' co-founder simply involves hard work and luck. FD helps but it is still tactical. Think and act strategically and long-term. Do whatever you have to do TODAY to move the ball forward TODAY. I find that in the past few years finding qualified co-founders requires a longer time horizon and a much more strategic approach (less tactical) than in years past (in my experience). This is a triathlon not a 5k fun walk. this is not speed dating. Long-term relationship building works (for me) - YMMV. move to the bay area, Seattle, Austin, NY, Boston. And/or Join and attend every meetup you can find where the kind of people you want to meet hang out. Offer to give, not take. If you are an expert in something that tech startups need (like sales or UI/UX design) then offer your expertise - there are more tech startups than you can count started by developers who have built products that need help selling, marketing, designing, etc. Give, don't take. If that means offering to help organize speakers or setting up or cleaning up or buying beer for a tech meetup, do that. If it means offering to help others with pitches or presentations or mentoring or sales or accounting or legal do that. Join an incubator as a mentor/advisor. Join a co-working space that hosts tech startups. Immerse yourself in the tech startup world, but don't stop advancing your company every day while you wait for Mr/Ms. right to come along. Think asynchronous. Go sell some customers. Having customers waiting for your product is a very strong signal to a potential tech cofounder that 1) you know how to do the other major startup-thing they don't... selling/hustling and 2) that there is in fact market demand for what you will be building together. Scrape together some $$ and find a contract dev who can help move you forward - vet your specs, build a prototype, build an MVP, something, anything as long as it is forward. You can write specs, build wire-frames, write use cases, write stories (agile stories). If you don't know how then you had better learn. Build a detailed budget/sales/operations model that demonstrates IN DETAIL how you already have customers waiting, how you will get more customers, pricing, revenue, operating costs, HR costs, storage costs, time-frames, etc.. That way when you are having beers with a potential co-founder you can set yourself apart form the typical non-tech co-founder who waves his/her arms and talks about the nebulous future. sorry for the ramble, but my point is there is no shortcut. Like Yoda says, "do or do not, there is no try".
Raphael Londner
0
1
Raphael Londner Entrepreneur
Developer Advocate

I couldn't possiblyagree more with what Rob wrote.

I think one of the main issues of FD is that we pretty much all already have a product/companyidea that we cherish and don't want to abandon, so it's not necessarily the right place to find a co-founder, even if it's the stated goal of the site.

Good luck in finding your tech co-founder, here or elsewhere!

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