Discuss // Looking for guidance re: when to find a technical cofounder & when to hire a 3rd-party developer?
Looking for guidance re: when to find a technical cofounder & when to hire a 3rd-party developer?
I have a business idea that I'm passionate about, but as a first-time entrepreneur with a limited tech network, I'm unsure how to approach getting my tech startup off the ground. I've got the business side covered, paper prototypes and initial testing done, but I'd like to hear your opinions regarding whether it's best to find a technical cofounder or hire a third-party developer to build it at this stage. If you think finding a cofounder is best, any advice for doing so? And on the flip side, any suggestions for finding and managing the right development team?
Director at PetHero, SPC - Member at Eastside Incubator - Principal at Tuxedo Technologies Group
nora, do both. the most important goal at this point is traction - building a product and getting users and/or paying customers. That's not easy. before you build anything you should sell it - find a way to get committed customers. There's nothing worse than spending your time, sweat and money to build a product only to learn that the market doesn't want it. Only once you know without question that customers will buy what you want to build should you then build. Build an MVP first and go back and triple confirm that the market wants it. then sell some more and build some more. While you are doing this you can be vetting resources to build it and fund it. Each bit of traction shows investors (and co-founders are investors) that you can execute. there are several posts on this subject already on FD so do some homework. My suggestion is to pursue both a cofounder and a 3rd party developer. You could spend 3 months, a year... 3 years searching for and vetting co-founders. Even when you've found one there's no guarantee things will work out. While it is easier/faster to find 3rd-party developers you still need to vet them, manage them and pay them. Some may work for partial equity. My point is, don't let your search for a cofounder get in the way of building traction.
In our case we did both. Finding either was an arduous task. First we looked for someone that would build some sophisticated landing pages to get us a little traction. We went through dozens of developers before finding the right one. We waste an incredible amount of time and money getting to something that hit my vision of what the functionality should be. I have a strong technical background, but, haven't actively programmed in 20 years. It was still touch to vet developers and CTOs. Sophisticated investors all wanted to see a CTO in place before they would invest. They also want to invest in cream of the crop CTOs, even where it made more sense to go with lower cost/more experienced people. Product/Market fit is huge as Rob pointed out. Without traction you're probably stuck with friends and family investors or those that have specific expertise in the area.
Once you release something good, reverse engineering usually starts, so be sure you are ready to counter that with complexity and innovation.
I would suggest to focus entirely on finding a technical partner first. You need this person for leverage against investors, to own the technical core of your product and to do a better job at finding the third party developer.
Hiring the 3rd party develope first is risky and basicly you are putting all your eggs in the same basket. They might not be good enough or they might be good and leave with the knowledge of your IP and go directly to your competitors or became a competitor himself.
In order to find a technical cofounder you need to network and approach different individuals that you believe might fit the bill. Get some external help, a good HR consultant, if you need help. This is not a place to cut corners. Your company entire future depends on this.
You think the idea is very good and you have money to hire a dev (it goes from 15k for simple MVP to 70k and more for an elaborated one). So why to give away something that will be millions in the future. You see, any good tech dev would ask at least 35-45%. And you potentially can sell it for 100m in just three years. It absolutely makes sense to hire somebody for just 70k and save those millions.
I have seen arguments like this :) I am not really sure it is a good idea, because if you have no tech background then to hire somebody does not always work.
Your other option is to find an advisor who is not going to be involved in day-to-day activities but can suggest how you might want to approach a development. There are a lot of people here who can do it. I am one of them
I originally searched and searched for a technical co-founder for my startup. After a while it felt like I was banging my head against a wall.
A friend who is a CTO at a large startup in NYC introduced me to a company that was doing part of their development.I have used them and have been very happy. I referred them a few friends who have also been very happy with their work.
I've since started consulting for that product development company, while they continue to build my product. If you're interested in the intro, let me know.
Dec 17, 2015
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