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What else can you do to be as attractive as possible to a tech CoFounder?

People say if you're a non-engineer and you're still lost in the phase of 'trying to find that tech cofounder'... then you're not an entrepreneur. 'Entrepreneurs should just be able to somehow figure it out'. I both love and hate this statement.

As a non-engineer I discovered very quickly that a) these people are not going to come to me, b) a lot of them don't attend as many 'networking events' as you, they're either working full-time with a fat salary or working on something on the side already or c) if you find one, having an idea AND being nice still isn't enough ;-)

So what did I do about it to increase my attractiveness? The answer is EVERYTHING I POSSIBLE COULD. INCLUDING LEARNING HOW TO CODE AND USE PHOTOSHOP. And I still haven't found them yet.

Here's some more background.. I'm a business/marketing guy (with extensive 'big agency' digital experience having held senior roles in businesses in 3 continents). I have recently acquired a new set of self-taught skills is Product and Sales. See, I wasn't going to let the fact that I couldn't find a tech cofounder get in the way of me moving forward, I set out to have them be interested in coming to me. Here's what I did:
  • I researched my market extensively
  • put all the numbers together
  • understood the competition like the back of my hand
  • wire-framed out the entire solution
  • tested it with people, refined it
  • had it designed
  • learned Photoshop so I could modify the designs to tailor it to other prospects
  • coded up a basic demo for myself
  • found someone to build off my demo resulting in a full-fledged MVP/demo product (front end and back-end)
  • compiled all the sales materials and presentation decks
  • saturated my professional and personal network asking for introductions to people who worked in this industry
  • compiled a hit list of EVERY prospect within driving distance in Los Angeles
  • made hundreds of phone calls
  • sent even more emails (tagging them with BananaTag to see who opened them)
  • so-far secured 10 in-person meetings with executives (of which 5 have organized second and third meetings)
  • had 5 of them ask for proposals which have been delivered
  • while also playing with several different pricing strategies - including value-based pricing and 'revenue share' pricing (especially for early adopters).
All of this is in three months. So I am really close to securing business and starting this. I really don't want to just 'contract out' someone or a small team to build this and not have them have the emotional connection. I don't have the revenues (or the long-term financial safety) just yet to 'hire' someone full-time. I'm really looking for someone who is excited by the industry, recognizes that I really mean business and who can and will put in the 'sweat equity' to create an emotional connection to the product.

I would love to hear from others to see if I am the only one who has been in this position. Or if this is a common thing. Am I just not looking in the right place? What else do people suggest I try to do to find this elusive tech cofounder now that I have something real on my hands? I was thrilled to be accepted in to FounderDating and have been really impressed with the quality of its members and how helpful they are and willing to share experiences.

Thanks in advance.

37 Replies

Michael Kovacs
4
0
Michael Kovacs Entrepreneur • Advisor
CTO at Samsung Accelerator
Hey John, I look for someone that brings lots of leverage that complements me. My leverage is code, your leverage has to be the ability to get paying customers. I put on the show, you sell out the theater. You're doing the right things because if you approached me and talked to me about whatever it is you're doing I'd ask what problem are you solving, why does anyone care, and who have you signed up? Have you had anyone pay you for the product before it's even built? You're addressing all of those questions which is great. The rest is just finding someone that you get along with that believes in you and you in him/her and are both committed to seeing things to some milestone. Tons of non-technical co-founders don't do anywhere near the validation you've done so far. Your only job right now is to state and validate hypotheses and do so as much as possible before having to build a real product. Approaching an engineer with "OK I have 30 customers lined up that have all paid and here's my plan to get more. Oh and here's where we can build a moat and here's where we're vulnerable", is a great way to show that you are focused, executing, have thought through the business as much as possible at this point, and have a plan. In fact I have to ask what are you doing? :-) -Michael
Peter Morgan
1
1
Peter Morgan Entrepreneur
CEO at Zepto Ventures
Have you tried recruitment agencies?
Dave Angelow
4
0
Dave Angelow Entrepreneur • Advisor
Board Member at HAND Austin
John

What you've accomplished in 3 months is very impressive; hat's off to you for setting the pace for the rest of us to try and keep up!

Finding tech resources is always a challenge and given the accomplishments you've outlined, you may consider and alternative approach - reach out to angel networks and share what you've done thus far. Assuming that you'd be looking for financing at some point, getting exposure and feedback could be really helpful. Also, I think the accomplishments you've done solo would get them excited - perhaps a bit of seed funding but more important they may be able to help with connections/networking to fill technical needs.

Realize this is not a direct means to get a co-founder, yet would leverage the progress you've made to date and jump-start funding

Fantastic and inspirational to read your work, keep it up!
Matt Smith
3
0
Matt Smith Entrepreneur
Systems Architect at Bank of America
As technical guy, I'm impressed with your business and sales spirit. You're not just relying on emotions to your cause, but gathering real data. Have you secured any money from those you provided proposals to?

If someone comes to me and says they have customers who have already put money on the table for a product that in essence does not yet exist gets me much more excited to work on a project than someone who just has an idea.
Mark Cline
0
0
Mark Cline Entrepreneur
Developer at PitchPoint Solutions
As a technical guy, I'd agree with Matt. I'd be totally impressed with how far you have gotten so far in just 3 months. You have done your research and definitely sound like you are on solid ground.

For me, I need to feel excited about the project I am involved with. Perhaps inviting feedback and getting a technical co-founder to invest himself into the idea as well. I don't want to get involved to build "someone elses idea", but if I buy into the idea and "we" move forward with it, then its a whole different ball game. Is it possible that any tech co-founders have felt more as they were basically code jockeys to build out a concept?
Kym McNicholas
2
1
Kym McNicholas Entrepreneur
TV Host, Tech Jounalist, Director of Extreme Tech Challenge, Host of KDOW Radio's NewFocus On Innovation
The best advice I've gotten is to have a technical advisor, not a tech co-founder. Mine is just as good as a co-founder and I only have up 1/4 % equity! Sent from my iPhone
John Duffield
0
0
John Duffield Entrepreneur
Sr. Manager, Interactive Program Management at SapientNitro
Such awesome responses so soon after posting. Thanks so much guys for the kind words. I'm not working any harder than you folks:

Michael - yep, I believe its finding someone to get along with. I just cant find them. Its crazy as I'm right here in Silicon Beach.

Peter - no I have not. Purely because I'm looking for an equity founder.

Dave - reaching out to angels is a great idea. In fact I've started that. Good to get on their radar. Not looking to give up control/equity as I don't necessarily need funding if client sign-up fees (and some of my investment) can cover it. However, my previous post on 'SaaS pricing models' was mentioning how I may need to sign up clients on a rev-share basis initially to get the ball rolling and collect some much needed metrics/ROI data.

Matt - haven't had any proposals signed just yet. Given its late in the year some budgets are locked til 2014. But I may get one - what a nice xmas present ;-) A have a big meeting on Monday and a key phone call so you never know.

Mark - you've hit a great point here. 'building someone else's idea' doesn't really help someone new buy-in to the emotional idea. The catch 22 is that I wasn't going to slow down just because I didn't want to go too far along and pass the point of recruiting a 'cofounder' and more along to recruiting the 'first employee'. I want the cofounder, yet I can't take the foot off the gas either.

Thanks again for all your kind words. Was by no means 'blowing my own trumpet' with my first post, just trying to lay out the full picture to help convey my story.
Douglas Tarr
1
0
Douglas Tarr Entrepreneur • Advisor
Entrepreneur and Software Architect
Tech guy here. I've worked for pay, for free, for equity, and every variation in between.

I will take your word on it that you think your idea is awesome and game changing.

But, here are my red flags:

1. You seem kind of frustrated (rather than confident)
2. You haven't closed a deal yet.
3. You haven't signaled that you are willing to pay money, and you don't seem that close to raising a round to pay money.

I'd suggest that you close a deal first. That'll probably solve the rest of the issues and you'll easily find someone to help.

Hope that helps.

- Doug

John Duffield
0
0
John Duffield Entrepreneur
Sr. Manager, Interactive Program Management at SapientNitro
Hi Doug,

Thanks for your insight.

1 - There is not a frustrated bone in my body. If I wasn't this confident I wouldn't be pushing forward as much as I am or getting meetings in front of as many executives as I can. I am driven, yet I am a little worried I must admit. I am worried that if I hook two paying clients I'm going to have to scramble like a madman to get it built in a panic.

2 - Correct. But I will, because I won't stop til I do. Companies have many stakeholders and layers of approval as you know. Approvals don't come quickly all the time.

3 - I have practically gone without pay/salary for 3 months. I have put money into the design and MVP of this entirely myself.

When I close a deal, its not going to be big funds to hire someone. Far from it, but it is someone willing to pay money. So that should be attractive.

John
Sandy Naylor
1
0
Sandy Naylor Entrepreneur • Advisor
Product Management and Development
I'm a fellow business person and have not had trouble finding technical collaborators. Here are a few, possibly unconventional suggestions.

1. Do what you love. I met an incredible technical partner through a yoga workshop. I had no idea this person was an engineer, we just enjoyed getting to know each other and then - bam.

2. Go where engineers are. I am meeting a bunch of great technical people on Quora, for example. Many engineers are naturally more introverted (as am I) and are therefore underrepresented at networking events.

3. Highlight your inner nerd. I say this respectfully because I'm a huge nerd too. If you have a low key, analytical side, bring that side of yourself out in conversation. The over the top hustler energy that works in some biz dev situations is not always that helpful with engineers.

4. Move to SF. Just sayin! If you're all in, might be worth considering.

5. Consider if you really need a technical cofounder. Is your problem that technically complex? Do you want institutional money? If the answer to both questions is no, maybe a solid contract development shop isn't that bad for now.

6. Cede control / find a fun problem. No one will become emotionally invested so long as it's 'your idea.' The right partner will want to co-create with you. Is there a fun technical problem? Does the person long to build a lean startup? When you talk to engineers, figure out why they want to do a startup and show that you are flexible and open to allowing them to drive the areas they are passionate about.

7. Be wary of the salaried. Engineer or businessperson, the golden handcuffs are probably locked. A good friend of mine just had a CTO flake - couldn't bear to quit the day job.

Good luck! Looks like you're getting some interest just in the answers here :D



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