How To Find a Tech Co-founder For Your Startup
Starting a new company on your own can be daunting. If you’re building something with high technical requirements it might even be impossible to do alone. Depending on your startup, you may need to partner up with a technical co-founder who’ll join you on this journey.
Assuming you don’t have a network or prior investments, it can be hard to find or convince the right person to join your startup. My business co-founder convinced me to join his startup and we went through the whole journey together from starting up all the way to the acquisition of our company.
I’m going to explain what he did right from the perspective of a tech co-founder and how you can convince engineers to join your startup.
When is the right time to recruit a tech co-founder?
Different people will need a co-founder at a different time. If you’re a person who’s not good at solo projects and tend to give up after a while, it might be a good idea to join up with someone else and work on the project together while keeping each other motivated. If you’re good at working on things on your own you might recruit a tech co-founder once you reach a plateau with no-code or low code solutions.
A co-founder can help you flesh out an idea differently and more fully than you would on your own. It’s not a waste of time nor a bad thing to offer someone a high stake because they took the leap and joined early.
There’s not one single answer to this question and it depends on:
- How much experience do you have building products?
- How well do you know the market?
- Can you work solo for a long time or do you tend to give up?
- What type of person are you’re looking for and how much time do you have to find someone?
These are your responsibilities
As a founder looking to recruit your CTO, you will have to take on certain responsibilities. Showing that you have a plan and vision for success is key to convince other people to join your startup, especially the person you’re relying on to bring your product to life.
I hate to stereotype people, but it’s a fact that engineers are typically more introverted and analytical and as such will rely on you for outwards communication.
This means that you will pitch to investors, talk to the press, sell, and be part of all of the customer-facing roles that exist in your startup. These are some of your responsibilities and you must show that you have them covered.
Among other things, you will have to show that you’re able to bring in more team members. Your tech co-founder doesn’t plan on doing the entirety of the work on their own, and they’ll be relying on you to bring in capital, revenue, and new employees. If you present yourself well and show that you take these responsibilities seriously you will make a good impression.
How to find qualified people
Finding qualified people is one of the hard parts of the process. It’s highly unlikely that people will just ask to join you, even if you advertise the position on various websites. You will have to reach out (a lot) and find people to recruit them yourself.
This is anecdotal, but my co-founder Stratos & I started working together after he reached out to me on LinkedIn. Granted, we studied at the same university but we didn’t know each other. We ended up working together for 3 years all the way to our successful acquisition and we’re still good friends.
That’s an example of what a well-written cold message can lead to if you just press “Send”.
To give you an idea of what you should send, try communicating that you’re building a project with high potential and that you’re looking for someone to join you.
Joining a startup can be a daunting idea for some people so I suggest you start small. Try to get help with your MVP, or hire someone for a small project, and if you both see that you work well together you can then decide to partner up.
There are tons of places where you can find qualified people. I really enjoy meeting people at startup events, but social media as I already explained is also a great choice. LinkedIn, Facebook groups about startups, AngelList, and other websites can help you find the right people.
Of course, you can also look within your network. Since you’ve probably already done that try asking for referrals from people you know and see if they know qualified people.
Find out if they’re a good match
To recruit a technical co-founder you need to have a similar mindset, in the sense that you’re both entrepreneurial, not risk-averse, and enjoy building things. That is because for the co-founder role you’re not just looking for an employee, but someone who’s also taking risk and responsibility in building your startup.
They will also need to have the relevant skills and experience that are required to build the product. On this aspect, you should not only focus on skills but also on learning. Try to find out if your prospective co-founder is good at learning new things. As a startup founder, your job changes every 6 months, so your co-founder has to be a quick learner.
A final thing that you should keep in mind, is if you can work well together. A co-founder with an entrepreneurial mindset and the right set of skills won’t be a good choice unless you can work well together. This is the reason why I suggested that you start small because that way you can discover if your personalities match and you can work well as a team.
Convince them to join you
Once you find a good candidate to be your tech co-founder, how do you convince them to join your startup?
I can’t list all of the ways, but here are some things that I find important when convincing someone to join your startup.
Include them in decisions
Be prepared to include them in the company’s decisions. Joining a startup as a co-founder means that their opinion is valued. Make them part of the brainstorming conversation and show that you intend for you both to have autonomy and decision-making power.
Prepare to be a partner and not a boss
Co-founder relationships can be difficult. I recently read a Quora question that asked “Why does my CTO feel like an underling? I’m the CEO”. That’s a great example of what not to do as the CEO. Prepare to be an equal partner with your co-founder and not the boss.
Don’t view software developers as “others”
It’s very often that I hear people repeat stereotypes about developers.
“They live in their own bubble”. “They're strange”. “I don’t understand them”. I don't personally feel offended, even though I am a software developer.
But viewing engineers as “others”, as people who are different from yourself, is counterproductive and will really hurt your chances of convincing someone to join you.
Don’t make them feel that they’ll be doing all the work
One of the fears that engineers have when joining a startup is that they’ll be doing most or all of the work. You have to make sure that won’t be the case.
Try to work on designs, roadmaps, dissecting features by speaking with customers, or try to find more people to join the company. Just make sure that your prospective co-founder won’t feel overwhelmed by all the work that needs to be done which might be too much for one person.
How much of the company should you give?
If you recruit a tech co-founder early, then be ready to offer a significant stake in the company. How much equity you give will depend on the stage of your company.
If for example, your co-founder joins you even before there is an MVP and is taking an equal risk as yourself then expect to give a large stake. In case you’ve built something yourself and your company is already producing revenue, then you can offer a smaller percentage as you’ve taken a higher risk yourself.
Other things like a starting salary, your own experience as a startup founder, your credentials, and past successes can also play a role in defining the cap table between everyone on the team.
I won’t go too deep on this subject as I believe a lot of good content exists already but keep these things in mind to help you understand what you’ll be offering to incentivize someone to join your team.
My goal with this article was to show you how you can find and convince a technical co-founder to join you. Through my perspective as a tech co-founder who joined a startup the way that I’m describing above, you will need to remember the following:
- Find the right time for yourself to recruit someone
- Reach out a lot, the type of talent you’re looking for is not common (but they do exist)
- Prepare to be a great CEO and business partner
Regardless of how long it takes to find a tech co-founder, you should keep on working on your company. Because that’s the type of company that succeeds in the long-term. Once you get your startup to a certain level, it will be easier to recruit talented people because of your initial success.