If you’re a founder coming from a Business background, finding the right Technical co-founder is one of the most important tasks you’ll have when it comes to founding a startup. In this article: we'll discuss why you need a tech co-founder, why it's challenging to find one, the importance of traction, and how thinking outside the box can help you attract the right partner.
Why You Need a Tech Co-Founder
For business-savvy but tech-lacking individuals looking to launch a startup, a tech co-founder is essential for several reasons:
- Internal tech expertise: The barriers to entry in shipping software products are constantly increasing, driven by advancements in blockchain, AI, and other emerging technologies. Developing a competitive product requires staying up-to-date with these technologies and understanding how they can be best integrated into your business model, something that a non-technical person will not be able to do. Sure, you can try to learn how to code, but learning to code takes 1 to 1.5 years, and even then, you may not possess the skills to tackle complex projects.
- Increases likelihood of VC funding: Investors prefer a founding team with a balance of technical and business skills. Having a tech co-founder demonstrates that you can efficiently execute your business plan and deliver a high-quality product to the market, increasing the chances of securing funding.
- Better scoping: By having a clean split between business and technical responsibilities, you can ensure that each co-founder focuses on their area of expertise. This allows for efficient delegation of tasks, preventing potential bottlenecks in your startup's growth.
Why Finding a Great Tech Co-Founder is Hard
Unfortunately, locating a talented tech co-founder is challenging due to several factors:
- Great status quo: Many skilled tech professionals have lucrative jobs at FAANG companies. The stability and perks these jobs provide can be difficult to match, especially in the early stages of your startup, leaving them with little incentive to start a new venture. And, if they wish to enter the startup world, because they have the technical know-how, they are able to launch their own startups. In other words, great devs are cash-rich both from the laundry list of startups seeking their services or from their very profitable FAANG positions.
- Tech-first mindset: If they do decide to launch a startup, they often choose another tech co-founder. That’s because with two tech co-founders, they can divide the scope of the product in half and launch their MVP faster and at a lower cost, while picking up the easier-to-learn business skills along the way.
- Competitive market: The market for tech talent is highly competitive, with top-tier candidates receiving numerous job offers and messages on platforms like LinkedIn. You'll need to offer a compelling opportunity to stand out among the many other startups and established companies vying for their attention.
It's All About Traction (A.K.A, Your Co-Founder is Your First Investor)
To attract a great tech co-founder, business founders need to demonstrate their value by showing traction. Some key areas to focus on include:
- Track record: A proven track record, such as successful exits, fundraising, or revenue generation, showcases your ability to lead a company and create value for stakeholders.
- Prototyping: Building a prototype or minimum viable product (MVP) to prove the concept and generate interest from potential users, investors, and co-founders demonstrates your commitment to the project and the viability of your idea.
- Financing: By financing, we mean both having early investors and/or a pre-product contract and LOIs. Both of these things will help show prospective tech co-founders that your startup has traction and potential.
Increasing traction will not only make your startup more appealing but also help you avoid partnering with a less capable tech co-founder. Remember: without traction, you're less likely to attract top talent.
Think Outside the Box
The best way to go about finding a tech co-founder is to be systemic about it:
- Build as much traction as possible. The higher the traction, the better the tech co-founder you’ll be able to attract.
- Multiply your exposure/networking in quality environments, such as conferences, hackathons, and online communities.
- Reach out, do an interview, and close the deal.
But sometimes, that’s not enough. In this case, you have to think outside the box.
For example, you might consider offering to pay your tech co-founder a salary initially and creatively structure the equity distribution. Paying a co-founder is quite an unusual move, so this can help mitigate the risk for the tech co-founder and demonstrate your commitment to their success. Basically, the goal here is to create an incentive structure of cash + equity that is competitive against the status quo (knowing the status quo is very good).
Sometimes, finding a tech cofounder is as easy as partnering with somebody you worked with before. But, unfortunately, for most people, it’s not that easy. To attract a good one, you’ll need to build as much traction as possible, constantly network, and offer a compensation package competitive with the status quo.
Remember, your co-founder is your first investor, so treat the search with the same (and likely even more!) diligence and persistence as you would when seeking external funding. If you do, you'll be well on your way to finding the ideal tech co-founder.
Nicolas is the founder of Frame, an all-in-one collaboration OS for startups. Frame offers pre-built collaboration apps like Notes, Task, Wiki, Whiteboard, and more. If you want to find a free ‘co-founder agreement’ on our Wiki app, sign up today!