Guest author Michael Hughes works on business development and marketing at CoFoundersLab.
In today's uber-connected digital world, software has become the backbone of innovation, and it plays a major role in virtually every business. From high tech to clean tech to healthcare to physical products, almost every business needs someone with at least some technical chops.
High-tech startups need technical co-founders more than just about anyone else. But with demand for technical talent at an all time high, your startup doesn't stand much of a chance of finding a first-class technical co-founder. Instead, you need to focus on attracting one.
The first step is getting into the right mindset: Stop right now with thinking you have the best idea and that this is all it takes. You may very well have the next game-changing idea, but that's missing the point. A technical co-founder wants to build your company with you, not for you.
Repeat this to yourself until you believe it in your bones: Your idea isn’t the best idea, and a technical co-founder doesn’t want to work for you on your idea.
You need to show prospective co-founders more than simply an idea, and you need to make them feel like they will be part of that idea, not just working for you. In-demand technical types aren’t going to work their fingers to the bone for very little money on nothing more than someone else's idea.
At a recent Co-Founders Wanted Brooklyn Meetup, Greg Whalin, one of the co-founders and former CTO of Meetup, recounted how after leaving Meetup after 10 years, he had lots of requests to join other people’s startups as a technical co-founder. The only ones he took seriously were from people with something more tangible than simply an idea. Greg looked for founders who wanted him to build something with them, not for them - who were looking for a true partner.
So how do you demonstrate those things to potential co-founders? You can start with these three tips:
1. Build A Prototype
Nothing shows commitment like actually building a prototype - or at least some initial wireframes. Having something tangible, whether a first pass at a website, app or physical product is the only real way to show passion and commitment. Not only will this bring your idea to life, but it will also help you stand out from the other hustlers with nothing more than a PowerPoint deck. If you can’t get this far, you probably aren’t ready to find a business partner.
2. Talk To Potential Customers
An idea without customers is simply that: an idea. Do your homework and reach out to potential customers to get feedback on your product or company. Show them your prototype or wireframes and ask them if they would be willing to pay for your product or service. Customers who are willing to pay are the key to every successful business, and demonstrating this through real research and outreach can make a big difference to potential partners.
3. Learn To Code
If you can learn to code, even a little, you will gain a measure of respect from potential technical co-founders. There’s no better way to relate to someone than to speak their language. Learning to code will also help you gauge just how talented a potential technical co-founder really is. If you don’t understand anything about programming, how can you evaluate someone else's skills? Learning the basics has never been easier, with resources like Codecademy, Skillshare, Starter League in Chicago, Intelligent.ly in Boston and General Assembly. There are also plenty of free, open courses from top universities.
Remember, you need to treat a technical co-founder like a true partner, not just the person who will write your code. The key to attracting talent is to show real, tangible progress and commitment. Good luck!
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.