How To Make It as a
First-Time Entrepreneur

How to Make it as a First-Time Entrepreneur

Steve Job’s Technical Co-Founder

Vinicius Vacanti is co-founder and CEO of Yipit. Next posts on how to acquire users for free and how to raise a Series A. Don’t miss them by subscribing via email or via twitter.

“I’ve got this HUGE idea. I just need to find a technical co-founder.” Ugh. I’ve heard that too many times over the last few years and it almost always ends badly.

I was in this situation and we barely escaped. I write this post to put you out of your miserable technical co-founder search and give you some realistic options.

The Challenge of Finding a Technical Co-Founder

To find a great technical co-founder, you need to convince them of the following:

  • Your idea is better than all of their ideas
  • The equity is worth spending all of their spare time working for no money
  • You are worth 50% of the equity of the company
  • You will execute and convert an idea into a big successful business
  • You’re better than all of the other biz people pitching them

This is a pretty daunting list. You see, good technical co-founders are like the attractive people at the dance. They’re hot, they know it, everyone wants to sleep with them, and they can also go home and sleep with themselves (the analogy got a little weird there, sorry). So, why should they pick you?

Your Options

Here are your options for finding a technical co-founder. Notice how little control you have over most of them.

Getting Traction is a Catch 22

  • College Roommate or Co-Worker. Your best bet by far is if you have personally known someone for a while and preferably worked together. They are the ones that know you well enough to believe what you are capable of. If you don’t have someone like this, and most of you don’t, you’re in big trouble.
  • Have Experience. If you have already started a successful start-up, you’re probably not reading this post because your struggling to find a technical co-founder; you have your pick.
  • Have Domain Expertise. You’re starting a new photo sharing site and you were the project manager for Facebook’s photo app; you’re starting a music label disruptor and you worked for a music label for the last five years. As a personal example, when we told people Yipit was going to be a Kayak for the Daily Deal industry, we would have been way more convincing if we had actually worked at Kayak.
  • Traction (the Catch 22 option). This is the only one you can, in theory, control. You’d have a lot easier time getting a great technical co-founder to join you if your initial prototype had 20,000 users and growing. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a Catch 22 in that you sort of need a technical co-founder to build you the first version to get traction.
  • Social Proof (the other Catch 22 option). If you had Ron Conway/David Lee from SV Angel or Chris Dixon/Eric Paley of Founder’s Collective investing in you, potential technical co-founders would be a lot more interested. Unfortunately, this is also a catch 22 because without experience, domain expertise or traction, it’s highly unlikely they are going to invest in your start up. In many ways, good technical co-founders and angel investors are looking for the same thing.

Your Realistic Options

Most people find themselves here. You don’t know anyone, you don’t have experience, you don’t have traction and you don’t have investors. You just have an idea and a dream. Here are your options:

  • PayPal Offspring

    Go Work at a Start-Up

    • The Hope: You can get some experience and you’ll find your future technical co-founder
    • Why You Should: You don’t have any money saved up and you have no idea how to product manage, acquire users or fund-raise. If I had to go all the way back to 2007 when I left my wall street job, I would have done this option.
    • Why You Shouldn’t: You’re postponing your dream for at least two years. It’s actually pretty hard to find a good start-up job if you have no real engineering or user acquisition / product management skills. There’s no guarantee your future technical co-founder will be there.
  • Become a Key Member of the Tech Community
    • The Hope: You’ll form friendships with potential technical co-founders and work on small projects together.
    • Why You Should: You don’t have to quit your day job. You have good community building skills and quickly become other people’s friends.
    • Why You Shouldn’t: This is easier said than done (I wrote a post on how I became a member of the tech community). I’ve also seen many people become key members of their community and still not find a great tech co-founder because, ultimately, being their friend isn’t enough.
  • Blog About Your Idea
    • The Hope: Your potential technical co-founder will find your blog, really like your idea and admire the way you are thinking about the problem.
    • Why You Should: You don’t have to quit your day job. You already have an online following. It can be good for you to express your ideas on paper and build some domain expertise credibility.
    • Why You Shouldn’t: It’s a good idea to start a blog but it’s really hard to get mindshare and attention for your blog if you don’t already have a following.
  • Hire a Programmer
    • The Hope: You’ll use the programmer to build a prototype that will get you traction and experience.
    • Why You Should: You know what an MVP is and you have a great vision for what it should be. You know how to product manage and you’ve hired programmers before.
    • Why You Shouldn’t: This is really hard and littered with start-up bodies. We tried this at Yipit and failed. I recommend you start by reading this post on how to hire a programmer. This will cost you some real cash- at least $5K for your first version. I say first version because you’re likely to not get it right at first and now you need to fork over another $2.5K for a second version assuming the programmer doesn’t flake on you.
  • Roll the Dice on a Stranger
    • The Hope: You’ll learn to work together and trust each other and they’ll be a great technical co-founder
    • Why You Should: You have no other options and believe you can get anyone to work well with you. This does work occasionally. I highly recommend starting with a small project first.
    • Why You Shouldn’t: This is a desperation move. Start-ups are full of risks, you’re about add on another huge one. Also, think about the self-selection bias, if this person was such a great technical co-founder, why are they responding to your craigslist post. They would have probably been scooped up by someone else. Even if you are able to get some traction, you’ll probably be stuck with a less than desirable technical co-founder.
  • Learning Python

    Build Your Own Prototype

    • The Hope: You can hack together a prototype to get traction and experience.
    • Why You Should: You’ll be able to build any prototype you want and will be able to pivot your company. It won’t cost you real money other than your living expenses. You’ll have full control over the destiny of your project. If you are fully committed, this will work.
    • Why You Shouldn’t: This requires the most commitment  and will require you to be truly dedicated to your cause. You’ll have to quit your day job and do this full time (you’ll need savings to support yourself). If you don’t quit your day job, you’ll have to take a 9 to 5 job and spend 6 to 2 am every night and every weekend working on it.

What We Did

We tried to hire a programmer and it didn’t go well. So, we decided that I would become our company’s temporary technical co-founder. It took me about six months of working full time before I could really build any prototype we wanted. Four prototypes / pivots later, we landed on the current version of Yipit. (BTW, going to be speaking to a few groups about my experience of becoming our temporary technical co-founder. As part of that, will be writing a series on this blog about what I did exactly.)

What Did You Do?

What was your approach to the problem of not being able to find a technical co-founder?  Did you try an option I didn’t list above? How did you find your technical co-founder?

I hope you now have a much better understanding of how “I just need to find a technical co-founder” is actually really hard. But, not all is lost.  You do have some options, just remember to choose wisely.

This is the first post in a a series on becoming your own technical co-founder:

  1. Guide to Finding a Technical Co-Founder
  2. Why You Can Become Your Own Technical Co-Founder
  3. Should You Find a Co-Founder, Hire a Programmer or DIY?
  4. Big Picture Overview of All the Components of a Web Service [To Come]
  5. More to Come…
  • http://www.adamstober.com Adam Stober

    “Hired a Programmer” though finding the right one took a lot of time. If V1 launches well I am hoping to have more options to work with (aka “Traction”)

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    That's a great way to think about it. Traction is key.

  • http://www.adventurista.com/ Sarah Tavel

    Awesome post, Vin. Look forward to the series!

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    Thanks Sarah! Looking forward to writing it.

  • http://www.nabbr.com MattMinoff

    This should be required reading for all bankers/consultants who want to start a company.

  • mikehorn

    Great survey of realistic options for non-techies who want to start web companies. Love seeing this information out there for new founders!

  • http://www.adamstober.com Adam Stober

    “Hired a Programmer” though finding the right one took a lot of time. If V1 launches well I am hoping to have more options to work with (aka “Traction”)

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      That’s a great way to think about it. Traction is key.

      • http://twitter.com/adamstober Adam Stober

        Never got traction. Turns out my concept was weak, but I learned a lot. Next effort: joined a start-up, Fluent Mobile. Learning a lot about mobile apps and marketing in particular.

        • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

          That’s great. Wish I had joined a startup before trying to go out on my own.

  • http://twitter.com/adamstober Adam Stober

    “Hired a Programmer” though finding the right one took a lot of time. If V1 launches well I am hoping to have more options to work with (aka “Traction”)

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      That’s a great way to think about it. Traction is key.

      • http://twitter.com/adamstober Adam Stober

        Never got traction. Turns out my concept was weak, but I learned a lot. Next effort: joined a start-up, Fluent Mobile. Learning a lot about mobile apps and marketing in particular.

        • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

          That’s great. Wish I had joined a startup before trying to go out on my own.

  • http://www.adventurista.com/ Sarah Tavel

    Awesome post, Vin. Look forward to the series!

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Thanks Sarah! Looking forward to writing it.

  • http://www.adventurista.com/ Sarah Tavel

    Awesome post, Vin. Look forward to the series!

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Thanks Sarah! Looking forward to writing it.

  • http://www.nabbr.com MattMinoff

    This should be required reading for all bankers/consultants who want to start a company.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Thanks Matt. I hope some of them read it.

    • CheynnaB

      Minoff/Vacanti, I completely agree–as a media/communications banker by day developing a start-up webco (w/ insufficient tech knowledge to build out the complex project at hand) this article is extremely helpful. Presenting something of a front end and detailed business plan/mind map just isn’t enough…I’m intimidated but excited to start learning & not quite sure where to start. I want a true “co-founder” sharing the vision and hungry to continuously improve upon what we are creating…t/f must launch aggressive effort to learn the language. If non-tech co-founder isn’t willing to invest time in understanding development requirements and processes, why should potential tech co-founder believe in the idea and be willing to invest countless hours in project?
      Cheynna

  • http://www.nabbr.com MattMinoff

    This should be required reading for all bankers/consultants who want to start a company.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Thanks Matt. I hope some of them read it.

    • CheynnaB

      Minoff/Vacanti, I completely agree–as a media/communications banker by day developing a start-up webco (w/ insufficient tech knowledge to build out the complex project at hand) this article is extremely helpful. Presenting something of a front end and detailed business plan/mind map just isn’t enough…I’m intimidated but excited to start learning & not quite sure where to start. I want a true “co-founder” sharing the vision and hungry to continuously improve upon what we are creating…t/f must launch aggressive effort to learn the language. If non-tech co-founder isn’t willing to invest time in understanding development requirements and processes, why should potential tech co-founder believe in the idea and be willing to invest countless hours in project?
      Cheynna

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    Thanks Matt. I hope some of them read it.

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    Thanks Matt. I hope some of them read it.

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    Thanks Mike. I feel like you've really lived through this. A bunch of this came from our conversations.

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    Thanks Mike. I feel like you've really lived through this. A bunch of this came from our conversations.

  • http://mileslennon.com Miles Lennon

    I think the most important idea to take away here is “co-founder.” The reason being is that you shouldn't be looking for a developer if you are truly looking to run your business with somebody else. Stop looking for “the guy who can code.” I think the way you turn a developer into a co-founder is in creating the idea WITH the developer so he/she feels ownership as well. You need to avoid the idea guy and the doer guy problem. That really sucks in the near-term when all the doing is on one guy's plate. Another key motivator I think is a well-thoughtout business plan and even some initial wireframes/front-end dev. Show something other than an email with an idea. Show momentum. Show mocks, images, sketches, whatever. Act like you are a train leaving the station. Because that's what you should be. Even if this prospective technical co-founder thinks its bogus you're going to find another one. You want/need your idea that badly.

  • http://mikehorn.us Michael Horn

    Great survey of realistic options for non-techies who want to start web companies. Love seeing this information out there for new founders!

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Thanks Mike. I feel like you’ve really lived through this. A bunch of this came from our conversations.

  • http://mikehorn.us Michael Horn

    Great survey of realistic options for non-techies who want to start web companies. Love seeing this information out there for new founders!

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Thanks Mike. I feel like you’ve really lived through this. A bunch of this came from our conversations.

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    Great advice Miles. Thanks for contributing. Showing wireframes, sense of product management, developing the idea with your co-founder are all great suggestions.

  • http://zmsmith.com Zach

    If you want to found an internet company, and you need a technical cofounder, you should start building your own prototype. Even if you are never able to get it off the ground, you will learn enough to help you attract the right person/people to build a real prototype. Whenever I hear someone with an idea who just needs a technical cofounder, I assume they know nothing about building a website, which would deter me (and I assume other technical people) from working with them. If I met someone who had started to piece a prototype together, but was looking for a co-founder with more technical experience, I'd be much more likely to consider working with them.Also, even if this potential founder can't find a proper technical co-founder and decides to pay a programmer to build their website, a little bit of experience coding should be enough to help them make a better hiring decision.

  • http://mileslennon.com Miles Lennon

    I think the most important idea to take away here is “co-founder.” The reason being is that you shouldn’t be looking for a developer if you are truly looking to run your business with somebody else. Stop looking for “the guy who can code.” I think the way you turn a developer into a co-founder is in creating the idea WITH the developer so he/she feels ownership as well. You need to avoid the idea guy and the doer guy problem. That really sucks in the near-term when all the doing is on one guy’s plate.

    Another key motivator I think is a well-thoughtout business plan and even some initial wireframes/front-end dev. Show something other than an email with an idea. Show momentum. Show mocks, images, sketches, whatever. Act like you are a train leaving the station. Because that’s what you should be. Even if this prospective technical co-founder thinks its bogus you’re going to find another one. You want/need your idea that badly.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Great advice Miles. Thanks for contributing. Showing wireframes, sense of product management, developing the idea with your co-founder are all great suggestions.

  • http://mileslennon.com Miles Lennon

    I think the most important idea to take away here is “co-founder.” The reason being is that you shouldn’t be looking for a developer if you are truly looking to run your business with somebody else. Stop looking for “the guy who can code.” I think the way you turn a developer into a co-founder is in creating the idea WITH the developer so he/she feels ownership as well. You need to avoid the idea guy and the doer guy problem. That really sucks in the near-term when all the doing is on one guy’s plate.

    Another key motivator I think is a well-thoughtout business plan and even some initial wireframes/front-end dev. Show something other than an email with an idea. Show momentum. Show mocks, images, sketches, whatever. Act like you are a train leaving the station. Because that’s what you should be. Even if this prospective technical co-founder thinks its bogus you’re going to find another one. You want/need your idea that badly.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Great advice Miles. Thanks for contributing. Showing wireframes, sense of product management, developing the idea with your co-founder are all great suggestions.

  • http://www.aaronkharris.com akharris

    Great post, Vin. We just went through a successful technical co-founder hunt (and I bugged Jim a whole bunch for advice on what to do). We ended up pulling on a couple of the threads you wrote about. I wrote about it here (http://bit.ly/9d5A3w) if you want to take a look.And…I'm also studying python on my own time. That's still one of the best things to be doing, but it's hard to find the time. I'm very jealous/inspired that you got here just by pushing yourself.

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    This is great advice from a future technical co-founder.

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    I almost never hear “successful technical co-founder hunt”. Congrats! Don't spend too much time in Python. More important that you learn Django or whatever advanced web framework your team will be using.

  • http://zmsmith.com Zach

    If you want to found an internet company, and you need a technical cofounder, you should start building your own prototype. Even if you are never able to get it off the ground, you will learn enough to help you attract the right person/people to build a real prototype.

    Whenever I hear someone with an idea who just needs a technical cofounder, I assume they know nothing about building a website, which would deter me (and I assume other technical people) from working with them. If I met someone who had started to piece a prototype together, but was looking for a co-founder with more technical experience, I’d be much more likely to consider working with them.

    Also, even if this potential founder can’t find a proper technical co-founder and decides to pay a programmer to build their website, a little bit of experience coding should be enough to help them make a better hiring decision.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      This is great advice from a future technical co-founder.

    • http://mrcoles.com/ Anonymous

      I agree. As a technical person, I’d definitely prefer a business person who has a little more technical experience. They don’t need to be a coding rock star—first and foremost they should complement my skills, not match them—but I wouldn’t want to work with someone on a serious project who just has some “idea” but no idea how to build a website or what to expect during a development cycle.

      • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

        It’s so much easier to communicate with developers when you have an understanding of the technology.

      • http://www.learnbat.com/ San Kim

        Definitely. At the very least you should “speak the language” and understand the high-level concepts involved. I pick my cofounder’s brain almost daily about the inner workings of our product, so that I can be better informed about the tech side of things.

        In a Lean Startup-inspired business, where product development and customer development are closely aligned, you need both the tech and non-tech cofounders to understand each other’s problems.

        • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

          It’s smart for you to show interest on the tech side. I hope other co-founders are doing the same.

  • http://zmsmith.com Zach Smith

    If you want to found an internet company, and you need a technical cofounder, you should start building your own prototype. Even if you are never able to get it off the ground, you will learn enough to help you attract the right person/people to build a real prototype.

    Whenever I hear someone with an idea who just needs a technical cofounder, I assume they know nothing about building a website, which would deter me (and I assume other technical people) from working with them. If I met someone who had started to piece a prototype together, but was looking for a co-founder with more technical experience, I’d be much more likely to consider working with them.

    Also, even if this potential founder can’t find a proper technical co-founder and decides to pay a programmer to build their website, a little bit of experience coding should be enough to help them make a better hiring decision.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      This is great advice from a future technical co-founder.

    • http://mrcoles.com/ Anonymous

      I agree. As a technical person, I’d definitely prefer a business person who has a little more technical experience. They don’t need to be a coding rock star—first and foremost they should complement my skills, not match them—but I wouldn’t want to work with someone on a serious project who just has some “idea” but no idea how to build a website or what to expect during a development cycle.

      • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

        It’s so much easier to communicate with developers when you have an understanding of the technology.

      • http://www.showmeapp.com San Kim

        Definitely. At the very least you should “speak the language” and understand the high-level concepts involved. I pick my cofounder’s brain almost daily about the inner workings of our product, so that I can be better informed about the tech side of things.

        In a Lean Startup-inspired business, where product development and customer development are closely aligned, you need both the tech and non-tech cofounders to understand each other’s problems.

        • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

          It’s smart for you to show interest on the tech side. I hope other co-founders are doing the same.

  • http://www.aaronkharris.com akharris

    Great post, Vin. We just went through a successful technical co-founder hunt (and I bugged Jim a whole bunch for advice on what to do). We ended up pulling on a couple of the threads you wrote about. I wrote about it here (http://bit.ly/9d5A3w) if you want to take a look.

    And…I’m also studying python on my own time. That’s still one of the best things to be doing, but it’s hard to find the time. I’m very jealous/inspired that you got here just by pushing yourself.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      I almost never hear “successful technical co-founder hunt”. Congrats! Don’t spend too much time in Python. More important that you learn Django or whatever advanced web framework your team will be using.

      • http://www.lifestylentrepreneurs.com Jeff Sepp

        Can you recommend some helpful skills (ruby on rails, django, etc.) that are a good place for non-tech people to start off with ? Are frameworks the way to go ?

        • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

          Depends on what you are building? If you’re building a website, Ruby on Rails or Django are really good options. One of the keys to all of this is not worrying / listening to all the arguments on whether you should use this or that. Just pick something good enough and move on. Your app just has to be good enough to get traction.

          • http://www.jaretmanuel.com jaretmanuel

            Disregard some of my previous post. You just answered much of it right here. Thanks.

  • http://www.aaronkharris.com akharris

    Great post, Vin. We just went through a successful technical co-founder hunt (and I bugged Jim a whole bunch for advice on what to do). We ended up pulling on a couple of the threads you wrote about. I wrote about it here (http://bit.ly/9d5A3w) if you want to take a look.

    And…I’m also studying python on my own time. That’s still one of the best things to be doing, but it’s hard to find the time. I’m very jealous/inspired that you got here just by pushing yourself.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      I almost never hear “successful technical co-founder hunt”. Congrats! Don’t spend too much time in Python. More important that you learn Django or whatever advanced web framework your team will be using.

      • http://www.lifestylentrepreneurs.com Jeff Sepp

        Can you recommend some helpful skills (ruby on rails, django, etc.) that are a good place for non-tech people to start off with ? Are frameworks the way to go ?

        • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

          Depends on what you are building? If you’re building a website, Ruby on Rails or Django are really good options. One of the keys to all of this is not worrying / listening to all the arguments on whether you should use this or that. Just pick something good enough and move on. Your app just has to be good enough to get traction.

          • http://www.jaretmanuel.com jaretmanuel

            Disregard some of my previous post. You just answered much of it right here. Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/petewarden Pete Warden

    Great post. I'm approaching it from the other direction – being a technical guy looking for a business co-founder has its own challenges too. I'll take this as a challenge to write something about my experiences there.

  • http://twitter.com/petewarden Pete Warden

    Great post. I’m approaching it from the other direction – being a technical guy looking for a business co-founder has its own challenges too. I’ll take this as a challenge to write something about my experiences there.

    • http://www.brennanknotts.com Brennan Knotts

      I’d love to read that post. Where will I be able to find it?

      I’ve had technical friends tell me this before. In one instance, I just didn’t believe in the idea one of them had and he was so passionate about it that I didn’t think he’d be able to pivot if that became necessary.

      • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

        That’s mature of you to not assume you’d be able to cause your co-founder to pivot. I agree with the commenters below that the idea needs to become both you and your co-founders idea.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      That would be a great post. Let me know when you publish it.

    • CHEYNNABARD

      Wow, this is the first “reverse” case I’ve come across! I’m interested to hear your perspective on the matter.

  • http://twitter.com/petewarden Pete Warden

    Great post. I’m approaching it from the other direction – being a technical guy looking for a business co-founder has its own challenges too. I’ll take this as a challenge to write something about my experiences there.

    • http://www.brennanknotts.com Brennan Knotts

      I’d love to read that post. Where will I be able to find it?

      I’ve had technical friends tell me this before. In one instance, I just didn’t believe in the idea one of them had and he was so passionate about it that I didn’t think he’d be able to pivot if that became necessary.

      • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

        That’s mature of you to not assume you’d be able to cause your co-founder to pivot. I agree with the commenters below that the idea needs to become both you and your co-founders idea.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      That would be a great post. Let me know when you publish it.

    • CHEYNNABARD

      Wow, this is the first “reverse” case I’ve come across! I’m interested to hear your perspective on the matter.

  • http://www.brennanknotts.com Brennan Knotts

    With Pocket Tales I did almost all of this.WORK AT A STARTUP – Out of college I was selected as part of an Entrepreneurial Fellowship in Indiana where promising graduates were placed at some of the fastest growing startups. I worked for a online video tech company and thought that would be the ticket to meeting a tech co-founder but there were 2 problems. 1) When I left I had to sign a separation agreement blocking me from hiring anyone away from the company for a year and 2) the tech guys there did not have the mindset of ever being entrepreneurial. They were there for the job, not the startup.HIRE A PROGRAMMER – About 3 months after I left my job we finally decided we needed to do something until we could find a co-founder so we hired a programmer to do some HTML mockups. I still believe the guy writes great code but we just weren't getting anything useable out of him. In hindsight, the $3,000 we spent basically served to keep us busy while we continued to search for a co-founder.BECOME A KEY MEMBER OF THE TECH COMMUNITY – About this time, I decided to help organize Hackers and Founders Indianapolis. Before that, there wasn't a place for entrepreneurs to meet hackers and vice versa. In the past 6 months H&F has grown to more than 200 members, so that part of the story is a success. Unfortunately, it didn't help us find a co-founder. We discovered basically the problems you list above. Most quality hackers are already well paid at another job and too comfortable to leave or are working on something of their own.What this did allow us to do was HIRE PROGRAMMERS again, but this time, we got a quality prototype at a great price. I do believe the only reason the developers were willing to work for some equity is because they became friends with us at Hackers and Founders, so that part worked.The prototype got us into the SXSW Business Accelerator Pitch Competition. We were even a top 3 finalist. That did nothing to help us find a tech co-founder.Our prototype also got us into Dreamit Ventures. We thought that would give us enough credibility to bring someone on board and enough money to even compete, at least in the short term, with some of the other salaries. In a way it did this, but the opportunities didn't really come until nearly 3 months into the program. The timing just never worked out.After a year and a half of trying to make it work, I've decided to step away from Pocket Tales. My business partner is still with the business, but I just didn't see a positive future without a strong technical co-founder.

  • http://www.brennanknotts.com Brennan Knotts

    I'd love to read that post. Where will I be able to find it?I've had technical friends tell me this before. In one instance, I just didn't believe in the idea one of them had and he was so passionate about it that I didn't think he'd be able to pivot if that became necessary.

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    That would be a great post. Let me know when you publish it.

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    That's mature of you to not assume you'd be able to cause your co-founder to pivot. I agree with the commenters below that the idea needs to become both you and your co-founders idea.

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    WOW! Thanks so much for sharing. This is a great reminder of how hard it is to find a good technical co-founder. It seems like you did everything I would have recommended and it still didn't work out. Makes me glad I chose the option of becoming our own technical co-founder. Did you ever try that?

  • http://mrcoles.com/ MrColes

    I agree. As a technical person, I’d definitely prefer a business person who has a little more technical experience. They don’t need to be a coding rock star—first and foremost they should complement my skills, not match them—but I wouldn’t want to work with someone on a serious project who just has some “idea” but no idea how to build a website or what to expect during a development cycle.

  • http://www.brennanknotts.com Brennan Knotts

    We talked about it. What stopped us though was the logic that it would take too long for us to get up to speed and that we wouldn't have a quality product.Hindsight being 20/20 – I wish we had decided to become our own technical co-founders.

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    That's exactly right. You have to step away for six months, get up to speed, but then you have much better control over your ability to spit out prototypes and pivot.

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    It's so much easier to communicate with developers when you have an understanding of the technology.

  • http://www.brennanknotts.com Brennan Knotts

    With Pocket Tales I did almost all of this.

    WORK AT A STARTUP – Out of college I was selected as part of an Entrepreneurial Fellowship in Indiana where promising graduates were placed at some of the fastest growing startups. I worked for a online video tech company and thought that would be the ticket to meeting a tech co-founder but there were 2 problems. 1) When I left I had to sign a separation agreement blocking me from hiring anyone away from the company for a year and 2) the tech guys there did not have the mindset of ever being entrepreneurial. They were there for the job, not the startup.

    HIRE A PROGRAMMER – About 3 months after I left my job we finally decided we needed to do something until we could find a co-founder so we hired a programmer to do some HTML mockups. I still believe the guy writes great code but we just weren’t getting anything useable out of him. In hindsight, the $3,000 we spent basically served to keep us busy while we continued to search for a co-founder.

    BECOME A KEY MEMBER OF THE TECH COMMUNITY – About this time, I decided to help organize Hackers and Founders Indianapolis. Before that, there wasn’t a place for entrepreneurs to meet hackers and vice versa. In the past 6 months H&F has grown to more than 200 members, so that part of the story is a success. Unfortunately, it didn’t help us find a co-founder. We discovered basically the problems you list above. Most quality hackers are already well paid at another job and too comfortable to leave or are working on something of their own.

    What this did allow us to do was HIRE PROGRAMMERS again, but this time, we got a quality prototype at a great price. I do believe the only reason the developers were willing to work for some equity is because they became friends with us at Hackers and Founders, so that part worked.

    The prototype got us into the SXSW Business Accelerator Pitch Competition. We were even a top 3 finalist. That did nothing to help us find a tech co-founder.

    Our prototype also got us into Dreamit Ventures. We thought that would give us enough credibility to bring someone on board and enough money to even compete, at least in the short term, with some of the other salaries. In a way it did this, but the opportunities didn’t really come until nearly 3 months into the program. The timing just never worked out.

    After a year and a half of trying to make it work, I’ve decided to step away from Pocket Tales. My business partner is still with the business, but I just didn’t see a positive future without a strong technical co-founder.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      WOW! Thanks so much for sharing. This is a great reminder of how hard it is to find a good technical co-founder. It seems like you did everything I would have recommended and it still didn’t work out.

      Makes me glad I chose the option of becoming our own technical co-founder. Did you ever try that?

      • http://www.brennanknotts.com Brennan Knotts

        We talked about it. What stopped us though was the logic that it would take too long for us to get up to speed and that we wouldn’t have a quality product.

        Hindsight being 20/20 – I wish we had decided to become our own technical co-founders.

        • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

          That’s exactly right. You have to step away for six months, get up to speed, but then you have much better control over your ability to spit out prototypes and pivot.

          • http://www.learnbat.com/ San Kim

            Great post Vin. Brennan, sad to hear you’re stepping away from Pocket Tales; I enjoyed seeing you guys grow the concept during DreamIt, but it was tough to see you guys struggle on the tech side…

            I fully sympathize with just how hard it is for a first-time entrepreneur to find a tech co-founder. When I started, I hit the pavement hard on a combination of BECOME A KEY MEMBER OF THE TECH COMMUNITY and ROLL THE DICE ON A STRANGER approaches, and it was only sheer dumb luck that landed me a cofounder who was as passionate about the problem I’m trying to solve.

            That last bit is I think the tipping point: without social proof, past success, a huge network, or money/time, it’s gonna come down to finding someone who shares your passion. When it happens it’s like winning the lottery, but unfortunately it’s just as hard to come by.

            If I were to do it all over again, I would not rely on luck; I’d take six months off and become a tech co-founder. Actually scratch that: I’d find other people like me and form a community of “aspiring tech cofounders,” so that we can encourage and push one another to keep at it. Learning programming is hard to do alone.

            What do you guys think?

          • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

            Great advice to find someone who is passionate about the same idea. Easier said than done but good advice.

            Love the idea of getting a group together to encourage other co-founders trying to learn the tech side of things.

          • http://profiles.google.com/guerrilx Leah Guerrier

            I think thats a wonderful idea. I’ve spent the last 2 weeks searching through forums and articles looking for newbies struggling to become co-founders and this article was the only resource I’ve discovered. Most tech communities don’t account for the newbie and it feels like the high school lunch room when you try to seat next to the cool kids..lol it just doesn’t work out….if you proceed sign up!

  • http://www.brennanknotts.com Brennan Knotts

    With Pocket Tales I did almost all of this.

    WORK AT A STARTUP – Out of college I was selected as part of an Entrepreneurial Fellowship in Indiana where promising graduates were placed at some of the fastest growing startups. I worked for a online video tech company and thought that would be the ticket to meeting a tech co-founder but there were 2 problems. 1) When I left I had to sign a separation agreement blocking me from hiring anyone away from the company for a year and 2) the tech guys there did not have the mindset of ever being entrepreneurial. They were there for the job, not the startup.

    HIRE A PROGRAMMER – About 3 months after I left my job we finally decided we needed to do something until we could find a co-founder so we hired a programmer to do some HTML mockups. I still believe the guy writes great code but we just weren’t getting anything useable out of him. In hindsight, the $3,000 we spent basically served to keep us busy while we continued to search for a co-founder.

    BECOME A KEY MEMBER OF THE TECH COMMUNITY – About this time, I decided to help organize Hackers and Founders Indianapolis. Before that, there wasn’t a place for entrepreneurs to meet hackers and vice versa. In the past 6 months H&F has grown to more than 200 members, so that part of the story is a success. Unfortunately, it didn’t help us find a co-founder. We discovered basically the problems you list above. Most quality hackers are already well paid at another job and too comfortable to leave or are working on something of their own.

    What this did allow us to do was HIRE PROGRAMMERS again, but this time, we got a quality prototype at a great price. I do believe the only reason the developers were willing to work for some equity is because they became friends with us at Hackers and Founders, so that part worked.

    The prototype got us into the SXSW Business Accelerator Pitch Competition. We were even a top 3 finalist. That did nothing to help us find a tech co-founder.

    Our prototype also got us into Dreamit Ventures. We thought that would give us enough credibility to bring someone on board and enough money to even compete, at least in the short term, with some of the other salaries. In a way it did this, but the opportunities didn’t really come until nearly 3 months into the program. The timing just never worked out.

    After a year and a half of trying to make it work, I’ve decided to step away from Pocket Tales. My business partner is still with the business, but I just didn’t see a positive future without a strong technical co-founder.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      WOW! Thanks so much for sharing. This is a great reminder of how hard it is to find a good technical co-founder. It seems like you did everything I would have recommended and it still didn’t work out.

      Makes me glad I chose the option of becoming our own technical co-founder. Did you ever try that?

      • http://www.brennanknotts.com Brennan Knotts

        We talked about it. What stopped us though was the logic that it would take too long for us to get up to speed and that we wouldn’t have a quality product.

        Hindsight being 20/20 – I wish we had decided to become our own technical co-founders.

        • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

          That’s exactly right. You have to step away for six months, get up to speed, but then you have much better control over your ability to spit out prototypes and pivot.

          • http://www.showmeapp.com San Kim

            Great post Vin. Brennan, sad to hear you’re stepping away from Pocket Tales; I enjoyed seeing you guys grow the concept during DreamIt, but it was tough to see you guys struggle on the tech side…

            I fully sympathize with just how hard it is for a first-time entrepreneur to find a tech co-founder. When I started, I hit the pavement hard on a combination of BECOME A KEY MEMBER OF THE TECH COMMUNITY and ROLL THE DICE ON A STRANGER approaches, and it was only sheer dumb luck that landed me a cofounder who was as passionate about the problem I’m trying to solve.

            That last bit is I think the tipping point: without social proof, past success, a huge network, or money/time, it’s gonna come down to finding someone who shares your passion. When it happens it’s like winning the lottery, but unfortunately it’s just as hard to come by.

            If I were to do it all over again, I would not rely on luck; I’d take six months off and become a tech co-founder. Actually scratch that: I’d find other people like me and form a community of “aspiring tech cofounders,” so that we can encourage and push one another to keep at it. Learning programming is hard to do alone.

            What do you guys think?

          • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

            Great advice to find someone who is passionate about the same idea. Easier said than done but good advice.

            Love the idea of getting a group together to encourage other co-founders trying to learn the tech side of things.

          • http://profiles.google.com/guerrilx Leah Guerrier

            I think thats a wonderful idea. I’ve spent the last 2 weeks searching through forums and articles looking for newbies struggling to become co-founders and this article was the only resource I’ve discovered. Most tech communities don’t account for the newbie and it feels like the high school lunch room when you try to seat next to the cool kids..lol it just doesn’t work out….if you proceed sign up!

  • http://www.learnbat.com/ San Kim

    Great post Vin. Brennan, sad to hear you're stepping away from Pocket Tales; I enjoyed seeing you guys grow the concept during DreamIt, but it was tough to see you guys struggle on the tech side…I fully sympathize with just how hard it is for a first-time entrepreneur to find a tech co-founder. When I started, I hit the pavement hard on a combination of BECOME A KEY MEMBER OF THE TECH COMMUNITY and ROLL THE DICE ON A STRANGER approaches, and it was only sheer dumb luck that landed me a cofounder who was as passionate about the problem I'm trying to solve.That last bit is I think the tipping point: without social proof, past success, a huge network, or money/time, it's gonna come down to finding someone who shares your passion. When it happens it's like winning the lottery, but unfortunately it's just as hard to come by.If I were to do it all over again, I would not rely on luck; I'd take six months off and become a tech co-founder. Actually scratch that: I'd find other people like me and form a community of “aspiring tech cofounders,” so that we can encourage and push one another to keep at it. Learning programming is hard to do alone.What do you guys think?

  • http://www.learnbat.com/ San Kim

    Definitely. At the very least you should “speak the language” and understand the high-level concepts involved. I pick my cofounder's brain almost daily about the inner workings of our product, so that I can be better informed about the tech side of things.In a Lean Startup-inspired business, where product development and customer development are closely aligned, you need both the tech and non-tech cofounders to understand each other's problems.

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    It's smart for you to show interest on the tech side. I hope other co-founders are doing the same.

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    Great advice to find someone who is passionate about the same idea. Easier said than done but good advice.Love the idea of getting a group together to encourage other co-founders trying to learn the tech side of things.

  • http://twitter.com/JeffSepp Jeff Sepp

    Can you recommend some helpful skills that in your experience were

  • davetomback

    Awesome

  • davetomback

    Great post. Wish I had been able to read it a year ago! Unfortunately, I'm now all too familiar with many of the “why you shouldn'ts.” I have been kicking myself for not learning to build something on my own but realize that I will just continue to do so if I don't do anything about it. Looking forward to your series on how you did it!

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    Series is coming. Looking forward to writing it.

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    Depends on what you are building? If you're building a website, Ruby on Rails or Django are really good options. One of the keys to all of this is not worrying / listening to all the arguments on whether you should use this or that. Just pick something good enough and move on. Your app just has to be good enough to get traction.

  • Anonymous

    Awesome

  • Anonymous

    Awesome

  • Anonymous

    Great post. Wish I had been able to read it a year ago! Unfortunately, I’m now all too familiar with many of the “why you shouldn’ts.” I have been kicking myself for not learning to build something on my own but realize that I will just continue to do so if I don’t do anything about it. Looking forward to your series on how you did it!

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Series is coming. Looking forward to writing it.

  • Anonymous

    Great post. Wish I had been able to read it a year ago! Unfortunately, I’m now all too familiar with many of the “why you shouldn’ts.” I have been kicking myself for not learning to build something on my own but realize that I will just continue to do so if I don’t do anything about it. Looking forward to your series on how you did it!

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Series is coming. Looking forward to writing it.

  • http://triexpert.com Mark V. McDonnell

    I follow pretty assiduously the many discussions on this topic, but their relevance to my situation is, um, truncated. My company and product involve HW/SW/RF/embedded system integration, and I am NO kind of engineer.Becoming my own cofounder would take 3+ years, if indeed it could happen at all!Any advice?

  • http://triexpert.com Mark V. McDonnell

    I follow pretty assiduously the many discussions on this topic, but their relevance to my situation is, um, truncated. My company and product involve HW/SW/RF/embedded system integration, and I am NO kind of engineer.

    Becoming my own cofounder would take 3+ years, if indeed it could happen at all!

    Any advice?

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      If you are picking a problem to solve that involves a complicated technical solution (don’t know enough about your project to know if it is or isn’t), then doing it yourself is clearly a much bigger challenge.

      If I were starting a company like that, I would recognize that technology is one of the key risks (for most web startups, it isn’t). Accordingly, unless I had a great technical co-founder or knew how to find one, I would re-consider working on the project.

  • http://triexpert.com Mark V. McDonnell

    I follow pretty assiduously the many discussions on this topic, but their relevance to my situation is, um, truncated. My company and product involve HW/SW/RF/embedded system integration, and I am NO kind of engineer.

    Becoming my own cofounder would take 3+ years, if indeed it could happen at all!

    Any advice?

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      If you are picking a problem to solve that involves a complicated technical solution (don’t know enough about your project to know if it is or isn’t), then doing it yourself is clearly a much bigger challenge.

      If I were starting a company like that, I would recognize that technology is one of the key risks (for most web startups, it isn’t). Accordingly, unless I had a great technical co-founder or knew how to find one, I would re-consider working on the project.

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    If you are picking a problem to solve that involves a complicated technical solution (don't know enough about your project to know if it is or isn't), then doing it yourself is clearly a much bigger challenge.If I were starting a company like that, I would recognize that technology is one of the key risks (for most web startups, it isn't). Accordingly, unless I had a great technical co-founder or knew how to find one, I would re-consider working on the project.

  • Pingback: Should You Hire a Programmer or DIY? | Vinicius Vacanti

  • Pingback: Can’t Find a Technical Co-Founder? Do It Yourself | Vinicius Vacanti

  • CheynnaB

    Minoff/Vacanti, I completely agree–as a media/communications banker by day developing a start-up webco (w/ insufficient tech knowledge to build out the complex project at hand) this article is extremely helpful. Presenting something of a front end and detailed business plan/mind map just isn't enough…I'm intimidated but excited to start learning & not quite sure where to start. I want a true “co-founder” sharing the vision and hungry to continuously improve upon what we are creating…t/f must launch aggressive effort to learn the language. If non-tech co-founder isn't willing to invest time in understanding development requirements and processes, why should potential tech co-founder believe in the idea and be willing to invest countless hours in project? Cheynna

  • CHEYNNABARD

    Wow, this is the first “reverse” case I've come across! I'm interested to hear your perspective on the matter.

  • http://twitter.com/cliffdailey Cliff Dailey

    This is a great post. Thanks a lot for writing. I currently just started a tech blog to cover under the radar, bootstrapped startups and this is great advice for the startups I cover and my readers. Thanks again. I plan on bootstrapping my upcoming startup.http://techscrapp.com

  • http://twitter.com/cliffdailey Cliff Dailey

    This is a great post. Thanks a lot for writing. I currently just started a tech blog to cover under the radar, bootstrapped startups and this is great advice for the startups I cover and my readers. Thanks again. I plan on bootstrapping my upcoming startup.

    http://techscrapp.com

  • http://twitter.com/cliffdailey Cliff Dailey

    This is a great post. Thanks a lot for writing. I currently just started a tech blog to cover under the radar, bootstrapped startups and this is great advice for the startups I cover and my readers. Thanks again. I plan on bootstrapping my upcoming startup.

    http://techscrapp.com

  • Pingback: Venture Capital and Startup Founder Top Six Strategies to Find and Attract a Technical Co-Founder

  • FJCruiser79

    Ridiculously relevant post with a great perspective. One question – what are some good books for ruby, django or python? Also, some of us are in school – what are the classes I might get the most out of without majoring in CS?

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    I recommended some books in this post:http://viniciusvacanti.com/2010/11/6-things-you-need-to-learn-to-build-your-own-prototype/As for school, I recommend taking a class that teaches python or ruby. And, if they have it, a class that teaches an advanced web framework like Django or Ruby on Rails. Another option is to take a class that teaches HTML, CSS, Javascript for front-end development.

  • FJCruiser79

    Ridiculously relevant post with a great perspective. One question – what are some good books for ruby, django or python? Also, some of us are in school – what are the classes I might get the most out of without majoring in CS?

  • FJCruiser79

    Ridiculously relevant post with a great perspective. One question – what are some good books for ruby, django or python? Also, some of us are in school – what are the classes I might get the most out of without majoring in CS?

  • Ben Mappen

    My site, Techcofounder.com aims to solve this exact problem. You can browse anonymous technical profiles of developers who want to get involved in a startup. Alternatively here are some other great resources:
    startupSQUARE.com
    partnerup.com
    fairsoftware.net
    kofounder.com

  • Ben Mappen

    My site, Techcofounder.com aims to solve this exact problem. You can browse anonymous technical profiles of developers who want to get involved in a startup. Alternatively here are some other great resources:
    startupSQUARE.com
    partnerup.com
    fairsoftware.net
    kofounder.com

  • http://www.jaretmanuel.com jaretmanuel

    Vinicius,

    Great posts on a topic that is of interest to many people including myself. It is very ironic also that I was in an office (Credit Suisse) of a friends last night in NYC. Very cool but you couldn’t pay me enough to be a cog in that glorified prison (unless you would love such a thing). Maybe you and others could make a comment to my question on Quora around starting with Python or Ruby on Rails. I like getting peoples perspective on this.

    http://www.quora.com/If-I-only-have-time-to-learn-Python-or-Ruby-which-should-I-choose-and-why?redirected_qid=121008

  • http://www.jaretmanuel.com jaretmanuel

    Vinicius,

    Great posts on a topic that is of interest to many people including myself. It is very ironic also that I was in an office (Credit Suisse) of a friends last night in NYC. Very cool but you couldn’t pay me enough to be a cog in that glorified prison (unless you would love such a thing). Maybe you and others could make a comment to my question on Quora around starting with Python or Ruby on Rails. I like getting peoples perspective on this.

    http://www.quora.com/If-I-only-have-time-to-learn-Python-or-Ruby-which-should-I-choose-and-why?redirected_qid=121008

  • Daward

    Great article. Just what I needed, when I needed it.

  • Daward

    Great article. Just what I needed, when I needed it.

  • Anonymous

    This is a post of mine about hassles in my early attempts @ Startup A photo series:
    http://www.quora.com/Sameer-Gupta/early-attempts-Startup-A-photo-road-map
    I just wish that you or people @ this post will find some of them in your experience set and may be write about them
    Thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sameerg Sameer Gupta

    This is a post of mine about hassles in early attempts @ Startup A photo series:
    http://www.quora.com/Sameer-Gupta/early-attempts-Startup-A-photo-road-map
    I just wish that you or people @ this post will find some of them in your experience set and may be write about them
    Thanks.

  • Lourenzomarques

    “you’re probably not reading this post because your struggling to find a technical co-founder; you have your pick.”

    It’s “you’re.”

  • Lourenzomarques

    “you’re probably not reading this post because your struggling to find a technical co-founder; you have your pick.”

    It’s “you’re.”

  • http://twitter.com/carmendelessio CarmenDelessio

    Great Post. There may be something basic a business founder can do before learning to code – build a deck that flies like the product. Have graphics, design, screenflow, and branding in place. Maybe that is assumed, but I thought I’d make it explicit. As a technical person, I would want to understand the thought and effort you’ve put into the idea. The more complete it is, the better I can judge the time and effort it will take to get done. I expect that it would be difficult to get a co-founder with an elevator pitch.

  • http://twitter.com/carmendelessio CarmenDelessio

    Great Post. There may be something basic a business founder can do before learning to code – build a deck that flies like the product. Have graphics, design, screenflow, and branding in place. Maybe that is assumed, but I thought I’d make it explicit. As a technical person, I would want to understand the thought and effort you’ve put into the idea. The more complete it is, the better I can judge the time and effort it will take to get done. I expect that it would be difficult to get a co-founder with an elevator pitch.

  • http://www.GameBrandClothing.com JT

    Agree with all of what was mentioned in the original post. As a non-tech founder, I learned all this the hard way. However one additional option does exist for those who want to be a successful entrepreneur of a tech company, but don’t have the tech skills to make it happen on their own, don’t have an existing network of tech stars to partner with, don’t have the $ it takes to hire talent, and don’t have serious investor support.

    That option is to start a non-tech company, ideally in the same field as your tech idea. You’ll gain valuable experience, initiate an entrepreneurial track record, establish some credibility in your field/industry, and ideally generate enough revenue to not need outside investment to get your tech vision off the ground via hiring or partnering.

    Knowing the tech basics is ideal, and speaking the language is necessary, but be cautious about spending too much time trying to learn how to write code if that isn’t your strength. Focus on your strength whatever that may be, you’re better off gaining entrepreneurial experience than coding experience if your a “business” type as opposed to a “tech” type.

    To stick with the authors dance analogy, if the tech types and $ people are the most attractive, then try to make yourself more appealing. With a successful non-tech venture under your belt, in the industry you’re pursuing, with $ in the bank (ideally $$ still coming in), you’re sure to find someone to dance with. Showcase your value anyway that makes the most sense for you, however just wanted to remind all the fellow non-tech types that business is your specialty, and making something out of nothing is a great stepping stone option.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Great point.

  • http://www.GameBrandClothing.com JT

    Agree with all of what was mentioned in the original post. As a non-tech founder, I learned all this the hard way. However one additional option does exist for those who want to be a successful entrepreneur of a tech company, but don’t have the tech skills to make it happen on their own, don’t have an existing network of tech stars to partner with, don’t have the $ it takes to hire talent, and don’t have serious investor support.

    That option is to start a non-tech company, ideally in the same field as your tech idea. You’ll gain valuable experience, initiate an entrepreneurial track record, establish some credibility in your field/industry, and ideally generate enough revenue to not need outside investment to get your tech vision off the ground via hiring or partnering.

    Knowing the tech basics is ideal, and speaking the language is necessary, but be cautious about spending too much time trying to learn how to write code if that isn’t your strength. Focus on your strength whatever that may be, you’re better off gaining entrepreneurial experience than coding experience if your a “business” type as opposed to a “tech” type.

    To stick with the authors dance analogy, if the tech types and $ people are the most attractive, then try to make yourself more appealing. With a successful non-tech venture under your belt, in the industry you’re pursuing, with $ in the bank (ideally $$ still coming in), you’re sure to find someone to dance with. Showcase your value anyway that makes the most sense for you, however just wanted to remind all the fellow non-tech types that business is your specialty, and making something out of nothing is a great stepping stone option.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Great point.

  • http://profiles.google.com/guerrilx Leah Guerrier

    im at this stage right now. I took the leap and applied to a few acclerators and got good feedback but without a technical co founder it all become pointless. So with lots of free time and a vision I’m decided to forge on as 1 woman show.. wish me luck1

    • Michelle

      Leah, how did it work out for you? I am in the same both, and would like to know how it turned out

  • http://profiles.google.com/guerrilx Leah Guerrier

    im at this stage right now. I took the leap and applied to a few acclerators and got good feedback but without a technical co founder it all become pointless. So with lots of free time and a vision I’m decided to forge on as 1 woman show.. wish me luck1

  • Darko

    Have you guys ever tried to hire Russians/other Eastern Europe programmers?

  • RazArazi

    Personally, I did not notice technical founding gurus being in high demand, but otherwise than that I agree with the little pull non-technical founders have on techies like myself, as I don’t even see how they can come up with a technological innovation based anything that will hold water, so…

    In my opinion all that non-technical founders do is try their hardest not to pay for professional software consultation and development, with their excuse being at large their and others bad experiences with software products delivery.

    With that said, the fault is all theirs, and I can surely spell it out: This profession was built by those odd people they are not happy to employ, nor do they trust their “over advanced” opinion, leaving them with want-to-be inventors and programmers look-alike’s.

    For six long moths I have sought to service the tormented by itself startup community in Vancouver, but they wanted nothing to do with me, and to be honest, I have more against not using the right people in technology development than I have against prejudiced opinions and over-patriotism. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/jassi40 Jaspreet Singh

    Hi, everyone i am from India and fresh out of college with bachelor degree, i have been improving my skills of game designing and completed 3 games with full documents to move on and later i found they are of no use to me. mean while in college i started a local  start up and earned some cash, rather it did not end well but learned a lot and most important it fired my inner entrepreneur. So, in my last days of college (1month left still) i started finding co-founders basically a technical co-founder to start with  to make my games and other ideas a reality. I was confident i would someone in my college but most of them are with their good paid jobs they are going to join.
    Now i find this article it helped to get the real picture out there, i can use some tips or do something different because the co-founder scenario is a little different in INDIA. So, i named my company GENIUS IDIOTS and started doing some one man army project like get your idea funded for a mobile APP, in this way you earn some cash and hire programmer for completion of project, you get mentors and meanwhile keep promoting your amateur so called start up check if you find someone. Your money flow is OK.

    Right now i have 1 month left then i have to join my job but i want to continue my own company for that i need partners.
    I am confident but still no success with co-founders.
    Thanks for your tips and real picture , everybody and specially Vinicius Vacanti sir for motivating with your story…thanks again Bye, Jassi, INDIA

  • http://kymira.blogspot.com/ Chimera Swa

    I’m trying to hire a programmer in India for my prototype but I am also on the lookout for a technical co-founder. 

  • Chimera Swa

    wanted to add this comment; as soon as I signed up for groupon, livingsocial and amazon deals, I was thinking of the idea of a deal aggregating site. Meanwhile I managed with filters in my gmail :) Damn! you built it first :D

  • http://twitter.com/alirtariq ARTariq

    Great motivational post, as usual.

    I have to ask, though – after you found your permanent CTO, what position did you transition into? Did you find that there was a lot of overlap in skills between you, the co-founders? If so, how did you amicably decide on your respective roles?

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      I transitioned into more of a product role and my co-founder continued focusing on the operational challenges of growing a startup.

  • Ray

    I’ve just read multiple pieces here, your experiences, suggestions, advice and sentiments are on my level and I’m sure on the level of most of the typical startups which make your stories practical. On finding technical help, I also went my the instinct to build it on my own, ultimately I felt that the initial versions wouldn’t make the grade and if I had to manage a developer and go back and forth with planning, redesigning and communicating all the details, I’d end up paying a whole bunch of money which still wouldn’t give me a steady help, the developer would be temporary only, I know, the idea of hiring someone is to get the job done quickly in hopes of attracting stable (read: permanent) help (ie. co-founder). Also, I felt that as a solution/startup founder I wanted to learn the tech side of things anyway because it pays to know what the trends are, what limitations there are, what preferred protocols are used, what emerging approaches are coming, etc. I never wanted to become just a business person with only general ideas, not knowing the technical environment. Love your stories and advice!

    Ray

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Teaching myself was the best decision I ever made.

  • http://www.kevinfadler.com/ Kevin F. Adler

    Great post. I’m 99% sure it’s been pointed out here before, but hackathons like Startup Weekend are great ways to find tech co-founders as are networks like FounderDating (full disclosure: I have won, coached, and will soon judge SWs, and I’m a managing director for FD).

    All that said, after two years of being a non-technical cofounder with some great engineers, I’m about to do a 10-12 week intensive programming course and a few years as a software eng. to become my own temporary tech cofounder.