A lot of founders I speak to struggle with finding a co-founder, particularly on the technology side. While they have an idea, they want to find someone who will help create that technology. Often development cost is a consideration, so equity seems like the easiest way to get address that.
I find there’s three big issues with this approach:
- If your problem was correctly validated, you’d be making enough sales that you’d be able to pay a developer to build out your idea. Pre-sell if you have to. Often, you don’t need a product to make the sale. You need a solid understanding of your audience’s needs to make a sale.
- At the same time, try to empathize with developers and understand their motivations. Developers are a curious bunch. Often, they’re more motivated by getting to play with new technology. They want to solve difficult problems. Overcoming intellectual challenges. If you can frame what you are doing as an intellectual problem, you’ll have a much easier time speaking with developers.
- Make sure that anyone you recruit as a co-founder is critical to executing your vision. Don’t leave gaping holes.
For example, one of Steve Blank’s startups, a game building one, went bust. They didn’t have a hard core gaming developer on the co-founding team. The easiest way to identify any major gaps in your co-founding team, take a look and your canvases (Business Model Canvas or Lean Canvas). Here’s more on how to do this: https://qz.com/321585/to-pick-your-perfect-startup-co-founder-do-this/
You may, in fact, need a developer. You don’t need one until you’ve validated your problem and proposed solution. Otherwise, you’re giving away your equity. Customers must clearly indicate that they’re willing to pay for what you’re thinking of building.
Another good way of recruiting a technical co-founder is to ask the developer to help you interview customers. Have them help out with founders’ work, what co-founders do. Have them interview customers about their problem. Then, once they get back into creating technology (where they feel comfortable) they’ll benefit from a much clearer sense of what’s needed. Not just what they hear from you.
In that case, you can then focus on marketing, growth, and everything else your startup needs. The developer can build exactly the right solution.