Seeking non-technical co-founder

There’s an interesting post by Jason Freedman about finding a technical co-founder for your startup.  It’s called “Please, please, please stop asking how to find a technical co-founder.

As a technical entrepreneur, I can relate.  Most non-technical people just don’t realize how far from the mark they are.  Here’s a presentation to clue you in on how hard it is to find a technical co-founder.

The fact is, average people with mediocre ideas are so plentiful as to be absolutely worthless.  It’s like trying to charge for polluted air (that’s my idea, don’t steal it.)  But technical people are very rare.  Sure, we all know a geek or two, but how many of them qualify as a technical co-founder.  Not many.  Of those who do, how many would rather have a nice cushy job making a hundred grand where they can show up late, drink free cokes, have nerf gun wars, and socialize with other geeks?

See what I mean?

You’re probably better off just giving up, because the Super-Code-Ninja Jack-Of-All-Trades-Who-Will-Work-For-Peanuts-(And-Equity!) is virtually non-existent.  If you eliminate those who have the capability of coming up with their own (at-least) mediocre idea you’re entering the realm of flying unicorns.  If you think you’ve found this pot of gold, you might want to take another sniff, because you’re likely the one being suckered.

Because that’s what it would take to get a qualified co-founder to work for you.  Show me a million dollars income over the last 12 months and an exponential customer base and maybe I’ll get back to you someday if I’m bored — for 90% equity and at least $50,000 up front.  Because I’m a risk taker with modest needs.  But you probably need a better engineer than me anyway — more likely a team, and some serious capital for sales & marketing to boot.

See, I’m a technical entrepreneur, and I’m looking for a non-technical co-founder.  But I’ve just about given up looking.  Jason’s post over on HumbledMBA has some good advice for those of you looking for a technical co-founder.

1.  Build the front end.

Get a marketing website up.  Bare minimum, have a cool logo, a literate description of the product, a blog with several posts describing the product & business plan in detail, and a contact form.  If you can’t pass this technical barrier, you’re not ready for a technical co-founder.  Unless you’re a great designer (hint, you’re not — they’re almost as rare as good technical co-founders) you should probably spend around $1000 on a logo & site design (see 99designs.)  If you’re not able to set up a website you can probably spend another $500 having a freelancer set one up for you.  (try PeoplePerHour.)

2.  Do some customer development

Have a phone pitch script written.  Make 100 cold calls.  Get through to at least 10 decision makers in your market segment.  Write a survey.  Get at least 100 respondents.  Interview at least 10 people in depth about the product.  Do some AdWords research.  Spend a couple hundred dollars proving you’ve got meaningful links (and know the click & conversion rates — how much does a registration cost — multiply by 10 to equal a customer.)  You should have at least 20 people who have registered for more information on your website.

3.  Network

Get some twitter followers and blog readers.  Comment on relevant blogs and mailing lists.  DO NOT SPAM.   Attend at least 1 conference and hand out 25 business cards, and collect at least the same number.  You should be able to name at least 1 investor who has expressed interest in your idea (and given you their personal contact information) and at least 3 potential customers who have expressed interest in buying your product (same deal – no digits, not counted).  If it’s a social or free product make that 300.

4. Pay me to prove myself

So I’m interested.  (By me, I mean your technical co-founder, not necessarily me.)  Hire me to do a couple weeks worth of prototyping in my spare time — it may take me a month or more.  I’ve got that cushy day job and my own side projects too, remember.  You’re going to have to pay me something like $5000.  If I deliver, you know I’m interested and capable.

If you’ve done all of the above, I know you’re interested and capable.  Now we can talk.


See also this post on Quora where I expound a little more on this same idea — as well as several other great answers.