How do you find a full-stack developer without you being "known" in the tech world even if you have a very viable potentially lucrative offering?

Hello - The main issue of a lot of start-up entrepreneurs, especially for people who haven't exited previous ventures with millions in their pocket, is finding highly qualified developers who are capable of building the necessary models that are needed to get the entrepreneur where they want to go. The main problem is the cash-flow situation and the developer willing to fore go cash compensation in hopes of this venture being "different" than all the others that have been pitched him. If a person REALLY does have a viable venture how do you go about "teaming" up with someone capable of this level of expertise to build a site with such complexities such as Clarity or Pinterest or Uber as examples? Thanks! Kind Wishes, Scott



Recruiting an experienced technical cofounder who is willing to pursue your venture forgoing salary in lieu of sharing equity in your company is a very difficult challenge. Here are some "must do's" before you even consider recruiting.

Prove your idea has been validated and demand already exists: If you are trying to recruit someone who could easily pursue their own ideas, then the first challenge is to prove that your idea is bigger than anything they could pursue on their own, and you have already done the work to demonstrate that you've built a waiting audience for the eventual product.

Prove that you are credible: Do you have experience raising money, bringing a product to market, and managing technical and creative teams? If not, do you have deep domain expertise in the area that you are seeking to disrupt? If you don't have either or both of these things on your CV, then the only way to prove your credibility is that you've already done so much that a technical cofounder might not want to do. If you can raise money or even get "soft commits subject to," if you can prove that you've already rallied investors willing to fund you and this co-founder if (s)he agrees, then at least, you are demonstrating that you have the capability of doing what will be required going forward as CEO.

Prove that you aren't naive: One of the most significant considerations of a technical person joining a potential cofounder is around how naive / inexperienced you are about what it takes to build a product and then a company. If you lack any actual experience, being knowledgeable and realistic in how you set the expectations going forward about how you propose working with this person will be helpful to you.

Become their friend: You have a much better likelihood of successfully recruiting a technical cofounder if the person you're trying to recruit really enjoys your company. To this point, be prepared to "date" this person and think about the same first date etiquette in the romantic context. Don't go for a hard close, be polite, charming, attractive and memorable. Continue your courtship over many meetings and accept that rejection, at least initially, is almost inevitable. How you respond to their objections makes a world of difference.

Prove to them that there is a credible funding path forward: If there is no certainty or even a somewhat credible articulation of you being able to pay *something* in the way of cash salary to this person, it's unlikely that even with all the other points covered, you will be able to sway them. So being able to articulate and at best, demonstrate that funding (by any means) is possible within a reasonable period of time is an absolute requirement.

When you're ready (as above), then you proceed to LinkedIn. What you're looking for is someone who is "startup friendly" (someone who has previously worked for at least one startup) and where there is a relevancy of their skillset to what you're building. This is what's required at a minimum. A LinkedIn profile usually links to other information (most often Twitter) about that person. What you are looking for is someone who you think would really *get* what you're doing and be excited about it. For example, if you're building a travel app and the research you've done shows that this person has never once left their hometown, they are not likely to be that excited about what you're building. Also, look at how recently they joined their last company. If they have joined within the last year, you have very little chance of recruiting them. Look for about 2-3 years at one Company. That's about the time when many people start looking for what's next.

Happy to talk to you about this in more contextual detail to your specific scenario.

Answered 9 years ago

Scott, thousands of "unknown" startups hire and recruit great talent every day so it's very possible and being "known" might help, but doesn't make it that much easier / great talent have options and your job is to sell them on why joining your company is the best one for them.

The best post I've seen on hiring a technical person/co-founder was by Andrew Peek

Go to where the developers hangout and try and get them excited about your projects ... technically, Clarity / Uber / Pinterest aren't hard to build - so you can find those people to help you build it.

Answered 9 years ago

I'll tell you a bit about my own experience being the technical talent. These days salaries are high and jobs somewhat easy to come by for people with the right skills.

The first thing you need to do is learn to weed out those that are not adventurous or brave enough to forgo a paid gig for the dream of a startup. Most good engineers are not actively looking for "jobs".

Some of us actually look for the opportunity to join a startup so then the question is really which one. This is what I would look for ( in order of importance ):

- My passion about the idea.
- Your passion about the idea.
- Equity offered.
- Your connections and experience in related industries.
- Complementary skillset. Are you REALLY good at something I really suck at? (Eg. sales, marketing )
- Ability to raise money.

The right tech cofounder in my opinion would be more worried about getting a fair share of the company than any pay.

If you want to chat more about motivations, my experiences looking for startups to work with and advice on how to approach tech talent, let's jump on a call.

Answered 9 years ago

It certainly is a dilemma. Youra is the reality facing any bootstrapping entrepreneur.

Full stack developers are in high demand. They really have very little need to do any work for deferred compensation.

Do you have a detailed business plan, marketing plan and business model? Have you tested your concept with real potential buyers? Are there competitors in the same space?

It sounds like you need a developer who is independent, has other clients paying the bills, and has some available time they would be willing to throw at a high-risk proposition. I hired a programmer a few years ago who fit that description. He worked for equity on a project for about two years part-time. Then he was brought into the project on a full time basis with a commensurate salary - while maintaining his equity position. The project has still not launched but is close. Will it pay off for the developer? Only time will tell. But, he was willing to take the risk.

How did the entrepreneurs find this developer? Through a referral. Have you attended the various meetings in your area where developers congregate? Networking and building those relationships is probably your best shot.

As for a site with the complexities of the ones you mentioned? These are are websites. Rather they are browser-based software programs. These programs /communities were not created by a single developer. It takes a team to yield a complex online software system - at least in any reasonable period of time.

I've hired and managed several develop teams for various projects for myself and others.

Give me a call if you would like to chat further.

The call is free for first time clients. Use this link to schedule an appointment.

Answered 9 years ago

I wrote about this on my blog a few years ago (, but it basically boils down to:

Find where we hang out - get to know the communities where the best people hang out.
Realize what you're asking for - don't downplay the commitment involved.
Don't be possessive - be ready to take feedback and allow the idea to evolve w their expertise.
Demonstrate your value - as others have said, show that you're not just an "idea guy"
Be cool - realize that you're looking for a partner, not just some code monkey. Be respectful and polite.

Feel free to give me a call if you'd like more specific ideas!

Answered 9 years ago

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