With the recent year’s exponential advance of technology, now more than ever before almost any new project has an important standing in programming. Each day, I have more and more entrepreneurs consulting me about how to find and select a technological partner when beginning a start-up. From personal experience in the past six years of running an online start-up, I’m going to share three key factors that matter when it comes to successfully finding a technical partner.
1) What do we offer?
The first thing you need to define is what the start-up can offer in return. We can be lucky enough to find the best developers in the world, but if we do not offer them something valuable in exchange for their time, dedication and effort, we will definitely lose them. It is for this reason that before looking for cofounders we should establish what we are going to provide from our side.
I personally think that there is only one valid solution: if we really want the other person to commit to technologically developing our idea, this person should be part owner of the company in the same proportion as the rest of the employees. There is no other way. The only exception applies when you are a solo-entrepreneur for example an accountant, lawyer, doctor or architect that is looking for his or her technical co-founder. Of course, you can’t grant every new hire ownership of the company, you need to focus on the benefits that working within your startup can offer like flexible scheduling, working from home, and exponential growth.
Why do we need to engage the technical person with a great incentive? There are countless startups that I have seen fail because of an unmotivated programmer; he/she was not properly integrated into the company culture and finally ended up leaving. As Paul Graham, entrepreneur and founder of YCombinator, once said, “Fights between founders are surprisingly common. About 20% of the startups we’ve funded have had a founder leave. It happens so often that we’ve reversed our attitude to vesting.”
2) What should we do?
If we think that we are going to say to our development partner that we are the ones that had the idea and that from now on, they’ll work on programming it while we watch, then we’re wrong. From the very beginning, we need to know how to divide tasks evenly. My company, elMejorTrato had my programmer partner sit almost all day in front of the computer and I decided to take care of the next three fundamental pillars for the business.
The first pillar was to develop a business plan in order to look for capital. It was not only about designing it, but also about starting contacting everyone in the angel investor and venture capitalist fields.
The second pillar was to start generating customers early, which means performing organic marketing and learning about SEO. Also, I had to understand what viral marketing is in terms of social networks, without forgetting what affiliate advertising means and how it can be implemented in a viable way.
The third pillar was to meet and chat with our customers (one by one) to understand their problems. The initial stage was to understand what they needed and develop a product that solves that need. What followed was a step by step process iterating while we showed them our software in order to see how they interacted with it. That allowed us to be able to keep improving the product to make it respond to their needs.
3) Where to look and how to select?
Search for these programmers through your entire network of primary contacts: friends, family and acquaintances. Ask for references to each person that we have contacted and trust; even if they are friends of friends.
Then personally interview each potential candidate. It’s not enough that they’re qualified to work; they should have some degree of compatibility with risk too. It’s possible that for a few months or years within the startup they might not be paid a salary. Consequently, we cannot give priority to the trajectory of the person, but we can give it to the ability to efficiently learn new technologies based on their skill sets. The ideal candidate could be a computer/programming engineer that has just received or is about receive their college degree and who can also show a degree of interest and ability to develop projects of his/her own from scratch.
There is no exact route defined in detail about how to find a technical co-founder successfully; but these three factors help reduce uncertainty and increase efficiency in the selection. We should always prioritize the candidates who are naturally skilled and inclined to develop new applications one after another without stopping with their own hands through trial and error.
Text by Co-Founder of Melhor Trato, Cristian Rennella, serial entrepreneur in Latin America.