How to Recruit a Technical Co-Founder
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“I have an idea but I need help finding someone who can build it.” I hear this a lot. And two years ago, I was “that guy.” I had a vision, a game plan and a workable beta. But, knowing my own skillset, for the company I planned to build, I needed a technical co-founder.
Speaking from experience, the process of finding one can be intimidating. At times it will be frustrating and is guaranteed to test your interest in your venture, but that’s a healthy test. After all, you’re signing up to be an entrepreneur.
Along my journey to finding my co-founder I realized three key takeaways that I would have loved to know before I started the process.
Many people start by trying to hire the first developer that agrees to coffee with them. Don’t do this. View the recruiting process as an opportunity to expand your network and meet developers.
As you’re giving your elevator pitch and talking excitedly about your idea, you will come across highly capable and qualified individuals who “get it.” They love your concept – but they’re not a good fit. At that point, most people would shake their hand and move on. Don’t be that person. Don’t just move on! Turn them into idea evangelists and watch them start opening up their networks.
Hanging the proverbial “Help Wanted” sign on your door will only attract a few candidates, and rarely will they be the best. Getting smart people to buy into your idea? And then send you even smarter people? That will result in more options than you ever thought possible.
Learn the language
And it is a language. When you first start talking to developers, you might feel overwhelmed at how foreign their “computer speak” sounds to you. That’s normal. But there’s no two ways about it: You must educate yourself and learn the language, or else you will look like an idiot and, even worse, will be immediately dismissed as an amateur. And, beyond looking like an idiot, you’ll never be able to have a thorough enough conversation with potential co-founders.
There are a few ways to accomplish this. Maybe you have a developer friend (or maybe you made one, through indirect recruiting) who will sit you down, facts-of-life style, and educate you. There are also numerous paid and free learning options online. Look for introduction to computer science education guides or books.
It’s worth noting here that this knowledge base will take you far beyond your recruiting process and will make you a better and more effective company leader – especially if technology is important to your company. You will be able to work more collaboratively with your development team down the line.
Identify 'the one'
Once you have a short list of top candidates narrowed down, consider coming up with a “technical assessment” to test their skills. You might need your developer friend’s help again to come up with the assessment, and help evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the responses.
But don’t make an offer yet. Spend some time getting to know your top candidate. Get out of the office or coffee shop. Grab food and drinks, have some fun (or, see if you can have fun together). You don’t need to be so similar that you share the same exact hobbies or eat the exact same foods, but you should be able to observe a good harmony between your personalities. This will help cement the relationship and advance the company.
How will you know that you’ve found “the one”? Well it’s partially having that certainty that your candidate is a rock star who checks all of your technical know-how boxes. But it’s also a gut feeling. And you can’t get that with the first person you talk to. It’s only through talking to many different candidates that the best will stand out.
The one is just as excited and passionate as you are. The one feels like part of the team before he or she even is part of the team. That’s when you know your work is done.
Last piece of advice: Once you find the one be prepared to properly incentivize him or her. This individual is going to be expending lots of blood, sweat and tears on your idea; it needs to be their baby too.