How to Attract a Technical Cofounder at Meetups

How to attract a technical cofounder

At the end of this article you will know how to attract a technical cofounder.  You will have steps you can take to turn the tables around, and have developers asking you: “do you need a technical cofounder?”

I spent a couple years of my life bounding into meetups questing for a technical cofounder. I only needed to make one developer fall in love with my idea and I’d have the golden ticket to launch my big app idea.

In hindsight, I sounded like a desperate puppy panting for attention. I even tried the paid cofounder match-making services. To no one’s surprise, the meetups were made up of mostly non-technical folks just like me. The breakdown was probably 80% non-technical and 20% technical.

Here’s how it would go… I would enter the venue, which was typically a startup’s lounge, scribble my name on a name tag, then scan the room looking for the guy that was surrounded by non-technical attendees, like hungry lions salivating at a plump wildebeest.

Great… I had to outshine everyone else.  I wish I knew how to attract a technical cofounder.

I came to the meetups with a mental handicap, I had impostor syndrome.  I could bring just as much to the table even as a non-technical cofounder, but I didn’t know how to show it.

Now that I am a developer, I have a much better idea of what other developers are looking for in a non-technical cofounder. Here’s how you can show that you are bringing a lot to the table:

Show that you’re launching with or without them

Ideally, this means traction with actual paying customers or users on your prototype or MVP.

If you don’t have an MVP or a prototype, yet, demonstrate to the developer that the idea is actually a viable business by getting pre-sales from customers that have enough of a need for the product that they want to fund the product development.

If you’re really early in the game and don’t have any pre-sales or commitments from potential customers, this is slightly dangerous territory to be in because you might not actually have a viable business.  If you’re convinced and want to plow on, show that you have traction with your idea. That means designing high-fidelity interactive mockups by yourself or by hiring an outsourced designer.

By the way, an MVP doesn’t have to require coding. An MVP just needs to prove that there’s a large enough problem that people are willing to use some kind of tool to solve the problem.

For example, Beat the GMAT, a social network for MBA applicants, started off as a blog by one man, Eric Bahn. After having his inbox frazzled with emailed questions, Eric moved onto a forum. But there weren’t enough people answering questions so he did most of the answering himself until eventually he had enough traction with users that they were answering each other’s questions. Fast forward to 2014, Beat the GMAT grew to 3 million active users and his company was acquired by education powerhouse, Hobsons.

Another great no-code MVP is Ryan Hoover’s Product Hunt, a Reddit-like forum for sharing products. Ryan validated Product Hunt with essentially a mailing list. Once there was a proven need, Ryan then partnered with his developer/designer friend to create the site.

How to attract a technical cofounder

Product Hunt MVP

How to attract a technical cofounder

Product Hunt today

Do things that are not scalable. This shows that you have the hustle to launch.

All of these things assure the developer that there’s already inertia. To a developer, it’s much easier to accelerate an already launching startup than to help get a stationary idea moving.  How to attract a technical cofounder… get an app in motion.

Show that you bring immediately useful skills

True or not, a lot of developers are turned off by the idea that they’re going to be doing all the work early on while the non-technical guy just comes up with ideas and features.

What is undeniable is the mountain of work that does not require technical chops. Developers will be delighted if you have the skills to pick up the the slack so that they can focus on the code.

Here are some responsibilities that are necessary from day one that you should get good at:

  • Get out and talk to potential customers and actual users. Understand their pain better than they do. I think it was Ramit Sethi that said that if you can explain your customer’s pain to them better than they do, they will trust that you have the solution.
  • Gather, organize and prioritize the MVP requirements and feature pipeline. Use something simple like Pivotal Tracker. Always have something queued up to be worked on.
  • Master the app so that you can delight customers with frictionless customer support.
  • Get good at sales and writing sales copy. If you’ve never done sales, get a copy of Oren Klaff’s Pitch Anything and learn that sales is a repeatable science
  • Start providing value to your potential customers from day one by teaching them and building a pre-launch mailing list. You don’t want to launch to crickets.

A technical cofounder’s job is highly tangible. Their job is to create code. If you have trouble showing your worth, you need to pick up skills and take on roles that are also highly tangible/visible.  How to attract a technical cofounder… bring skills that you can put into use on day one.

Empathize with the complexity of their job

If the developer knows that you understand the general concepts or technology terminology they know that it’ll be easy to communicate with you.

A common sticking point that technical people have with non-technical people is that non-technical people don’t understand the complexity of coding. Something that might seem “as easy as adding an additional field to the sign up page” really requires backend and database updates.

Show developers that you can empathize with the complexity of their job.

Unless you want to, you should not be spending your time learning how to code.  It can hurt more than it can help.  The point of having a partner is so that you can specialize and dedicate your strengths to the startup.  If you start trying to improve your weaknesses, you are wasting valuable cycles.

I recommend taking CodeSchool’s intro classes (HTML, CSS, JavaScript and Ruby).  They have video lessons then coding exercises.  How to attract a technical cofounder… learn to speak their language.

Lastly, don’t be desperate like I was.  My desperation reeked like I was insecure with my idea and skills.  If you follow all of these pointers, it already puts you ahead of the pack of all the other non-technical idea guys, so you don’t need to be desperate since you will know how to attract a technical cofounder :).

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