Given the ongoing gold rush in technology, almost everyone wants to start a tech startup. But what if you don’t have the technical skills to build software?
As a software engineer myself, I’ve been frequently asked to co-found technology startups with non-technical founders. Anyone sitting in my position will quickly become skeptical after being pitched “the next Facebook” for the hundredth time. While getting my attention is difficult, it isn’t impossible. After all, every rational person is always on the lookout for a good opportunity!
Image courtesy of erikaow
To help solve this problem, I put together a list of factors that software engineers consider when choosing to partner with a non-technical founder:
1. Access to capital
This is the most expensive, and also the most straightforward way to find technical help. It’s also the least creative approach.
If you are willing to spend your own money, or have raised money from an external source (such as an angel investor or a venture capital fund), finding technical help will not be an issue. Raising funds from a brand name investor will also help build credibility in the eyes of potential hires.
There is a very long list of people who will happily exchange their time for a steady income. While software engineer salaries have increased substantially in areas close to a lot of venture capital activity (such as Silicon Valley), you will still be able to find someone if you are willing to pay salaries that are in line with your competitors.
2. Idea validation
Is it possible to launch a tech startup without any code? Potential entrepreneurs would be wise to learn from the startup lessons offered by Yipit, an aggregator of daily deals. Yipit’s two founders (both non-technical) initially aggregated and categorized daily deals from leading sites manually at 3AM every morning. Even as the product grew in popularity, they hired contract staff to manually aggregate daily deals instead of hiring a web developer to scrape the content. The company went on to raise more than $7M in venture capital funding.
Of course, not every company can use the same growth strategies as Yipit, but the startup’s lessons hold true for anyone: limit development and engineering as much as possible until you have solid revenue traction.
According to a survey performed by Elizabeth Yin, the CEO and founder of Launchbit, the most important factor for developers considering a company was the validation of the idea. If you can show solid results to a prospective developer (and not just a dream), you will be able to attract talented engineers.
3. Demonstrated success in the industry
Another way to attract talented technical co-founders is to demonstrate a track record of success, deep relationships or know-how of your industry. While there is currently a surplus of startups that are industry agnostic, such as project management startups and to-do list startups, there continues to a dearth of companies helping industries operate more efficiently.
This is particularly the case for more traditional industries such as construction, natural resources and transportation. If you can make the case for automating a manual process or helping companies drive more sales by using technology, talented engineers will join your cause.
4. Shared passions and interests
Lastly, having a shared passion (one that relates to your startup), is another way to attract technical co-founders. This is probably the most difficult means of finding a software engineer as it’s hard to find good technical people who are also passionate about a specific topic. This is particularly true if your startup is in a “boring” industry like insurance or document management.
Personally, I’ve seen partnerships form from a shared interest in the most cutting edge segments of technology such as Bitcoin or artificial intelligence.