You don't need us to tell you that "software is eating the world". As every traditional industry gives over to disruption, anyone with an eye for the future can see that there is no stability in the status quo and tech innovation is wide open for opportunity.
Having a skilled programmer driving the technology that your startup runs on seems like an advantage, but it's not a necessity. Far from it.
We truly believe that startup success doesn't require being a brilliant programmer. There are business strategists who have the experience and market insights to grow a company at scale, and there are young creative people with radical and innovative ideas that also have an advantage.
What to do if you're looking for a technical co-founder:
We work everyday with these non-technical co-founders during our Catalyst process. The most common questions we hear are how to find a technical co-founder or what to look for when hiring a technical team. After early meetings with mentors and investors, there is growing pressure to find someone to build the product that they think will change the world.
And while finding a full-stack collaborator sounds like the ideal for many non-technical founders, it's not the only option, or even the best option.
Relationships are the backbone of your company.
While your product will evolve and change over time, choosing a business partner can't (or shouldn't) be forced. Regardless of what your final product becomes, your co-founder will always be the same. In our experience, we've seen more startups fail because of deteriorating relationships than bad products.
Bringing on an engineer or developer that hasn't been there since the beginning of the project can be extremely problematic. It's easy to trust a developer who speaks confidently in tech jargon, but without proper vetting of their skills, you could be giving away equity and valuable time to someone who won't move your product forward at all.
Developers are also expensive and with increasing demand, they know they can come in as a "hired gun" and ask for equity and other benefits. They might not be willing to take a significant pay cut or work excruciating hours when thing get tight. Having someone who is equally invested in your project or has the flexibility to adjust to the ebb and flow of building a product is key. When you are going through the boom and bust of fund-raising and bootstrapping, you can't afford to have your co-founder or CTO lose interest and fall off the map.
So before you waste time searching for the perfect technical co-founder, consider these alternatives.
Here are a few options for smarter hiring:
Find a technical mentor
Find a mentor through a local startup network and meet with them once a month or so. They can help you connect with the right developers and engineers for your project and can vet potential collaborators. Having someone invested in your growth and experienced enough to guide your hiring processes can be invaluable. Unfortunately, their time and resources can be limited. If you need someone to start doing some of the work, a mentor can only get you so far.
Do a technical bootcamp to build everything you need to fundraise
If you need to keep the project moving forward, consider doing a technical bootcamp (like our Catalyst program). You'll work with one of our in-house Product Managers to get everything you need to raise the money to hire a more skilled technical team. Over 4 weeks, we help define the technical details of your product, focus your budget and business plan, and give you a plan for hiring the right people. This helps you keep control of your business, but gives you all the technical knowledge you need to properly pitch investors and a team.
Hire a consultant to develop an MVP
Hopefully you're thinking about building your MVP, and not a market-ready product. If you have the seed money, but a short runway - consider hiring a highly skilled consultant to build an MVP. you may not need to hire a full stack developer since many MVP platforms can be built using web or basic development skills. Enough to take to investors and do preliminary user testing. This will give you the flexibility to cancel the contract if the relationship starts to sour, or their technical skills don't align with the company's needs. With the expectation that the contract ends with the MVP, you have the flexibility to offer them a CTO position, knowing they're a good fit, or ending the relationship amicably.
Hire an external team
If you need to turn around a high-quality innovative product quickly, it's best to hire an external dev team. They have the breadth of experience and knowledge to lead the project without a lot of hand-holding. This allows you to focus on things like sales, user acquisition, fund raising and business development.
Don't mistake "external" for an offshore team. Hiring a team of developers for $15/hr requires triple the time, effort and headache than hiring a few experts that are dedicated to your project. More often than not, these projects become such a disaster you have to bring it to dev teams like ours to fix and rebuild.
Build it smart the first time around, which means hiring smart from the beginning.
If you're interested in our Catalyst program, it's a 4-week bootcamp that delivers a full technical plan, budget, sprint schedule and business planning.