Building a company is about “doing,” so if you need to partner with a technical co-founder or hire top engineering talent to do so, then start networking and building relationships within the technical community now to find the right candidates.
There is no magic formula for building a technical team. However, I can offer advice based on my hard-won experience through meeting with over 60 developers, development shops and technical mentors.
Here are a few things that I learned the hard way about finding a technical co-founder:
1. Don’t be the “idea guy” looking for a “coder.”
Talented engineers can see “idea guys” from a mile away and will avoid them like the plague. No hacker wants to be the code monkey for your [insert hyperbolic superlative here] idea. The reality of the market is that there’s a great demand for developers, from growing startups to established companies like Google and Facebook.
The most talented are not merely one-dimensional tech geeks, but entrepreneurial-minded engineers who have ideas of their own. Get your perspective right from the start to attract top candidates.
I was able to attract and build relationships with a number of top-tier engineers because I was seeking true partners that could grow and shape my vision with me, not simply execute it for me.
2. Validate your concept before you start building.
Part of attracting talent is not only having a great idea, but also demonstrating that you are the right person to execute it. There are a lot of ways you can field test your concept early on before programming anything.
For example, you can collect invaluable feedback from potential users and customers with simple mock-ups that can help refine your product road map. InVision is a great user interface prototyping tool that turns designs into interactive mock-ups. Additionally, it takes minutes to set up a landing page with LaunchRock and Optimizely. With minimal ad spend, you can prove whether there would be interest in your product by getting actual signups and analyzing click-through rates.
When I started out, I got buy-in from key stakeholders on a simple video and deck, which I also used to sign up 75 retailer partners. The feedback I got from potential users on my front-end prototypes was invaluable in shaping and focusing our product road map.
3. Find advocates and supporters within the software engineering community.
If you don’t have a network in the developer community, build one! The relationships that I fostered were integral to my process and are paying off in dividends today. The developers I met early on have become friends who have made developer introductions, helped out with technical interviews and even reviewed GitHub accounts (a popular repository for code).
Additionally, these mentors have helped me understand how to manage development resources. To build these relationships, I generally avoided the “find a co-founder” type of meet-ups. Instead, I learned a lot more and made meaningful relationships at meet-ups for developers (e.g., Ruby Developers, machine learning, CTO School, etc.).
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