Finding a technology leader for your startup is one of the earliest and most important decisions you’ll make. You may be inclined to wait, especially if you have a technology background. But it’s smart to find a technical co-founder or partner early on. This is especially critical when you get to the point where you want to secure capital, as investors want confidence that you have this area under control.
Tech Co-Founder vs. a Tech Partner
What do we mean when we say “tech co-founder” and “tech partner”? What’s the difference? A tech co-founder is an individual whose responsibility will be for everything technology-related in your startup. This person typically has the role of co-founder of the company and is given a share of the company ownership.
A technology partner is an individual or company that provides technical expertise and direction, along with a development team. Depending on the nature of your startup, a partner may serve as a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and/or provide software design and development. Going this route can reduce the risk of a poor co-founder fit. Additionally, it offers an option that’s both quick to implement and easier to scale.
Where to Look
Local tech meetups are a great place to find a technical co-founder or partner (or an introduction to one). Meetup.com is a great site to find local tech meetups in your area, and you can search on specific criteria to find what you are looking for.
Clutch.co is an excellent resource for finding partners. This site conducts phone interviews of vendors’ customers and then creates reviews of each vendor.
Online communities provide opportunities to find individuals to fill the role of co-founder, if you’re willing to give up some equity. Some options are:
What to Look for
Programming skills and an ability to build products are critical for a technology co-founder or partner. But there are other characteristics to consider, including:
- Experience with startups
- Business sense
- Communication and listening skills
- A team focus
- Strategic and long-term thinking
Particularly, look for a team or individual with past startup experience, and consider someone with strengths that complement your own. Those with business sense are often more effective in the technology role than those with specialized knowledge in niche areas — your company (or the partner) can hire people with specific expertise. You need someone with knowledge in a variety of related areas to help you make the best strategic decisions for your company.
If you choose the co-founder route, you both should have an understanding of what each partner does in the business. Your tech co-founder should have an appreciation for the business that will inform technology decisions, and you should have some understanding of the technology to be able to talk with investors, customers, and employees.
Building the Relationship
Your relationship with your co-founder or tech partner begins with the first conversation. Though you’re not a tech expert, learning a few basics can help you be sure you’re choosing the right person. Also, you’ll need to show that your idea has growth opportunity. This may include demonstrating a solid understanding of the customer need or sharing your own story and how you connect to the idea you are pitching.
It takes time to build your relationship. Start small and consider working on a small project together in order to build trust and evaluate how you work together. For co-founders, provide an appropriate stake in the business so that you can share in both responsibility and rewards.
Launching a startup is one of the most challenging things you will ever do. The marriage analogy is a common one for a reason — finding a good partner is key for success.
Interested in learning more about how our team at Designli can help your startup? Contact us.