Do you really need a Technical Co-Founder?

I have been working with startups for almost half a decade now, and in that period I have had the chance to work with few of the brightest minds the ecosystem has ever seen. Entrepreneurs from different background and expertise coming forward to create businesses with real meaning solving real problems and creating real value.

And then I have met a few enthusiasts who are hesitant to take the step forward no matter how amazing their ideas might be. A lot of them coming forward and asking — “How can I find a great technical co-founder?”

This I believe is a very good question, which needs stupid straight answer –Focus on building a Proof of concept (PoC) first. It gets easy after that. Proof of concept product helps you attract people who believe in the product you are building and they tend to be more goal oriented rather than “Dollar” oriented.
Truth to be told, you will find a hard time finding a technical co-founder. Many quality technical engineers are already doing 6 figure jobs in amazing companies like Google or Facebook. And unless you give these tech gurus something they believe in, they won’t connect with you.

How you build a POC/MVP then ?

The easiest way is to hire an external team who serves as a temporary CTO for your technical needs. They will build the POC/MVP for you and will be more than willing to even help you figure out ways out of the pit-falls of the start-up ecosystem.

There is no shortage of freelancers and development agencies that take some combination of equity and capital to help you build your first MVP.

Another method is to learn programming by yourself — it might sound difficult at first, but the payoffs are way more rewarding than the effort you put in. If nothing, the knowledge you gain by learning programming will help you to manage your technical team, negotiate better and take more educated decisions.

One more time, what are the benefits?

If you are able to hire the right team, you will be able to delegate most of your technical worries to them. Be it bug fixing, feature evaluation, A/B testing or scaling (if you suddenly start to grow), all that while you build your own runway to hire an in-house team and support staff or possibly bang your next round of funding.

So how to do it right the first time — Hiring a team?

There are several methods and strategies to help you shortlist your dream team. Many companies display hyper realistic achievements on their website, most of which are not true or are aggravated. Always do your research and don’t go for all that online glory. A company good at marketing itself doesn’t mean that it’s good at delivering their promises too.

In my experience, I have found the following five strategies which has helped me to execute several high-value projects.

  1. The interview

    This is the most important step, as it ensures that the agency representative is punctual, respectful and communicate well. I would rather hire a person/team which “over communicates”. For me, this keeps me involved at each stage of development in some way and in return, this enables me to compute realistic timelines for my efforts in other areas of operation. With that said, I often choose the following set of questions in order to evaluate the quality of work the agency does.
    • How did the company start?
      It gives you an insight about the history of the company, and what brought their co-founders together
    • How long you have been working here? And what you love about your company?
      If the person you are talking to is not a co-founder then this is a must ask as this gives you an insight about the culture of the company and overall employee satisfaction.
      You don’t want the person developing your application to run away in the middle of a sprint.
    • How many people you have in your agency and how your resources manage multiple projects at a given time?
      This question gives some insights on how busy they might be currently and what is their strategy to deal with the real workload.
  2. Test Job

    Once you are satisfied with the interview, ask the team to do a test job. This is one of the steps which makes many teams un-comfortable but insisting on this step has saved me thousands of dollars and hours of frustration.
    This often serves as an indicator of how serious the agency is and often determines if they have enough time to work on your projects.
  3. Talk to the Tech lead

    When you start talking about your project, always make sure you are talking to the tech lead as well. Be it an MVP or a product feature, never go to a meeting with a business analyst alone. Involving a tech lead in the meetings will give you insights on how feasible an Idea is and how much time something is going to take.
    Without having a technical person in the meetings prevents finalizing project details, budget and timeline.
  4. Point of contact

    Make a clear decision regarding the point of contact. In my opinion, it could be any one who can communicate well, and has a good grasp of the product feature and technical know-how. Ideally, it’s the tech lead of the project whom I keep in touch for most of my communication.
  5. Keep an open mind

    I try to keep an open mind for suggestions and discussions, as well as for timelines. I believe no one is a “know it all”. Impactful decisions come from a healthy conversation done with contextually informed individuals. You cannot expect someone to build you a complex app with all sets of fancy features within one week.

Any rule of thumb for MVP ?

“At the start, we were running the website off WordPress, getting new users to subscribe via Wufoo and emailing the list into MailChimp. For the longest time, we held the thing together through duct tape and CSVs.” 
— Christopher McCann, Startup Digest

The Idea is to get your product up and running as fast as possible hence you avoid re-inventing the wheel, and use what is already available. Very often, this requires you to cut down on non-critical features. For example, use “social login” whenever possible, this prevents you from creating email based registration system on the front end forgot password and other related elements. Again the Idea is to create a product where most of the core features are in place, so that users can start using it right away. This helps you to focus on acquiring customer and iterating on the core features.

If you are unable to cut down your MVP requirements with existing tools, you should take a pause and think about the start-up you are trying to build. I would always recommend to build something that revolves around your strength and passion.

How I did it ?

I started off as a solo consultant for software start-ups and when the work load started to grow — I started hiring tech teams around the globe. This helped me to gain enough ground and finances to co-found Etrix technologies (Similar Team augmentation service) and hire an in-house team of experts which eventually lead to earning $100K in mere 6 months of our operation — I will talk more about this in my next post “How I went from $50 to $100K in 6 months”.

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