Advice and Best Places to Find Developer Cofounders

5 min read

Lacking the right tech background is an all-too-common obstacle when building a startup. Even the greatest idea in your head will be practically useless if you’re unable to implement it. So how can you create an app, website, or software application to support your business vision?

In this case, one of the best options when building and launching your startup is to find a technical cofounder. This person can complement your business acumen with the necessary technical expertise. The main role of a technical co-founder is to build a minimal viable product (MVP) that will catch investors’ attention.

Below, we’ll discuss two important questions:

  • Whether you need a technical co-founder at all
  • How to find a technical co-founder for your startup

Do I need a technical cofounder?

Hiring a tech partner for your startup is likely a very wise idea. However, there’s a very limited set of situations where you may not need a technical cofounder.

First, if you have the technical ability, you might wonder “Is it possible for me to write code myself?”. While it’s certainly possible for you to take on this responsibility, it’s almost certainly not an ideal situation.

As a founder, your hands will already be full with other obligations. These include recruiting executives and other talent, steering the course of the business, raising funds, and more. So what will happen if you also put the crucial task of product development on your plate? You’ll probably be spread too thin, causing delays in the product’s release.

The same applies to other team members in your startup with technical expertise. In a small business, each person has been hired for a very specific reason. Trying to expand employees’ job responsibilities after hiring them likely won’t go over well. (This is especially true if you don’t increase their salary or amount of equity accordingly.)

A third option is outsourcing development to an external firm, instead of hiring an in-house technical cofounder. While this can work in a pinch to get your product developed, it’s also not a perfect solution:

  • The primary job of development firms is to complete the product according to your specifications. However, they typically don’t provide strategic guidance or innovation, as an experienced technical co-founder can.
  • Unlike a technical co-founder, who works directly for your startup, development firms are likely juggling multiple projects. Your product may not be a priority for them and could suffer delays.

In most cases, there are very good reasons why you need a technical cofounder. Hiring a technical co-founder will jumpstart the process of developing your own in-house IT competencies. Technical co-founders may also handle other tasks beyond product development, especially if they become chief technical officer (CTO). These responsibilities include hiring new engineers, assessing the company’s technology stack, and developing a long-term product strategy.

How do I find a technical cofounder for my startup?

If you’ve decided to find a co-founder to help build your product, where should you start looking?

First, consider how to leverage your existing network in the startup community. If you don’t know any qualified candidates offhand, your connections very likely do. The most promising potential co-founders are senior programmers with years of experience in the technologies you want to use.

Social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Quora, and Reddit have strong technology communities. This makes them good starting points to find developer cofounders:

  • LinkedIn’s Recruiter platform makes it easy to narrow down your search, with advanced filters and recommended candidates.
  • Twitter allows you to search by relevant keywords or hashtags. You can also find users who are following thought leaders in your field, or who have retweeted a particularly interesting post.
  • Quora and Reddit are organized around “topics” and “subreddits,” respectively. These are dedicated spaces for discussing a particular subject matter. You may wish to look in Quora topics such as “Startups” and “Startup Strategy.” Subreddits such as r/startups, r/startupjobs, and r/cofounder are also good places to connect with like-minded people.

Posting on job websites can help expand your circle of potential co-founders. Your options include:

  • General job boards, such as Indeed, Monster, and ZipRecruiter
  • Startup job boards, such as AngelList and Y Combinator
  • Job boards explicitly for finding startup co-founders, such as Founders Nation, CoFoundersLab, and Stealth.li

Finally, in-person events are invaluable if you want to find a developer for your startup. Communities such as Startup Weekend and Meetup regularly hold events where entrepreneurs can meet and collaborate. Technology conferences and hackathons are also excellent ways to connect with speakers or attendees with the same interests.

Regardless of where you find developer cofounders, the same rules for how to find technical talent will apply. Below are a few tips and best practices:

  • Technical co-founders don’t need to be intimately familiar with every technology that you want to use in your product. However, they should be able to pick up new tools and languages and start using them quickly.
  • Look for a technical co-founder who’s familiar with modern software development processes, such as agile and lean. These methodologies are a good fit for startups that need to iterate fast and develop an MVP.
  • Your choice of technical co-founder should be in alignment with your business plan. Make sure the person you hire can make a long-term commitment and can assist with product refinements and strategic planning.