One of the most frequently faced problems marketers and entrepreneurs in business face these days is the technical aspects of running an online business (or business heavily affected by online). And it totally makes sense, because now the nerds and their software are taking over the internet. Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, Pinterest, Dropbox… all these companies were started by nerds who can program and pivot quickly.
I get asked this a lot: “how can I find a technical co-founder (or at least a senior level) programmer without paying him an arm and a leg?”. That’s a loaded question, because I personally am technical (I did most of the programming for my projects, including the PAR program) and yet, at the same time i don’t do day to day programming.
To that, I say this: “imagine yourself in THEIR shoes.”
Now, suppose you have an idea for some brand new software as a service idea. You think it’s revolutionary. You think it’s gonna make bazillions of dollars every year. You think you’re gonna be the new Salesforce Mark Benioff. Problem? You have nothing.
And that’s EXACTLY why no nerds are joining you. You offer NOTHING on the table. No talent, no marketing skills, no sales skill, and no money. So if you are taking zero risk in making your idea happen, what makes you think that they’re gonna take any risk in making it happen when it’s not even their “baby”?
Here are some practical ideas
1) Get customers lined up
Imagine if you were sales savvy enough to line up customers who are willing to give you cash for your idea. That validates the idea more than “I have a gut hunch that this is what’s needed”. Sure you might have to hustle, cold call, knock on some doors but at least it shows that you did something.
(If you just had the reaction ‘what? cold call? hustle? knock on doors? pssssh…’ , then yeah, you know why you have no customers.)
Prove to them that you’re going to do your part with sweat and blood, then they’ll show you what’s up. If you bring time to the table, that shows way more committment than just a rich guy who plunks down couple hundred thousand dollars. Remember, cash don’t work. People work.
These days, it doesn’t take much money to do this. You can build some squeeze, do an autoresponders, and do a webinar. That alone can test your idea very quickly against live customers.
2) Have a proof of concept & start driving traffic.
This isn’t as strong as having customers, but this is a HUGE start.
For example, did you know Groupon (a multi-billion dollar public company now) started out as ghetto wordpress site?
All we did was we took a WordPress Blog and we skimmed it to say Groupon and then every day we would do a new post with the points embedded. It was totally ghetto. We would sell t-shirts on the first version of Groupon. Weâ€™d say in the right up, â€˜This t-shirt will come in the color red, size large.
If you want a different color or size, email that to us.â€™ We didnâ€™t have a form to add that stuff. We were just, it was so cobbled together. It was enough to prove the concept and show that it was something that people really liked. The actual coupon generation that we were doing was all FileMaker. We would run a script that would email the coupon PDF to people.
It got to the point where weâ€™d sell 500 sushi coupons in a day and weâ€™d send 500 PDFs to people with Apple Mail at the same time. Really the first, until July of the first year was just a scrambling to grab the tiger by the tail. It was trying to catch up and reasonable piece together a product.
Ghetto as hell. Not even automated. But once they proved that there was market, they raised a buttload of money (by the way, ain’t no smart investor gonna give you any money without traction) and hired engineers to do all this automation stuff.
Yeah, this means you have to understand online marketing & customer acquisition first.
3) Be persistent, but listen to feedbacks (from smart people)
Sometimes, your idea… SUCKS. It’s alright. Sometimes I have shitty ideas too. But the difference is between me and newbie entrepreneurs? I test them out.
For example, I saw an episode of Shark Tank where this girl comes out and says she’s going to innovate online dating by taking it offline with “anonymity” business cards.
I’m no Shark Tank groupy, but these guys are right. Her idea is STUPID. Taking something back 20-30 years is not innovation, but plain stupidity.
Imagine if you were in CD or DVD printing business in early 2000’s. You probably thought that you were a genius because disks were being phased out and large content files can only be distributed through these medium. Then boom.. internet speeds are like 10x’ing every year and even Netflix doesn’t do much volume in physical medium. If you closed your eyes and buried your head in the sand, telling yourself that your idea is STILL good.. are you still a genius?
If smart people are giving you objections, don’t just dismiss them as stupid. Take a hard look at your idea, but be flexible in your approach.
What about you?
Curious.. what other ideas or suggestions do you guys have for getting technical (or any) cofounder for your business idea? Write your thoughts in the comment box.
12 thoughts on “Why You Can’t Get a Technical Co-Founder”
Thanks for writing this! As a software developer we have a lot if skin in an idea. What the other side will bring is always important. I am pitched about 1 new idea a week but the other person only ever brings an idea never cash or other comitment to the project. If I knew that there were 30 or 50 clients waiting for the project and they were ready to pay 100 a month I could be a lot more motivated.
I learn from you Jeremy.. that to make this work I will offer them a piece of the company..
You must have learned a whole lot through your time building companies over the years. Thanks for sharing.
I love Shark Tank. I remember that episode distinctly. That lady is just dumb. She deserved to get shit on by all the sharks.
Great article Jeremy!
As someone who is technical and has built his businesses himself, I can relate to the part about building a proof of concept first.
Establish the concept and market and I find that funding will follow.
I think it is important to have a well rounded team of individuals with varying skills surrounding you when you’re getting started and as you grow your business so everyone can add to the ideas.
These tips are helpful. Thanks.
It’s funny some of the people who come on shark tank, another good show to check out that is very similar is Dragons Den
Solid post, Jeremy.
I always felt NextPimp should never have been sold. You sold the future. Just like Groupon you saw that there was a market and that will only grow.
Today NextPimp could have had a place for Mobile Apps & Games Developers from all over the world. You could have kept those at a 50% profit sharing basis.
You were good at programming, the site got millions of hits. Small programming can always be outsourced. You really needed no Technical Co-Founder. Total risk free – you would have got many apps. You just needed to check for their viability and that’s it.
You were innovative. You could have hired people to make some interesting apps and games. 100% profit there.
The site could have discounts coupon to buy mobiles. More money there.
You get the idea. Sky was the limit.
Again, Jeremy You Sold The Future!!!
As usual awesome post Jeremy, and by the way a big fan of Shark Tank as well.
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