So many people have startup ideas that involve using the Internet – there are countless aspiring entrepreneurs looking to make an idea happen. All they need is to find ‘someone to code’ for them.
The problem is that this kind of ‘someone’ is often all but impossible to find – if they’re good, they’re in high demand and expensive; if they’re available and inexpensive, they’re often not at the level you need in terms of technical sophistication.
If you genuinely want to build a tech startup, there are three things to understand about finding a developer or technical cofounder:
1. You need them more than they need you.
Louis Sayers is a Growth Hacker at Forward Labs, where he works across numerous startups to improve user acquisition, retention and value. He says:
Having been to many startup events and having organised one myself, I can tell you this. There is no shortage of demand for developers. The only problem is that finding a developer in this landscape is hard – and finding a decent developer is even harder! It’s basic supply and demand.
The other problem is our frame of mind when thinking about this stuff. We talk about developers as if they’re a commodity that we purchase from the local corner shop (except we often want them for free…) and this is just plain wrong. Developers are mostly really smart people that have their own dreams and desires, their own side projects, and no spare capacity to make your dream come true.
The problem with pitching your idea to a developer is that they’ve heard it before. Maybe not your exact pitch, but they’ve most likely been approached by a number of people that have this “awesome idea”, and they “just need a developer”.
2. With or without them, you’re still going to need to know the basics of code.
One of Escape the City’s founders, Dom Jackman, added that if you want to build a web or tech startup, it is imperative to learn to code yourself:
If you have a computer and coding skills, creating an online startup these days is virtually free. Non-technical folk have to find someone else to do it for them and developers are not cheap. Freelancers range anywhere from £20/hr to £50/hr for a good one and take my word, good ones are worth x10 mediocre ones.
As with any new business, revenue in an online startup comes after you’ve built your product. This makes bootstrapping your business hard. So, if you’re not going to build your platform yourself, where do you get the money to pay someone else to do it?
This is tricky. Sources of cash include self-funding via savings / friends and family / external investment. All of which are a headache and in an ideal world you want to avoid. My recommendation? Build v1 yourself!
3. Build it yourself or work full-time with top-quality developers.
Another of Escape the City’s founders, Rob Symington, heard the “I need a tech co-founder” question so often that he details in this essay how to get around “the early-stage cycle of doom.”
To aspiring web/tech entrepreneurs, he says:
You’ve probably considered one of the following:
- finding a student developer to code your first version for free (good luck!),
- finding a technical co-founder to join you (desirable but very hard),
- outsourcing the build to India (doable but incredibly frustrating and risky).
You may think that you can just pay a web development agency or a freelancer to build you your website and then you’ll be done. And you can, up to a point.
The problem is that you’re going to need hundreds of shots at getting your platform right, not just a one-time purchase. If you take this route (outsourcing your core product), be prepared to be the owner of a platform that does about 10% of what you now know you need it to do (once you’ve used it a bit) and the payer of expensive fees for tweaks / changes.
He argues that the two best ways to build your product are to build it yourself, or to work full-time with top quality developers who are bought into your vision.
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