On Finding Technical Co-Founders
Having listened to business students bemoaning their inability to find technical co-founders for the last two years I’ve decided to echo Jason Freedman’s sentiments from his post on the co-founder issue: co-founders are something you earn, not find.
If you start the timer when I started my graduate education at UPenn, which was more the start of “I have no day job, oh crap this is real” than my entrepreneurial endeavors, I have been looking for the right co-founders for 27 months. This span includes an epic fail of a partnership at another startup and an attempt all on my own. Both of these were fantastic learning experiences. At my previous startup, one partner and I realized we were not right for each other and the third realized he wasn’t really an entrepreneur. During this time I also discovered I am not the rare breed of entrepreneur who can fly solo.
I also spent this time drifting in and out of tech community events in Philadelphia. As if back on the prowl, I always kept one eye and ear scanning for “the right one”.
This spring, I lucked out and won a last minute ticket to Startup Weekend. It was during this event that I pitched CloudMine. It was selected as a team, but no mobile developers were left to join the team. While mingling with other teams, I chatted with a “taken” mobile developer, Marc. When we discussed the CloudMine idea, he “loved it, lets talk Monday.” This was like meeting my future spouse at a speed dating event, without actually sitting at their table.
Perhaps it was more like a group date. I had a chance to see Marc in his natural environment coding away like a maniac for 52 hours, full of energy and clearly a [insert overused metaphor for rockstar here]. Marc also saw me dress far nicer than I usually dress. He also saw the awesome business results our team made during the same 52 hours.
Initial screening: passed.
The second and third dates were getting sushi and talking about our idea. Marc broke the news that he was seeing other companies and couldn’t commit to CloudMine…yet. My heart sunk. I spent the next month nervously wondering whether Marc would get stolen away by another local startup as he desperately tried to leave his job at Big Corporate™. I would like to take a second to thank Big Corporate™, because they tried their best to salvage the relationship. This made him ease off the job hunt which was all the time I needed to get into DreamIT and seal the deal with our letter of acceptance. Before I knew it, Marc was saying “us” instead of “you” and the job hunt was off. We were exclusive.
Shortly after, still during the honeymoon phase, I attended a Philly Startup Leaders monthly happy hour, an event that I had missed for the past seven months. Enter the third musketeer, Ilya. Both of us were tired from schmoozing and our interaction went along the lines of: “Hi, I’m a Dev.” “Hi, I’m a Suit.” “Whats your idea?” “CloudMine.” “Wow, I’ve been thinking about something similar already, lets talk more.” Throw in a few more months and some minor persuasion tactics on my part, and Ilya was in.
To those complaining about finding technical co-founders, I have the following advice: complaining is not going to get you anywhere. Instead, embrace your entrepreneurial nature and do something about it. Yes, technical talent is hard to find but it’s out there. Go out to events, talk to people, and best yet — sign up for your local Startup Weekend and see how you work with some of these folks.