How to convince a technical co-founder to join your startup

Have an amazing idea for a new technology startup? Ready to build “the next Uber or Airbnb”? Or even just have a simple new idea that you need a “tech guy” to work on?

Here are a few tips on getting started.

First, understand the talent market landscape and what you’re up against. There are plenty of entrepreneurs constantly starting new businesses. But we have a shortage of good tech talent, most of whom work at large banks or well-funded companies. Finding the right person is tough. Convincing them to join you is tougher.

So who am I?

Some of the founders I’ve spoken with were more convincing than others, and if I wasn’t already working on MyPropty, I may be working with them right now. Here are some examples of how to increase your chances of closing your tech co-founder.

Break down your pitch into two sections:

And make sure to appeal to our logic and reasoning instead of making illogical emotional statements.

1. Idea

Photo by Júnior Ferreira on Unsplash

When pitching your idea, make it seem like more than something you just thought of in the shower this morning. Do some personal validation of your idea and share your results with them. Ideas are cheap. Your ability to execute is key.

DON’T: I have this amazing idea that will completely change the F&B industry.

DO: In the F&B industry, restaurants on average employ 10 staff, with an average salary of $10,000. There are 50,000 restaurants in Hong Kong. 20% of this work can be automated.

EVEN BETTER (1): I have spoken to 20 restaurants and here’s a summary of my conversations with them.

EVEN BETTER (2): I have built a website on Wix / Squarespace / Wordpress, and 2 restaurants have signed up.

EVEN BETTER (3): I have 2 people that own restaurants that have each paid a $1000 deposit.

Here’s another business example:

DON’T: I want to build “Rent the runway for Watches in Hong Kong” and it will change the luxury watch industry here.

DO: The average cost of a high-grade men’s watch in Hong Kong is $50,000. In Hong Kong, people attend on average 4 social events a month.

EVEN BETTER: I have already rented my own watch for $1,000/night 3 times to a few of my friends over the last month.

99% of technical people will not be able to execute your business idea (or simply won’t want to). Being open and transparent with them will allow you to receive some critical feedback, and might convince them to join you and help you execute it. Showing them that you can deliver results, regardless of how small, will go a long way.

2. Team

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Be a nice person to work with. This seems obvious, but most people don’t seem to understand how difficult it is for us to understand a completely new industry. On top of that, building a product for an industry that we’re clueless about? Out of the question.

Help, guide, and discuss with your technical partner regularly. Being a team player early on will give you huge benefits in the long term. Large corporations have multiple teams:

Product management coordinates between BD/Sales & Engineering. At an early stage, your “Engineering” team doesn’t have any clue about business requirements or even the market norms. You’ll have to do a lot of handholding in the beginning. But if you’re lucky to find a good tech lead, they’ll quickly understand it and be able to take over that role.

DON’T: I just need a tech guy to implement my idea

DO: We will need a login page with Facebook & Google login, we will need a page like “Screenshot of Craigslist/Carousell listing page”, and a report like “Screenshot of Google Analytics”. What do you think? Would that work?

EVEN BETTER: Here are some mock-ups/visuals I’ve made on what I think the user journey should look like. Could you take a look and let me know what you think?

When I started MyPropty, I used hand drawings on pieces of paper, random shapes in Powerpoint or Keynote, and Balsamiq for my mock-ups to visualize and understand the solution better. One business founder told me he used Excel and colored in different cells to convey his vision. If you can’t figure out a way to create the first version of your designs, stop trying to build a tech product. Show them that you’re ready to work with them, not that you just need them to finish their tasks.

DON’T: Once you finish the product/feature X & Y, I’ll go and get people to sign up.

DO: Can you give me 5 non-functional screenshots so that I can try to get some pre-sign ups to the platform?

EVEN BETTER: I made a landing page on Wix/Squarespace/Wordpress and I’m putting out a few Facebook ads to get a few sign-ups. What are your thoughts?

The more direction you can provide to a technical person to build a product, the faster it will take them to build it. An extremely well-defined feature that clients are actively providing feedback can take me a few days to build and iterate on. A vaguely defined feature that no clients will be using may take a month to build. Software engineers have to make a lot of assumptions about how the app will be used and the more well-defined the problem sets are, the simpler it is to build. As a business person, you can significantly speed up the tech person’s ability to build the product, and not make it seem like all their work will be an utter waste of their time.

By taking some of these additional steps for your pitch, you’ll be able to show your potential tech co-founder that:

More often than not, you will have a terrible idea or do an awful job with your prototypes. That’s how every good business starts. As a technical person, we don’t necessarily understand business and usually won’t realize it’s a terrible idea anyway, but we’d appreciate your effort and resourcefulness. We’ll ask you more questions. We’ll tell you what we like and what we don’t. And as natural problem-solvers, we’ll want to figure out how to solve this one with you too.

Vishalsai Daswani is CEO & Founder of MyPropty, a property management platform helping landlords and property managers in Hong Kong boost their portfolio returns by digitizing their property management processes.

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