If you’re a non-technical entrepreneur in Silicon Valley that’s out of college now, it can be tough to find a technical cofounder. But it’s not hopeless. While it might be easier to find a cofounder in college, there are some ways you can increase your chances post-college as well. Here’s how.
- Work for a company that is known to have great engineers. Be a great product manager, marketer, or whatever your role is, and foster deep connections there. When I say deep, I don’t mean going around broadcasting that you’re looking a technical cofounder. I mean finding like-minded people and fostering geniune friendships. Or, at least, solid & respectful working relationships. Also, do a kick-ass job in your role. If you’re known as a sharp individual, others will more likely want to follow you.
I was lucky enough to have worked for Yahoo! (YHOO) in its second act. The dot-com bubble had just popped and amazing talent was all over the market. I was able to hire phenomenal software engineers and grow a strong team culture. Many of us have said we’d love to work with one another again. Although most aren’t in a place to be startup cofounders for financial reasons, I now have access to a large talent pool once I can offer a salary. With all the funded startups that are unable to hire, that’s a huge ace up my sleeve. And for the engineers that did want to become startup cofounders – we all did.
This is a relatively slow method, however, depending on how quickly you can connect with someone. But such a connection can be long-lasting and meaningful.
- Learn to write code yourself. Then go to hacker events and developer meetups. Or even contribute to an open source project. The development community is a friendly one (for the most part) and you’ll often find many people eager to help you out. You can earn the trust of other developers fairly easily if they see you willing to do this. Also, you’ll be able to speak their language.
This can be a difficult journey for some. You may have almost no interest or little patience in programming. That lack of motivation can make this method fairly time-consuming. But if you’re able to hack it (no pun intended), there are a ton of free resources out there for you. From Codecademy and Try Ruby, to free programming books and free online courses. If those don’t work, pay for a programming course at a local college or workshop. Sometimes having a human being who can answer your questions can help.
- Be an inspirational champion for an cause. This works if your passion and business idea is not just by pure profits or trends, but by serving the community and the world in a greater way. Get yourself involved in various organizations & volunteer groups and be a recognized leader. Build up your personal brand both offline and online. I know of one charismatic individual who’s done this on Quora, Twitter, and through various guest blog articles. He doesn’t have a technical background, but you can just feel an aura of eventual success around him.
If you’re not an extrovert, you may find this option somewhat of a struggle. Building your reputation online might be easier in that case. But to really attract good people, you’ve got to go to various meetups and events as well. Build your networking skills, not in a swarmy way, but in a geniune way. Take Toastmasters classes if you need public speaking help. Offer free help & advice to others; sometimes you’ll find that kind of generosity come back to you.
The common denominator of all these tactics is building meaningful relationships with others through proof of your abilities and talents. I’ll trust you more if I’ve worked along side you, seen you try to write a web app yourself, or know you to be an inspirational leader in your field.
What do you think?
Photo by: oFace Killah