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In society, there are very few people inclined to entrepreneurship and risk: only 0.33% of people become entrepreneurs every year. And there are even fewer of these risk-takers among developers. Normally, a person inclined towards entrepreneurship will not spend their life in IT, and when he or she becomes a developer, they very quickly move into top management or leave to work on their own ideas.
Therefore, the probability of encountering a risk-taking IT developer is very small. And that’s why they can be so difficult to put on.
Before proposing a project to an IT engineer, you must first understand what their motivation is, what they are striving for and what is important to them.
1. Understand the psychology of good IT developers
The situation is that the market is full of companies paying $200,000 or more for relatively easy work. In most cases, this salary is not only enough to cover all the basic needs of the programmer. At the same time, people who become IT developers are rarely greedy. That said, their main motivation is usually not money. They have no strong desire to move mountains for the sake of imaginary millions.
When an entrepreneur (first-time founder), risk-tolerant and hungry for the big bucks, is looking for a developer (ideally second-time founder) who doesn’t like risks and has already met all their needs, this can lead to misunderstandings. They just don’t appreciate each other’s goals. These differing worldviews could help build a robust business, but first they must align.
The entrepreneur will probably think that he has found some kind of lazybones. you think I offered him a way to make millions if he puts in the effort! But he refuses and decides to work for a mere hundred of thousands! And the developer will probably think that the entrepreneur is just another rascal who wants to do his job for free when normal people usually spend six-digit numbers. Understanding this difference in perspective is important for a successful interaction.
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2. The right approach
Most experienced engineers with advanced soft skills can make good co-founders – when they see it makes sense for them to leave their comfortable job to try to develop your idea. This means that they must understand that even if the project fails, they will receive some benefit for themselves. For example, an impressive paragraph on a resume or mastering a new promising technology.
To achieve this, the project must meet one of these conditions:
Working on a project should resemble a hackathon, not hard monotonous work. Short fight – and potentially big wins. For example, you might say that you plan to work on a demo for four days, show it to investors, get $100,000, and go to Startup Accelerator. Then, a month after the makeover, you plan for your startup to receive a multi-million estimate, and on demo day you close the seed round for $500,000. This represents huge potential gains considering the developer only had to devote four full days to a demo.
Your project can look good on a tech co-founder’s resume, so they might be able to find a better-paying job. For example, you might want to develop an application on a stack that you want to study but can’t in your current position. Think of things like machine learning, neural networks, and blockchain.
The developer likes the idea, it can make the world a better place and the developer is very motivated to bring it to life.
Ideally, of course, all three of these conditions are met.
3. How to set up a project
If you can’t test hypotheses, find clients, reach investors, and sell and promote, then you’re useless as a co-founder in a technology project. You won’t find a good tech lead willing to work with you.
Therefore, when communicating with a developer, you should already have the answers to all the basic questions:
What indications are there that the future product will be in demand?
How will we promote the product?
What is the unit economics of the product?
Where’s the money?
How Much Can You Earn?
What is the minimum effort you need to invest to get the result in the near future?
Where can we find investments?
Where will we look for customers?
What are our competitive advantages?
If these questions don’t have the answers, you don’t need a co-founder, you need an online course in marketing and sales, and then several years of hiring practice to hone your skills.
Show that a minimum of technical effort is required and that most of the uncertainties have been resolved. Show that the developer has practically nothing to risk and some people are waiting for a technical prototype and are willing to pay.
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4. Real examples of pitches to the co-founder
There are only a few minutes left before the pitch has piqued her interest. Here are two real examples that I’ve come across that I’ve been approached with as far as I can remember. In short, this is how you should present your idea and not.
Poorly: I have an idea for a social network for art lovers. We will make a prototype, show it to investors (which I don’t know yet, but I think someone will be interested, now they give investments for everything). We get money, at least $200,000, then promotion is not a problem. We will buy advertising online and hire a marketer. The idea is popular, all my friends said they would use it.
Good: I do CRM for construction workers, I’ve been in the construction industry for 10 years. I know many managers of large construction companies, I have already agreed on the pilot project with three companies, one of which has already made a small advance. I’ve already communicated with interested funders and a startup accelerator, and a designer I know has brought a basic design to four screens, I need the help of a good developer to implement a simple technical prototype. If the prototype is successful, we can open a new $12 billion market.
5. Where to look for experienced and risk-tolerant developers
Hackathons / online competitions – There are many active and intelligent people who love and know how to make technical prototypes in a short time and they can already have well established teams.
HackerRank/Codility/Qualified/CodersRank – These websites rate developers and build a community around them. Obviously you need someone who isn’t at the bottom of the points list.
Meetings and Conferences – Many developers who want to take the next step in their career go to these.
Outstaffing of websites – There are companies like Smartbrain.io, whose core business is to employ only the best developers (Seniors, Tech Leads and Tech Executives). Get in touch with someone who works in your desired field or simply hire one to get started.
Chat Rooms on Telegram/Slack – There are many of them, including those where developers discuss their favorite projects. Having a favorite project is a good indicator that a person can be a co-founder.
GitHub – Developers who make their libraries available to the public are also great co-founders if they get a decent offer.
Ycombinator Startup School – This startup community from the Ycombinator accelerator also has one service to find a co-founder.
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