One of my favorite interviews with TechStars co-founder David Cohen, is when he is being interviewed by a woman who’s asking great questions. They get into talking and Cohen says something to the effect of, “ya know that startup, that one where all these great ideas are listed and people can just buy them”, the interviewer plays into the question and Cohen says “me neither, because the startup hasn’t been made, ideas are worthless without execution”.
That same idea plays into a blog post written recently by Launch Memphis CEO and Co-President, Eric Mathews about a problem that he, and several other startup community leaders face every day, “Can you find me a technical co-founder”.
Mathews and his Launch Your City organization are responsible for running Emerge Memphis (the local incubator), Launch Memphis (startup initiatives including curriculum, support, and a free coworking space) and Seed Hatchery the cohort based Memphis accelerator.
With that wide range hats on Mathews and the other Launch Your City staff get the “can you find me a technical co-founder” question a lot. In his blog post he explains a much better way of securing technical talent.
Many people walk in our doors with ideas they believe will change the world and make them rich. The problem they invariably have is that they can’t build it. 95% of these potential founders have an idea for an mobile app or web app and they want the LaunchYourCity team to play matchmaker to a developer. These potential founders don’t realize that the developer probably has his own awesome ideas. Why would he switch from developing his ideas to developing yours? These potential founders will get no where fast with developers because they have ignored the obvious: a developer is your first investor.
Like all investments you need to earn the right to ask!
Here is the typical scenario. A non-technical founder approaches a potential technical co-founder with just an idea. These potential founders usually have very little skin in the game. They haven’t invested a ton of their own time, but expect a developer to contribute 100s of hours. They haven’t even dipped into their own funds to get something mocked up or designed. These potential founders have not invested energy into determining who the customer is, understanding their buying behaviors, or even determine if they would want the app and pay for it. The outcome is always the same. The developer says no and gets annoyed with wannabe entrepreneurs and gets turned off to the startup world.
This is a very bad outcome for our entire community. It could all be avoided.
Imagine going to a technical co-founder and saying the following:
“I have been working to validate an idea for a new app over the past couple of weeks. I didn’t know if this was a good idea so I talked to 50 customers and found out that not only was it good, but also determined what the minimum features would be to satisfy the customer. Because I wanted to continue to make progress, I taught myself to code a little bit.
“With a logo that I paid a local designer to polish up for me, I was able to get a one page website up and running articulating the features of the future app. I also was able to code the website to capture email addresses from future customers. I created a blog to talk about the industry and my perspective on the changes coming. I got a lot of feedback and interest from the blog — one post has been viewed 10,000 times and has 56 comments.