(Not) Hiring a Technical Cofounder

I was at a Cofounder event earlier this week.

At the beginning of the evening, participants were asked to raise their hands if they were;

a) a business expert looking for a technical co-founder
b) a technical expert looking to join up with a business co-founder

No surprises that there was a ratio of 4:1 with tech experts in the minority.

Talking with a couple of people that evening I shared an alternative solution.

Find a senior technical advisor

I know startup founders who first found a really experienced CTO to help them as an adviser.

The experienced CTO helped the startup on part-time basis, in their spare time, for sweat equity (unpaid, but a small shareholding, say 5% vested based on pre-agreed milestones).

It works well for the CTO. They have the stability of a full-time job but they can do exciting work on the side for a startup (without quitting their livelihood).

It can work well for the startup as well. The CTO can advise on tech stack, specifications of the product, architecture, security, hire and mentor developers. The founder then need only hire a mid-range (and mid-cost) developer - or could even work with an agency to get things started. The advisory CTO can also be a general mentor and connect the founder with useful contacts.

Later, if the startup does well, raises sufficient funding, the founder can then hire the CTO into the business (if they are a good fit), with each person knowing the other a lot better and knowing the challenges to overcome. Alternatively they can help hire a full time CTO.

As stated in my previous post, The Single Founder Hypothesis, I believe the first thing an entrepreneur needs to do is to validate their business model, not neccessarily find a cofounder.

There are different ways to get started; finding a cofounder is a tried and tested route, finding a tech advisor is another.

At Forward Partners, we offer a third way.

We think of ourselves as a surrogate cofounder to entrepreneurs. By partnering with talented single founders, we can help validate a business model quickly so that the entrepreneur can start to hire their team from a position of strength.

Business oreientated single founders do have choices. Finding a technical cofounder is one option, it's not the only choice.

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