Recruiting technical talent as a non-technical founder isn’t easy. But it’s not impossible either.
One of the first things a non-technical co-founder will do is go to Google search for a resource or guide.
They browse through countless articles.
Then realize that the advice is to go to networking events, try founder dating sites or ask friends. But rarely do things work.
It’s difficult. Most people don’t understand that you have to:
- Show value first.
- Recruit second.
I’m the (non-technical) Founder and CEO of Task Pigeon and here’s where my story starts.
Step One – Show Value
Nothing turns a developer off working with you faster than saying you have an “idea”.
You have to show value first.
You have to move beyond the idea stage and prove that your startup has potential.
To do this I took my idea, concept and wireframes and outsourced the design on Upwork. I built a landing page using WordPress and started to reach out to my network.
I used their feedback to refine the idea. To improve the messaging. And to tighten up my landing page.
Next, I expanded my reach. I messaged people I was connected with on Linkedin. And posted my startup to BetaList.
This got me over 90 subscribers.
And the insight I needed.
My hypothesis proved to be correct. There was no one size fits all approach to task management. And our name, branding, UI and UX was resonating with some people.
I had value. Not a lot. But enough. I could start step two.
Step Two – Recruit Technical Talent
Not everyone wants to work for a startup. Even those who have raised a Series A struggle to find technical talent.
That’s why you need a multi-channel approach.
As a non-technical founder you have five choices:
- Find a co-founder
- Hire an agency/outsource
- Bring on a contractor.
- Learn to code
- Give up (it was only a dream)
Option One: Recruit a Co-Founder
Recruiting a co-founder rarely works.
The best co-founder relationships are those that have stood the test of time. You can’t “recruit” a technical co-founder. All your goals need to be aligned. And that’s only something that comes naturally.
The best co-founder relationships are those that have stood the test of time.
Basically, you need to know a developer already. Or have worked with someone previously. It can work, but it takes time.
Option Two: Agencies or Outsourcing
Hire an agency or outsource. There’s plenty of debate on whether to hire in country or overseas.
I’m a big fan of Alex Turnbull from Groove HQ but he dropped $300k on an agency to get his startup built.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that kind of money!
That’s why most people look to outsource overseas. To India, Ukraine, Russia, etc.
The problem is it never actually gets built how you want. And, language is always a barrier.
But it can be an option for some.
And it was for me. I spoke to, interviewed and considered proposals from development agencies and freelancers. I was lucky as someone in my network even offered to help me out.
They went through the proposals and pointed things out. Cost was still a bit of an issue and if the scope needed to change the flexibility I needed wasn’t really there.
Plus, I didn’t feel as if I would have the level of control I needed over the process.
Option three: Recruit a Contractor
While engaging with freelancers and agencies I was also advertising for a contract developer.
This was always my preference. I wanted to find someone who I could work with now. And hopefully into the future.
I used AngelList to find talent. The proposals flowed in, but finding technical talent is always hard!
Resume after resume.
Interview after interview.
Often there wasn’t a fit.
It wasn’t until the last interview I held that I found what I was looking for. A developer with the right skill set, the right background. And more importantly the desire to work on an early stage startup.
That was a little over a month ago now and everything has been going great since then.
I have kept my designer on board from Upwork and coordinate across the “team”. Each day we are making progress and Task Pigeon will be built.
The beta is slated for release in January 2017.
Some Lessons Learnt
As a Founder it’s your job to get things done. Regardless of whether you have the skill set or not.
Don’t take your lack of skills as an excuse.
If you feel stuck? First look at all of your available options. Then work hard to recruit the right people.
Give preference to people that want to work long-term, not the short. Make sure you show gratitude and provide value as well.
Never forget that the buck stops with you. In the end I opted to be a solo founder. Yes, it can be harder to get going but don’t let that put you off. There are many examples of successful startups founder by solo founders.