How to find a cofounder is probably the most asked question at MTL NewTech. Over the years, we’ve assisted many entrepreneurs, either through the speeding dating cofounders event, or just through informal meetings and coffees. In the spirit of sharing and helping as many entrepreneurs as possible, we’ve laid down this guide, both for technical and non-technical entrepreneurs.
First, what’s clear is that programmers are more sought-after than business types. Just in Québec, it’s estimated that the province needs an additional 7000 programmers every month, and there are many companies like Morgan Stanley offering substantial salaries to talented programmers. For every 10 business entrepreneurs looking for a technical cofounder, there might just be 2 technical programmers who are looking. The competition means you have to go out of the way to make sure you find a good co-founder.
Finding a technical co-founder
The most efficient way to meet a technical co-founder is to go to technical events, such as Montreal Python, Montreal.rb, JS-Montréal etc. That’s where the most dedicated programmers go. Pick any week in Montréal and you will find at least 2 to 4 technical events. (see the comprehensive list of Montreal tech events for reference)
Most entrepreneurs don’t have the technical background and would feel out of place in those events, but they are friendly, open, and if you have a curious, enthusiastic and open attitude, it’s fairly easy to meet programmers and know who’s doing what.
Now how do you estimate who would be the best fit? Obviously, cofounders will go through a difficult, if not impossible, adventure, and it’s essential to be with people your personality match with. If there is no “click”, someone will bail out the of venture at the sign of first difficulty. So make sure you can be a good partner with the person.
Another criteria is the technical expertise of the person. Startups are difficult, and as such, you would want to pair up with someone who’s got a track record. From the most important to the less important, here are a few clues that might show a good fit:
- The programmer has released recently a new library or programming framework, that has been acclaimed by its peers
- The programmer has released recently a mobile or a web app, with a few notable features
- The programmer has a technical blog where he blogs frequently about new algorithms, new projects, or discuss new research
- The programmer has won programming competitions or hackathons.
- The programmer has presented new work at a technical event (so write down who’s speaking at a local dev event)
- The programmer has a github account and commits to several open source projects
Bonus point if the programmer has worked on a project that is similar or parallel to the one you have in mind.
The next point is how do you get a programmer to join you? Programmers are mainly motivated by technical challenges, by the impact of the project, if they are going to be acclaimed by their peers if they released the project, by the coolness factor of the project. Of course, they also take into account the business solidity of your project. This is where you need to work on a pitch to best present your idea and what you are doing. A very good pitch would be : “I am planning to reach out 100,000 users, process 10 million transactions daily, and by doing so, will save the earth.”. Of course your pitch will be different but you get the idea :D Other smart entrepreneurs bring with them an iPad air with screenshots, mockups, showcase a prototype, which demonstrate that there’s already significant work already done and the programmer can just jump on board.
If you are lucky enough, there’s a hackathon or a startup weekend coming in a few weeks, and you can propose that you pair up to work on a minimal functional version of the project. The goal is to see if you can work in a relatively stressful environment with the potential CTO, if the person can deliver, and on your side, you need to demonstrate that you can get business and user interest for the project that has been developed. If there’s an interested partner, a few hundreds people signing up, maybe a meeting with an investor, then those are signs that you should go full speed ahead.
Finding a business co-founder
If you are technical, I assume you already have your own project and you want to develop it; not just work on someone’s project, in which case finding a cofounder is trivial.
Projects by technical co-founders are rare but they are often the best. Such is the case of Facebook or Google, with Mark Zuckerberg or Larry/Sergei being the sole programmers of the operation at the beginning. What’s hard is finding a good business person to join in, or convincing a business person that their project sucks and yours has more potential.
The most efficient way to find a business co-founder is to have your website (or mobile app) already out there, perhaps with the beta version tag. It should be a bare-bones app, with just the basic functionality offered to users. This should be enough for a smart business cofounder to see the potential in the app and pair up with you.
On the business side, the best events to go would be MTL NewTech (which currently runs a cofounders initiative), Startup Drinks Montréal, Startup Breakfast Club etc. In the same manner as, you can also estimate who would be the best by judging:
- The business person has entrepreneurial success in the past. It doesn’t have to be a tech venture and can just be a simple ecommerce store, but having one successful experience proves the person knows how to attract customers and sell.
- The business person has assets (money, network of contacts, partnerships etc.) that can be incorporated in the business.
- The business person is fairly apt at generating interest on an event, topic, or venture. Put a landing page somewhere and he/she can drive hundreds of eyes there. The person tweets, and then it seems he’s retweeted by dozens of other people. The more examples, the better.
- The business person has a popular blog, attracting thousands, if not millions of readers. This proves one thing : the person can write, which is good for taglines and copy for the venture, but is also a great communicator that can attract crowds. A popular Youtube channel is also interesting although it’s more rare.
- The business person is giving business workshops (marketing, funding, PR etc.) or giving talks on the topic
Of course, the same note applies here : make sure that you partner with someone you can work with! Personality matters. Going to a startupweekend and working on a common project could be a first great step.
If you have any comments or questions, feel free to contact us at demo _at_ mtlnewtech.com !