How to look for a technical co-founder?

Katrin Kaurov
21 replies
Hi everyone! My name is Katrin - co-founder of Frich, which is a social finance app for Gen Z, and a Harvard Master's student. Being a non-technical person myself, what would be the best way to find a technical co-founder who could build an app? I'd really appreciate your feedback and help!


Aaron O'Leary
That's a good question! I find Twitter to be the best for role networking. Putting out a tweet to field what the response is might be a good idea!
Ana Bibikova
Hi, Katrin. Have you tried the most obvious channels like CoFounders Lab or LinkedIn? The second most popular way is to reach out to a professional you think is descent enough via Fiverr or Upwork, hire this person to complete a small task and if you like the results discuss the possibility of work in exchange for equity. I myself have a profile on Fiverr and get these offers pretty often so I guess it's more or less common practice. Good luck with your search, anyway
Katrin Kaurov
@anab Thank you for your suggestion! I did try CoFounders and Linkedin but never thought of Fiverr before.
Gabriel Ruttner
I spun a company out of Cornell (CS). Assuming you're still a student, start taking some regular meetings with relevant comp sci professors and then ask directly for intros to their top performing grad students who have held technical jobs in the past.
Wojtek Czekalski
You won't find better advice here @katrin_kaurov1. There are few better places in the world to find a cofounder than Harvard. I'd even drop the "gard student" and "have held technical jobs" requirements. Find people who have something to show and who will get honestly excited about your vision.
Wojtek Czekalski
Here's a related twitter thread. Most important thing is evaluating whether they can deliver and push you to deliver (quickly). The rest can be learned!
Mohamed Mezian
I suppose you're looking for a CTO ? First of all, do you already have a tech stack and an existing infrastructure schema ? If not, then look for someone who already has extensive experience in startup environments - enough so that he could create it from scratch using best practices and modern techniques. If you do have it, I recommend first recruiting the potential CTO as a senior engineer during a test period to make sure he's the right fit before naming him CTO / Co-founder.
Stephan Louis
Hi Katrin. Immerse yourself in a community of technical people; genuinely. Understand them, try to work with, and befriend them. Once those connections are made, find like interests and see if any of those technical folks are compatible with you! I'd start with tech forums, having your current technical friends connect you, even working for a startup. Go meet them where they are.
I found co-founderlab to be a very useful platform. Although, it also depends on the skillset and location preference if you have any.
Akhil Varma
If you are looking for a cofounder then choose someone you know well and trust who is dedicated and passionate about the idea. The tech needed to build MVP's is short term and can be learnt but, You need someone you can trust when things go bad (and they will go bad).
Chris de Steuben
One of the best methods I've found is posting the job description on HackerNew's monthly "Who's Hiring" thread. I was a fairly technical solo founder and needed help with a niche application in the tech stack. I just created a post with our elevator pitch, #'s on early traction, and general stage of the business and was overwhelmed with emails. Of the submissions, I hired 2 extremely capable engineers, one of which who previously worked at a major competitor and the other with two previous SaaS exits. The best part is it didn't cost a dime, and my post was even upvoted to the top of the thread which massively helped with long-term visibility. You can see the post here (it's Not A Satellite Labs)
Brandon Kindred
Everyone here has some great suggestions, but I think your best bet is to leverage the fact that you're at Harvard, start local. Harvard and MIT both have a ton of aspiring entrepreneurs, as well as entrepreneur programs. You should be able to find Harvard's entrepreneur program fairly easily. Go ask the people that run the program if they know anyone that would be a great technical cofounder. Harvard also has a student run development shop, so maybe go talk to them about students that contribute. I would also go talk to the people at harvard innovation labs and ask them if they know anyone that might be interested in building your app and being your cofounder. Harvard has a huge support network for this kind of thing, so I would start there.
Joel Loyol
I recommend using a no code solution. I personally used Bubble to to make my product Being able to build the product yourself will it make it much easier to iterate and get the product to be exactly what you want it to be.
Merrill Hefdy
There are quite a few websites out there to put in touch people with ideas and people with dev skills. Some of them are listed on PH as well like Find A Maker where I found my last cofounder. But to be honest I really think PH would be the best place to help for this! We have this great community of makers and people with different skills and ideas at the same place, that would be perfect. A while ago I begged @rrhoover to implement it but I don't think it's on the way... maybe one day!
Jim Zhou
Here's a contrarian view: Don't go straight for people in your cohort. Harvard and indeed all Ivies have great programs that produce great engineers, but to rephrase the old joke, "what do you call the guy who graduated last place at law school and scored just enough on the bar to pass? Lawyer." Institutions have, by their nature, and even when they try to encourage outside of the box thinking, have, as a matter of how institutions define themselves, certain ways of treating problems. That might be helpful for you in some cases, but no it's not at all clear that it would necessarily help you get ahead of the pack. This goes for even fields that are different than the one you're in. Someone coming out of George Mason will be influenced by the school's way of going about things than Amherst College even if they're studying the same thing. If you are comfortable with that, perhaps because of the risks involved and the everlasting problem of judging competency in the run long, then maybe sticking to what you know probably is a safer bet for you, but if you are looking for not just an engineering but a co-founder who presumably would have some decisionmaking role and equity and would be involved on a philosophical level as to how your startup runs, maybe look outside of the box. Having a college educated background or advanced degree at a non-Ivy isn't really necessarily mean someone is in your cohort nowadays, and there are many who are self-taught but have degrees in unrelated or tangentially relevant fields or even have came up with innovative solutions through their different perspective. I don't know your situation at all but it's not hard to imagine that you may want a co-founder who operates in a mode like that. It's a lot to gauge and no silver bullet, but it should all be considered. A personal example (note: not looking to cofound or get a job or anything, just a easy reference), I have BA in History and a JD and was working as a Public Defender when, prior to the 2016 elections (in 2012, actually), working a state 1st degree murder case where the evidence is ambiguous but partly caught on video - which was also ambiguous - and without programming knowledge beyond shell scripts at best and some DOS batch files from the 1990s, I wrote a rudimentary Python based scraper that imported data of every juror who received a summons in an all-nighter, tabulated, just to be able to weed out the most obvious jurors who are going to be unsympathetic in a blatant way towards our client, who's a minority in an overwhelmingly white small county with, many with family ties to the police in the case, and in an area of the country where white supremacist scandals were popping up long before the current bout. Excel is not a great platform for really doing this, but hell, my supervising attorney understood it, the paralegals understood it, and the prosecutor understood it. Using that we exercised peremptory challenges aggressively to ensure that a juror's social media posts and affiliations became integral parts of how we made the decision, while the prosecution went after race. We hung the jury (refusing to take a 2 year plea he was retried in my absence and convicted to 35 years a few years later). The point is: tech skills are easier learned than many people think, or at least can be helped by more junior or more specialized staffers, but a technical co-founder surely isn't just making a decision on what tech to use but how to leverage tech we have, fill in the gaps, and use unexpected ways to implement those to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve. I think what I did was a true hackathon-like thing that's not really indicative of my actual skillset (although I truly believe that amidst the hubhub social media can be leveraged to bring much greater freedom, justice, and individual agency to the people, particularly the marginalized, and so it's both a tightrope and a very narrow and incongruous skillset that I'd need to have anway). Look at the work, not just the talk. Look on github, look on unexpected places. Again, technical skills are important, but they can be learned and in relatively short timespans. Whether they are willing, able, and dedicated to go there to truly create end-products that can achieve what you want to achieve, that is way harder to find and may very well be found outside of the hallowed halls and in smaller places, state schools, even liberal arts schools, among freelancers, etc. Look broadly.
Mr Ethar Alali
@jim_zhou Hey. I noticed your comment was hidden. I put a large comment together and that was hidden too, so I've deleted it and put it on a different platform. It seems the more detailed answers, which in this topic are needed, are just being hidden atm. I just wanted to let you know. Something has gone awry in the PH algo it seems :-D
Jim Zhou
@jim_zhou @ethar_alali Cheers buddy. I suspect that they might have a hardcoded post length filter or something since this isn't selling anything, I have no blog, and none of the rules posted seem to cover it. I feel, however, reposting these comments, particularly oens that I actually wroite on the spot, might actually trigger a ToS violation for posting blog posts (being a lawyer, even a non-practicing one, meant that I read the ToS ahead of time, heh), and I've written enough bad code that I thouight was briliant code so that I'd give them the benefit of the doubt. Likely there's just a straight up character limit filter that's hardcoded in their algo which will likely always miss edge cases. @rrhoover any comment? Cheers
Mr Ethar Alali
@jim_zhou @ethar_alali @rrhoover I raised it with PH yesterday and the explanation was basically a length filter. It's regarded as spam, until they manually check it. My reading of the T&C's is our posts & comments are our own and if we delete it from PH and place it elsewhere, that's our prerogative (which we have the right to in the EU anyway, as otherwise it's a GDPR, right-to-be-forgotten violation. More than IPR).
Jim Zhou
@jim_zhou @ethar_alali @rrhoover Ah, things are a bit different here in the states in terms of laws and I can only interpret it in the American framework, not that I wouldn't get to delete it and post it elsewhere but not necessarily to keep it in both places. In any case it's not a huge deal, once it gets past the spam filtering there's a far bigger audience on here than any blog or whatever I write I think, so, as long as someone's reading it, I'm fine. Thanks for checking it out wtih them though, nice to get a confirmation as to how they're operating in terms of the policies they outlined under the hood.
MJ Zuppe
@katrin_kaurov1, A position I'm surprised I haven't seen mentioned: Skip the CTO entirely for now. If your current need is to build an MVP and you don't have a technical network of people, then focus on a no-code proof-of-concept (even if it's only part of your app idea) using Bubble or Webflow as @joel_loyol1 mentioned. If you absolutely need custom development, save up or raise a small amount of money to have a team or dev shop build it for you. Keep the CTO role open for when you later identify that ONE exceptional person you trust whom you're willing have such a business partnership with.