When starting a tech startup, it’s not uncommon for non-technical founders who can handle the business side to run into problems looking for a technical cofounder to help bring their amazing idea to life. On the flip side, at there are plenty of talented developers out there that want to build a startup but don’t have the business skills in order to sell or market a product. Cases like these aren’t uncommon, yet few people talk about how programming-oriented founders can find business-oriented founders. With that said, we’ve made this guide to help developers find the right non-technical cofounder for their startup.
Since any person who doesn’t program qualifies as “non-technical”, it’s important to be clear on exactly what skill set you’re looking for in a founder and choose your partner wisely. Startups can take a decade to exit– some people even compare a cofounder relationship to a marriage! Follow some of these next steps to find the right business-oriented cofounder and you’ll be on your way to building the next thriving startup.
First Off, Do You Need a Cofounder?
The best answer is “it depends”. This is an important decision for you to make, but we have some points that may make the decision a little easier. When working on a startup, you need someone to build the product and then need someone to sell/market it. Although many developers may not have a sales background, if you think you’re able to sell the product on your own, you may not need a non-technical cofounder. Not sure if you can sell it? Would you rather focus on the product? Either get really good at sales quickly, or bring someone else on board.
Do note, sometimes having a partner to weather the storm with is the difference between the life and death of a startup. Starting a startup is hard, but having someone by your side to celebrate the highs and brace the lows with is an important asset in the long-run.
Okay, you’ve decided that you want to find a co-founder. Where do you find them and what do you look for in them?
Where to Find a Non-Technical Cofounder
Often times, the best cofounders come from people you already know. So look at your network and make a list of people who you admire as business leaders. Maybe they built a big brand for themselves or they have already built a startup once. Regardless, you should find someone that has sales experience and ideally, experience building a company from scratch.
There are also websites that help you find cofounder such as Cofounders Lab. Even with sites like that, we still suggest you find your partner through your current network.
You will come across people that say “they will handle the business end”, but actually have no idea what that means. There are a large percentage of people who think that may be qualified to help run a startup but are not. A great way to find out if someone is qualified is ask what sales experience they have. Great nontechnical cofounders are great salespeople. If your network happens to be limited, ask for referrals to other business people that your network trusts. That’s a great start for meeting more potential cofounders.
Additional Qualities to Look For
Great With People
If you’re responsible for building the product, you are looking for someone who is responsible for getting the word out about it. To do this, they need to be great with people and should be able to hold a conversation with a user, prospect, or investor any time of the day. If you see any sign that your potential cofounder isn’t great with people, rethink your decision before it’s too late!
The person you choose needs to be best founder you can find– don’t settle. Your founder needs to have assets that the others don’t have. One of these assets is having a large network. People with large networks mean that could be just an email intro away from a new customer or an investor meet and greet. Additionally, when you launch, people will know. Having a cofounder with a large network is especially valuable if you don’t already have one.
Ideally, the person you bring on is slightly technical. Why? If you bring them on, they will likely be talking to a lot of people about your product. They’ll be doing user interviews and sales calls fairly often. Knowing the basics of how the product works or the technology in it will go a long way with earning respect of future employees and investors. You’ll also be communicating with that cofounder fairly often, and you don’t want to feel like you’re speaking two completely different languages. Communication is key in any team.
In a nutshell, make sure to bring someone on who you would trust to get the word out about the product you build. Just look for someone who has a track record of sales, someone who is great with people, and someone who knows enough programming to talk shop. Lastly, make sure you enjoy spending time with them too. As mentioned, this is a marriage. Hopefully, it ends up in a happy ending. Best of luck!