Bookmark: Why you won’t find a technical co-founder …

As a technical co-founder, this is a great reality check.


Why you won't find a technical co-founder

You probably will not find a technical co-founder online by using one of the many co-founder matching tools.
You may also not want to.

I’ve tried working in the normal “co-founder for equity” set ups. I’ve been working as a freelancer and contractor for years.
At the moment I am focusing my efforts on building MVPs. After talking to founders on both sides of the “equity-hire” spectrum I have some thoughts.

This is exclusively from the perspective of searching out a person you don’t know online, for the sole purpose of founding a company.
This is not talking about starting a business with you friend joey from work, who you’ve been working with for 3 years.

Requirements for a tech co-founder

One of the biggest reasons you will absolutely not find anyone is the high standards non technical founders expect.
You are looking for someone who

  • has a high level of IC (Individual Contributor) abilities.
    Backend, frontend, hosting, AI, probably design too.
  • has a high level of leadership abilities.
    Your idea is definitely gonna pop off, so you don’t just need a code monkey, but someone able to lead and inspire 5-20 developer teams.
  • Shares your vision / is passionate about the domain.
    The tech co-founder just really has be into gardening. And development. And AI. And Leadership. And entrepreneurship. And construction site safety. And social media for dogs.
  • is available within 0-2 months.
  • works completely for free.
  • Same vibe, same age range.
    Co-founding is a marriage right? You also have to hit it off personally. After 2 meetings.
  • Commitment to YOUR idea for at least a couple of months.
    Probably years. After 2 meetings.

This is a absolutely ridiculous list of requirements. That person does not exist. If they do, why would they work with you?
People like that have alternatives. People like that aren’t immediately available. People like that do not gamble 3 months of their professional life on you after 2 meetings.
You’re not gonna entice anyone with even a fraction of those abilities with a “potential EXIST stipend” with a banging 2.000€ a month, before taxes.

The “instant availability” and the “for free” part are crazy multipliers.
There are a good amount of people with high IC abilities and good enough leadership abilities, but they got jobs and aren’t just waiting for you.

Opportunity cost

Surprisingly I see a lot of founders who want to run the business side of things not think about this at all.

Let’s say getting your MVP developed costs 10.000€. That’s a lot of money, so you’re looking for a technical co-founder.
You will give him x% of your company and in turn he starts building it for 2 months.

The technical co-founder just paid 10.000€. In opportunity cost.
Assuming he could instead stay at his job making 5.000€ a month.

That is a strange arrangement, if you think about it. It’s your idea. You’re the business person.
Why are you okay with someone else risking 10.000€ on your project, but not yourself?

You’re the one with the vision, right? You’re the one with the passion, right?


Similar to the concept of opportunity cost, I see a lot of business type founders extremely risk averse.

When discussing potential MVP development with clients, founders answers to “equity vs hiring” will boil down to “well.. it could not turn out well and them I’m out 10.000€”.
They will rarely come out and say it, but it is what permeates all their thinking.

Yes. Yes it could not work out. Welcome to business, welcome to starting a business.

There are risks, don’t push them all on your TECHNICAL co-founder.
You should be the one aware these risks, these hidden costs and probably take on at least 50%.

Your level as the business person

Non technical founders usually do something like product or marketing or sales or have deep domain expertise and spotted a problem in their industry.
You’re also the business and money side of the start up. Looking for someone technical at a high level as discussed in the requirements section.

If you’re 25+, looking to start a business and do not have access to 10.000€, I question your abilities.

You are the money part of the business. 10.000€ is a lot of money, but if you’re looking to start a company and you’re taking this as serious as many of you project outwards:

This should be one of the first problems that you solve.
Not finding a technical co-founder by talking to 20 developers and seeing who you vibe with.

Reasons you might want to pay for a developer

You find someone way quicker

Back to opportunity cost. If you spent an additional 6 months of searching for a co-founder, that could’ve been 6 months of additional revenue.

You might find a co-founder

Who ticks a lot of the boxes in the requirements section.
You pay someone, you work with them, you see how you work together. If it works out, nothing stops you from coming up with a different arrangement. You now have a lot more information to make that decision with.

You don’t need to make sure they buy into your vision

You’d be surprised how good people are building software about topics they don’t care about, for clients they don’t like. You also actually have ample time to confirm that you DO vibe.

You get far less scrutiny.

If you’re a client, I don’t need to question your idea or your abilities.
You did all of that work, you don’t need to convince a developer it’s a good idea and you’re good at your job.

You take on 100% of the risk for 100% of the reward

Kind of self explanatory. 50% of your business for an initial development of 3-6-12 months might be WAY underpriced. How do you know? How about putting off that decision, until you have more information?

You get a much higher commitment level

It’s like the sales trick where you give something to people so now they feel like they owe you.
They literally owe you a certain outcome or amount of their time, sure.
But I’m talking more about the feeling of seriousness people take their work when it’s paid vs when its unpaid.

I can only talk about myself, but I noticed I am in a different mindset, when I’m getting paid. Suddenly I focus solely on quality and go deep, instead of getting subtly annoyed, because someone feels entitled to ask me for more and more work for something that maybe, eventually works out.
Especially in the beginning this feeling is insidious.

Even working solely for myself at the breakneck saas starter, I take it way less serious. Even though it is making money.
There is just something about getting paid and being accountable to another person, that hits different.

You put off decisions to a later point with way more information available

Trying to assess an unknown persons abilities during 2 zoom calls. Their technical abilities, their personality, their commitment level is a joke.
Trying to discuss percentages that are fair, hours that are fair, how to divide up responsibilities for different stages of the company in the future is a complete stab in the dark.

I have absolutely no money, now what?

Step 1 is realizing the situation you’re in. If you’re 21, studying economics and just looking to try something crazy, thats awesome. I don’t expect you to have the money to pay anyone.

You should just act accordingly. Make it fun. Be grateful. Realize you’re essentially asking people for their free time.
Don’t pretend to be a grown business man, just because you got some meeting with an investor or a state funded 1500€/month stipend.

Work with people on a similar level.

Software development is a strange field where 20 year olds in university can teach themselves to build a fully functioning product. Realize you’re gambling to find such a person.

Developers are crazy. People work on open source products for free for years. People take time after their job of writing code all day, to write code in their side projects.
Try to let someone have a challenging time.

Delete the fucking chatgpt generated list of requirements for the technical co-founder out of your profile.
Its ridiculous. I know you have no idea what that is even saying.
Why would you try to make it look like any other, normal job posting, just without the compensation part?

Make it a goal to save up 10.000€ and hire someone. You can learn a lot from people who are doing this for a living.
Then on your next project you suddenly have experience with a development workflow, pipelines, production and staging environments and sound much more attractive to work with.

Gamble on a lot of people, quickly. Ignore your ridiculous list of requirements. Just try people and see what happens.

Other misconceptions

The person who built it initially needs to stick around

Sure, it’s nice and is purely superior to the alternative, but it is way overblown.
In the real world, developers almost never get in on the start of a project. If they do, they might leave 1-2 years later anyway.

Working in an existing project can also be easier, because there are set ways of doing things. There is no decision making required and most problems are figured out.

You’re not gonna run into a problem like “what framework do we use?”, “what UI library do we use?” “How do we validate client side?” “How do we push to production?”.
These are all figured out and decided on. You can find example of almost everything within the code base and keep extending the project.

Loyalty differences between co-founders, freelancers and employees

A lot of founders think only equity makes people loyal. Equity and buying into the vision maybe.

90% of the world’s software projects are run by employees. Often not even direct employees of the company, but employees of the development agency, that is hired by the product company.
For better or worse, people take ownership and responsibility for their work.
We all want to think what we are doing 40 hours a week is important.

Which is why every post from developers starts with “im working on a critical project”.
Every designer thinks accessibility is important.
The guy running a bike repair shop thinks your 500€ bike that you bought 2 months ago is unusable trash.
Its just human nature.
And you as an entrepreneurial idea person, think its important to buy into your idea.

I am a fan of aligning incentives as well. I think it just makes sense and the standard situation that all employees are in, where their salary is completely decoupled from the outcome is not ideal.

Generally though I see way less people quitting their paid jobs, than quitting equity based start ups.

Realize your bias

You’re the business person. The entrepreneur. The idea guy.
Naturally, you think it’s extremely important for everyone to be as into it as you are.
But just like you don’t think the design is THAT important, other people don’t think the idea is that important.

If you’re already 1-2 business co-founders, do not look for a third co-founder who is like half technical and half business.
Let people specialize and adapt over time.


I see founders hammer this one a lot.

To me it shows naivety and a fundamental misunderstanding of how passion works in adults.

Passion develops over time

You just told me about organizational change management and expect me to be into it?
Oh now you expect me to be into solar technology?
Oh now you expect me to be into health care insurance?
Oh now you expect me to be into meal planners for retirement homes?
Oh now you expect me to be into recommending the right tv show?
Oh now you expect me to be passionate about making people go vegan?

Developers work in domains you never heard of all the time. Passion, especially on day 1, is not required.
Developers are passionate about solving problems with code.
Developers are passionate about building cool shit.
Developers are passionate about keyboards and editors and shortcuts.

How passionate do you need your accountant to be?

Ask yourself, how passionate are you about software? And you want to build one now?

Final Thoughts

Cut your list of requirements for a technical co-founder. Realize that you’re essentially asking someone for a favour, until you have paying customers.

Consider the costs, the opportunity costs and the risks of paying and not paying someone to get your idea off the ground.

Don’t expect your level of passion and your commitment level for your idea from someone else.
Especially not after 2 meetings.