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How to Find a Technical Co-Founder: A Step-by-Step Guide

Maksym Babych

Maksym Babych


11 min

Finding the right technical co-founder can be a make-or-break for any startup. 

If you’re an entrepreneur or investor struggling to build out your tech talent, this article will give you the inside scoop on recruiting top-notch coders and developers.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • What exactly is a technical co-founder
  • When you really need one
  • The role of a CTO
  • Where to look for technical co-founders
  • A step-by-step guide to hiring
  • How much equity to provide
  • Tips for choosing a stellar tech leader
  • And more

If you’re looking for specific tactics you can put to work ASAP, skip straight to the bonus infographic at the end.

Let’s get right to it!

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What is the Role of a Technical Co-Founder?

A technical co-founder is a startup partner that helps create relevant digital products by providing valuable tech-based skills and insights.

Ideally, this individual should be very committed to taking responsibility for all development and maintenance projects and have in-depth knowledge of the processes involved here.

However, numerous research by reputable organizations suggests that tech co-founders aren’t necessary for certain startups.

The illustration describes who is a tech cofounder

We’ll consider some proven cases where you don’t need one to save time. Perhaps, you could just hassle through it all by yourself.

When Can You Manage Without a Technical Co-Founder?

The only reason why you don’t need a tech co-founder as a non-technical founder is when you need to create a product to test-run your idea quickly.

For example, you want to make an MVP to gauge market response to your solution. If this condition holds for you, then you shouldn’t hire a tech co-founder, but do any of the following.

Common Alternatives to Hiring a Technical Co-Founder

  • Hire a Team of Developers

You can hire a workforce of programmers with in-depth knowledge of the process of creating your desired minimum-viable product.

There are multiple hiring models to consider. However, it’s best to hire a dedicated development team that can work laser-focused on your MVP, within a stipulated time frame.

Dedicated teams are ideal as they can be made to work for a short timeframe, fitting the object of the MVP.

  • Use No-code Platforms

No-code platforms are easy-to-use software systems that provide a template for non-technical users to execute software without coding.

These platforms use drag-and-drop features, allowing builders to visualize the entire implementation process and quickly determine the user experience.

  • Use a Landing Page

Also, you can create a basic landing page with a website builder. Although, this requires technical knowledge of either a website builder like WordPress, Wix, etc., or programming languages like HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

However, the expectation isn’t much, and development can be fast.

Irrespective of your preferred option, you still need in-house expertise; either a CTO or a full-stack internal developer will suffice.

The picture shows cases when it's not time for finding a technical co-founder

When Do You Need to Bring on a Technical Co-Founder?

Having a tech co-founder can be immensely beneficial. But how do you spot when you need one? Here are two cases signifying it’s time to partner with a co-founder.

Case 1: Scaling an MVP into a Full-Fledged Product

Here, the founder has an idea to create a website or mobile app but lacks the technical knowledge to create the product.

In such an instance, it’s best to partner with a CTO-as-a-Service company than hiring full-time experts, as they offer you cost-effective skill expertise.

After validating your idea via a string of successful MVP feedback from your target users, the CTO will provide you with insights on adjustments.

The CTO will ensure that you have a robust software architecture that can handle planned scaling, oversee in-house workflow, or oversight for outsourced development partners.

According to a report from the startup genome, over 90% of startups fail when trying to scale. As such, you need every help you can get–especially that of a seasoned CTO.

Case 2: Lacking the Technical Skills to Build Your Product

Have a validated idea and requisite funds but lack the technical expertise to create a live product? Then you need a technical co-founder for the web or mobile app development phase.

The ideal expert to partner with is a full-stack CTO. Who’s this?

A full-stack CTO is one with an understanding of frontend and backend development processes. Another plus is data engineering, data science, QA, UI/UX, and SEO expertise.

Although it’s impossible to be seasoned in all those roles, a good overview of the processes involved is best for optimum results.

Illustration shows when it's time for finding a tech co-founder

Now that you know when exactly to hire a CTO, you’re probably more curious about the specifics of the roles they’ll play. Let’s discuss this.

What Role Does a CTO Play?

A chief technology officer in a startup is an individual responsible for mapping the organization’s technical strategy, drafting the architecture of your solutions, choosing tech stacks, and managing the development and maintenance team.

To provide you with an in-depth knowledge of what they actually do, we’ll break down the roles into the following.

People and process managerJust like other C-level team members, they manage team members and map out their workflow.

One example of the process it can manage is mobile app development which entails:

  • Business analysis,
  • UI/UX design,
  • Frontend and backend development,
  • QA testing,
  • Product launch.
Technical strategy establishmentThe CTO understands the company’s business model and establishes the technical strategy needed to achieve that aim.

For example, they guide SEO strategy for most new startups.

Your options curatorCTOs find options for technical impediments in the development and maintenance process.
MVP developmentMany early-stage startups require a CTO with full-stack development knowledge and can create the product from scratch.

They’re primarily responsible for the overall quality of the solution.

IT professionals hiring and coachingCTOs in conjunction with the human resource teams test prospects’ technical skills and coach them.
Picture shows the roles a CTO will play when you find a technical cofounder

What else? Let’s discuss where to find the right technical co-founder.

Where to Find Technical Co-Founder Candidates

You can find suitable technical co-founders both on the internet and by referral.

You can find partners online via social media platforms, LinkedIn, search engine platforms, online meetups, online startup communities, etc.

Searching for tech co-founders offline can be cumbersome. However, you can tap into the pool of friends, Co-Founders Lab, hackathons, and referrals from business partners.

The illustration shows where you can find a technical cofounder

Let’s provide more details on where to find tech co-founders.

Where to FindDescription
AngelistAngelist is a platform that connects startups with investors and workers.

There are multiple tech experts on Angellist, some of which are open to taking CTO roles.

Online meetupsThese are conferences held to discuss a specific subject. Examples of meetups are IndieHackers, OnlineGeniuses, and the UK Startup’s Conference.
Co-founders labThis is arguably the most prominent website to meet and connect with co-founders operating in any niche.
Social media platformsSocial networks allow you to communicate with people, share ideas with them, and listen to their opinions.

Once you do that, you can know if a prospective co-founder is fit for your idea.

LinkedInLinkedIn is a network for professionals to connect with themselves and organizations.

You can search for professionals based on experience and tech stacks to communicate with one who best suits your startup’s needs.

ReferralsOver 40% of human resource additions happen via referrals.

This is a traditional, effective way of finding talents for organizations.

You can ask within your circle of influence for referrals on highly experienced and talented technical experts.

Speak with them, and see if they’re willing to join your company.

Freelance PlatformsYou can find technical co-founders on freelance platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, etc.

Before asking them to join as a co-founder, check their reviews, vet their skills, and ensure that they’re passionate about your idea.

Y-Combinator’s Startup School ForumThis is a forum for individuals interested in owning a startup, and are keen on learning something via Startup School.

You can easily find a suitable co-founder by approaching a person of interest on the site.

Once you find a technical co-founder with the right skill sets, what else? Let’s delve right into that.

How to Select a Technical Co-Founder

To choose the right partner as a non-technical co-founder, ensure that you stick with these steps:

  • Define all expectations and requirements,
  • Set up a list of markers,
  • Interview prospects,
  • Compare and choose the most preferred talent.

Let’s discuss each point in detail.

Step 1: Define Must-Have Skills and Experience

Once you’re certain that your startup requires a co-founder, the next step is writing a detailed description of the ideal co-founder your organization needs.

Highlight the answers to the following questions:

  • What skill set should your perfect technical partner possess?
  • What’s the best personality trait?
  • Would you instead opt for experience in a specific niche?

According to Entrepreneur, a complementary co-founder is the first trait to consider when founding a startup.

As such, ensure that you aim for a technical co-founder whose characteristics complement the diversity in your skill sets, background, and experiences.

Step 2: Research Prospects

Once you’ve identified the kind of co-founder you need, draft a list of as many people as possible who fit the description of your ideal technical co-founder.

Double-check to ensure that everyone that makes that list has a succinct idea of the intricacies of your startup.

Distinctively defining your expectations early on helps to avoid situations where you end up interviewing people with absolutely no interest in your startup’s niche or the roles you want them to handle.

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Step 3: Interview Promising Candidates

Once you’ve highlighted some names that pique your interest, start scheduling interviews with them. You may do this online or offline.

Vet the following while interviewing prospects:

  • Software development prowess,
  • Capacity to build a technical team,
  • Product development strategies,
  • Knowledge of algorithms, varying programming languages, and frameworks,
  • Communication skills,
  • Interest in your startup idea,
  • Ensure you’re like-minded people,
  • Past entrepreneurship experiences,
  • Amount of equity they’re requesting,
  • Availability.

Step 4: Decide on the Best Fit

Compare your options based on answers to your interview questions. And from the least of prospects, select one that best aligns with your technical and business needs.

Once you’ve chosen a co-founder, do the following:

  • Establish a transparent communication medium. Especially for remote partnerships
  • Agree on the share vesting process and percentage ownership
  • Clarify short-term and long-term goals
  • Agree on shared and individual responsibilities
  • Establish key performance indicators to track growth.
The picture describes every step of finding a tech co-founder

A significant point of disagreement between founders and co-founders is equity sharing. Let’s discuss this in detail.

How Much Equity Should You Offer?

The outstanding equity to share with your technical co-founder depends on their contribution and qualification.

For example, the tech co-founder may opt for about 50% equity in the business in startups whose core focus is around technical innovation.

There are multiple methods to calculate your equity ratio. One such method is the Founder’s Pie calculator.

Here, the emphasis is on distributing shares fairly via several differently weighted metrics based on their importance in forming the startup.

For a hi-tech startup, the ideal weight should be around.

Risk and commitment7
Technical expertise5
Business plan2

Score each co-founder by their score, and allocate equity based on that. Alternatively, you can simply use your instinct as a means of judging who gets what.

7 Actionable Tips for Recruiting Tech Talent

To choose the best co-founder, it’s imperative to approach the search, selection, and onboarding process with top-notch insights.

To help you achieve your aim of hiring the most seasoned partner, here are some tips to consider:

  • Hire a co-founder that believes in your idea,
  • Opt for a co-founder with complementary qualities,
  • Tech partners must have a needed skill set,
  • Prioritize reliability,
  • Undertake a test project
  • Favor tech partners with previous joint work history
  • Similar work ethics.

Let’s break down each point so that you can have more insight.

Tip 1: Seek Out True Believers

When choosing a co-founder, opt for someone that believes in your objectives, goals, and overall concept of your idea enough to take requisite risks.

Ask yourself the question: is the co-founder equally obsessed with solving this problem?

They ensure your mission and objectives are well incorporated into the development workflow and your UI/UX designs appropriately depict your brand.

Tip 2: Complimentary Strengths Are Key

Opt for co-founders that complement your character.

For example, opt for a conservative co-founder if you’re a risk taker.

If you’re a cautious person, seek a bold and charismatic partner.

The purpose here is to onboard a partner that brings new strengths to your team, including counterbalancing ideas and a new mindset.

Tip 3: Fill Your Team’s Skill Gaps

The higher your partner’s skill set, the better. A statistic by HBS accelerate suggests that a balanced team with a technical founder and a business founder will raise 30% more than a one-person startup.

Thus, opt for a partner whose skill set does not duplicate your area of expertise.

For example, if you’re knowledgeable in sales and project management, opting for a technical co-founder with a skill set that covers other skills is best.

They also enjoy 300% more growth and are less likely to scale prematurely.

Tip 4: Reliability is Critical

A reliable co-founder is one you can trust to complete specific tasks and offer timely input to development.

Your co-founder must be skilled in requisite stacks to handle all technical activities needed to develop, maintain, and optimize your product.

In addition, they should also be willing to devote the time required to bring projects to fulfillment.

It’s the compendium of skill and time that defines a reliable co-founder.

Tip 5: Test Fit With a Pilot Project

Test the prospective co-founder’s tech expertise by providing them with a test project. Accessing someone is easier when you’re creating a live app or website.

While developing the side gig, consider how the person operates under pressure.

Are they solution minded? How do they act in conflict? Challenges often reveal people’s true colors and allow you to know them better.

Tip 6: Align Work Styles

According to Harvard Business Review, mismatches in work hours and efforts often result in resentment.

As such, make sure you choose a co-founder with a similar work ethic. They should be willing to dedicate lots of time to making your solution a reality.

Tip 7: Shared Work History Helps

If suitable, opt for a co-founder with whom you’ve had a positive history of collaboration.

Familiarity guarantees smoother cooperation, as trust is already established beforehand-this is especially beneficial if you’ve created a product together.

By adhering to every tip in this section, you’ll undoubtedly answer the question of how to find a technical co-founder in a company.

This illustration shows the tips you should follow while finding tech cofounder

Ready to Find a Technical Co-Founder?

If tackling this alone still seems daunting, SpdLoad offers CTO-as-a-service to provide the technical leadership your team is missing.

We’ve helped dozens of startups build and launch innovative products. One glance at our portfolio and reviews on Clutch makes our expertise clear.

Rather than continuing the tedious search for technical talent, bring an instant co-founder on board with SpdLoad. Our on-demand CTO services give you the technical firepower and guidance to turn your ideas into reality.

Contact us today to get started with a world-class CTO and developer team.

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Bonus Infographic

In order to save you time, we have decided to make a summary of our detailed guide.

In it you will learn not only how to find a technical co-founder, but also when you need a CTO and some tips on the employment process.

This infographic illustrates all you need to know about how to find a technical co-founder for a company

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