How to find the right technical founder

Hi all, I am working on an early stage startup which evolved from an existing business in the senior fitness industry. So far, we have been using existing software for our business, but we now have a good idea of what we need for an MVP that can be used for both our startup as well as commercialized and sold to other fitness professionals/companies. I have a strong UX/UI/Product Management background, however, I am not a developer. I am starting the search for a technical co-founder with specific expertise in live video streaming, however, I keep going back and forth on how to approach potential technical candidates. I know they are inundated with CTO requests all the time, so I wanted to get your feedback on the best way to start the conversation. How would you like to be approached from a potential business/product co-founder? Why would you be interested in joining an early stage startup as a founding team member - what would be the value-add for you?Any and all advice appreciated!-Sophie
Oh, that is a complicated question... It takes a certain level of trust between both sides to start working together productively as co-founders.I can speak for my self, that I would not reply for a cold email out of blue.If the sturtup is evolving from an existing business I would ask around the business's customers. They would have a better understanding of the domain and future tasks to solve. Also, customers already have a positive emotional attachment to the business.You can email me more details at [email protected] I'm a tech founder of my own fitness sturt up will be happy to chat ;)
Thanks for your feedback @Nastya! Unfortunately the existing business is in a very non-tech space (pure fitness and currently focuses on seniors), but definitely I will think of how I could network with them and see if we could find anyone (maybe their children, etc). I haven't thought of that before, so thanks! Will definitely reach out to see how your experience has been starting your own fitness startup. Cheers!
For me personally, the project would need to be something I'm interested in, and the co-founder would need to match up with my values. I'd want them to be someone who I can see myself working well with, and who also will treat me as a co-founder and not just a developer. If the vision for the business isn't shared I'd expect eventual failure. The values underlying the purpose of the project would need to match up as well - I'd be sacrificing a lot of time, effort, and myself, paid role or not. If I didn't think it was a viable business project, especially if there's little to no validation, I'd likely pass that up immediately. I don't speak for all technical co-founders, but have seen some friends reject CTO requests for similar reasons. They were more likely to accept one from an established relationship, like a friend they already trusted.
@tabs Thanks for your feedback! This is what I thought as well. I am first going pushing the message out through friends to see if they have any contacts that might be interested. It is a bit difficult since I'm looking for a partner with quite niche/specific experience (from my research) in live streaming, but I will definitely keep going the networking route.
You're welcome. It can be quite rough. Good luck though!
I have a strong aversion to a non-tech founder who does not first attempt building an MVP using the many non-coding platforms and tools available. This includes MVPs that have zero novel tech in them. Can something go viral via Reddit or email list? Etc. You mention streaming. Why wouldn't a video on YouTube be enough to get 5-10 early consumers?My reasoning is two-fold: Scrappiness, of course. But also I've been in co-founder relationships where all of the time-bound urgency is bound up in my tech deliverables and not my partner's non-tech ones. And that's an invitation to toxicity. It can be done, but requires considerable emotional strength and maturity on both parts.The one exception I make is something that is inherently deep tech. To which I say - don't do it unless you can be self-funded for 3 years. (Hard lesson learned.) And if you still want to do it, then the tech co-founder should be driving the bus.In short - any non-tech founder who says, "I need a tech co-founder to MVP," or even, "I need tech to MVP," for an initial product vision that is not deep tech is a no-go for me. Anything that isn't developing a brand new DBMS from scratch or inventing a new programming language can probably satisfy very early customers with zero novel tech.Also, I like to be very clear about what the competitive advantage is likely to be, i.e. hypothesized and tested. Is this advantage actually technical? For most consumer products, I don't think so. If it's "quality of content" and you believe that only a fancy tech solution is "good enough", then I invite you to consider that you can find your first passionate 100 consumers with zero novel tech and actually good content. The passionate customers don't care about, or even embrace, low production value. Similarly, if the core product value is matchmaking or recommendation of some type, do it in Google Sheets or Airtable! You don't have enough data to blow that up anyway!
Hi @jennykwan, I really appreciate this viewpoint from a technical founder. I have actually started putting together the beta version of our platform with existing technologies - I am now testing different livestreaming plugins that we can use. I 100% agree that we should solidify what the competitive advantage is before expending resources on tech development. We are already currently live with various clients with zero novel software, so I am now looking at what the next step is so that when we solidify the value proposition and have our specifications ready, we can hit the ground running.This leads to another question I have: "When is the right time to bring on board a technical partner?" I would like one just for the advisory, as to me the most important part of a build is the architecture and scale-ability. Having worked in product and project management, I know it is easy (and can be quite affordable in some countries) to get software developed. What I'm not confident in is my ability to judge the technical architecture they propose and know that it is the best investment of money at hand. Thanks again - I really appreciate your viewpoint and advice!
Ah! I missed that detail. You stated it very clearly in your original message. I apologize.For a non-deep-tech company, which I have no experience with as a founder, I think it's about the speed of iterating. I would engage with a techie, whether a co-founder or not, when it comes time to 1) ramp up on the richness of feedback re: your product (instrumenting it, etc.), and 2) increase the rate of response to feedback with implementation, perhaps with A/B testing strategies. It's not a binary and it can be done gradually, but for me, the moment I have some users, I want to know them as intimately as possible. One is hearing what they say. The other is seeing what they actually do.I don't think that technical co-founders who may become your CTO should be the shoot-for-the-moon deep tech expert, unless your company is really deep tech. Those types have trouble wearing the many hats of executive leadership, and if they can, they're probably bad at context switching. (That was me before a lot of startup-driven growth.) One way that a technical co-founder can really prove their talent is to trial their ability to integrate lots of different off-the-shelf solutions for different parts of the user experience (which is bigger than the product), because CTOs actually navigate a lot of those vendor selection and integration decisions.
@jennykwan No problem! I still really appreciated that viewpoint and it confirmed that building something from existing software first is the best route to take (have been doubting myself a bit). This bit re when to bring on a techie makes sense - great advice. Really appreciate your views! Thanks again.
@jennykwan thank you so so so much for all this. I am actually working a very similar problem in my startup right now and this was beyond helpful to read and understand better. Many thanks!
How did your search go? There are platforms offering streaming fitness. Curious why you are looking to build a tech solution?
Hi @farhat, we have been moving forward with current tech for the time being. We would be happy to find a tech solution that fits our needs (and at a price point that makes sense), but so far we haven't found one. We are still using Zoom and building our client base, however, we are just about to double our service offerings, so I will spend more time in the next month or so looking into tech solutions - whether we build or try to partner with a tech company that can adapt existing solutions.