Finding The Right Tech Co-Founder or CTO is Not Your #1 Priority
There is a lot of talk around the potential of finding a tech co-founder or CTO. Because most entrepreneurs who found a startup are non-technical, they feel they are a safer bet if they have a technical person on their founding team. The search for a tech co-founder or CTO then becomes a singular focus with too much pressure. Because the search and vetting process is not easy or short, it should not be a founder’s top priority. Below are four reasons why finding the right tech co-founder or CTO should not block your startup progress.
Small Pool of Eligible People
When you think about what you’re asking to find, the pool of technical people who would be interested in joining your early-stage startup is small. Most founders are hoping to find someone with a technical background and business experience, who is not currently working on their own startup endeavors and is open and ready to hop onto their great idea.
People who are entrepreneurs generally have their own thing going on, and are not necessarily waiting to find someone with an idea to partner with. And those who are not entrepreneurs, generally do not have any business or startup experience, so they’re definitely more of a gamble. Because the pool is so small, you’re in for a lot of digging and a long road ahead of you to find someone who is interested, not even taking into account the vetting process.
Engineers are Highly Paid and In Demand
If you were to search for an engineer to be your tech co-founder or CTO, you’d have to be ready to entice them with an offer they can’t refuse. Engineers are highly in demand and are generally very well paid. For most early-stage founders, funding is limited and so there is minimal ability to pay an engineer a comparable salary.
Most founders hope to entice a tech co-founder or CTO on the promise of an idea and equity. They might not be full-time now, but the hope is that at some point, the founding team will go full-time into their startup and continue to work on the promise of success. Most engineers are not going to quit a stable job to hope on an idea based on the small likelihood it could succeed with low or no current compensation.
There is No One Right Way to Find Someone
On your own, there are many different ways you can try and find a tech co-founder or CTO who is available to join your startup: co-founder platforms, searching within your network, posting your ask on a community forum or publishing a job post. You could also ask founders who have been successful in the search to understand what they did. The only problem is that the way other founders found a tech co-founder or CTO is not something you could repeat with the same success.
For example, I’ve heard founders in Clubhouse rooms say they hired an Upwork engineer to create their platform and then made that person their CTO. This avenue that was successful to them is not going to be consistently successful for other founders. To me, this means that it was pure chance that a founder successfully brought on the right tech co-founder or CTO.
There is No One Right Way to Vet Someone
Just because you found someone who is interested in being a tech co-founder or CTO, doesn’t mean they are the right person to your tech co-founder or CTO. It just means that you’ll have to vigorously vet this person before bringing them on and giving them a major stake in your startup.
Founders who have gone through the co-founder search and vetting process have compared it to a very complicated dating process. The right tech co-founder or CTO not only has to be interested in being a tech co-founder or CTO, but also has to align with your business vision, mission, plan and have a compatible work ethic and personality. Because this is a lot of hurdles to jump through and can come with some nuance, there is potential that you’ll do this process several times before finding the right person to join your startup team. And then it’s time to start negotiations and drafting up legal documents to protect you and your potential tech co-founder or CTO.
Even if you go through all that vetting, it doesn’t mean that the person will work for the long term. If it doesn’t work out, the best case is that this person is not the right fit, and the worst case is that this person is trying to defraud you. These situations unfortunately cannot be found with just vetting, but is something you’d potentially uncover while you’re working together.
In conclusion, finding the right tech co-founder or CTO is not a task you take on as your sole focus. It should not be the roadblock that keeps you from building and becoming successful. Because it’s an inconsistent search process, you’re as likely to find a tech co-founder or CTO while working on your startup by yourself, as you are putting all your energy into finding a team member. And even if you are unsuccessful in finding the right tech co-founder or CTO, you’re still building a product and gaining momentum, which will always be beneficial to you in the long run.