Attracting Technical Talent When You Are Not Technical

I seem to be fielding a specific question more often lately.

“How did you find your technical co-founder – your lead developer – when you yourself are not technical?”

Finding technical talent when you are not technical yourself is indeed a challenge.  Developers are notoriously hard to find, difficult to communicate with and almost impossible to convince to join you to build a random and weird idea.

So, how do you find them?

You actually don’t find them.  They should find you.

You see, developers are approached all the time by “biz dev” guys pitching them yet another idea.  An idea in which it’s blatantly obvious the person pitching cannot build, hence the earth- scorching search for a workhorse they can ride.  This almost never works, since just like the pretty girl at the bar, developers have their pick of the litter when it comes to accepting job/founding opportunities.

So rather than finding developers, you must attract technical talent.  Here are just a few ways to put yourself out there so technical talent will 1) discover who you are and 2) actually want to work with you.

Write stuff

First thing you need to do is get in front of people, and the easiest way to do that is to create a blog, pick relevant topics and start writing.   “Ok Nick, what am I supposed to write about?”  ANYTHING.  Simply putting your thoughts and opinions out into the public is the first step to helping people understand who you are and what you are thinking about.

Then, once you have a few solid posts under your belt, quickly reach out to growing media resources and offer to write a guest post for them.  Guest posts give you instant credibility (given it’s the right channel and one developers are reading) to the technical crowd.

Go to technically focused events

I have written about the value of events before, but I will touch on it again.  Attending events focused on the technical crowd is a great way to meet new developers.  What better way to connect with technical person than to go to a meet up centered on an interesting technical/programming topic which will attract technical people.  That’s just common sense 101 right there.   And if you have been following #1 above, you will start to get approached by these people since they are reading your stuff.  See how it all works…

Offer compensation in ownership and equity

There’s nothing worse than pitching a developer on your idea, making it very obvious they are the one’s who will make this thing come to life, and then stiff them with no equity in the product/company.  The best approach is once you feel you have a solid candidate, you need to have a very uncomfortable conversation about the equity and compensation structure going forward.

If you are just starting out, I would say you should consider looking for an equal partner and splitting the ownership around half/half.  If it’s farther down the road of the product/company, you can offer a smaller chunk or negotiate a different agreement.  Bottom line = give them the respect they deserve for bringing your vision into reality.