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Top tips for finding a tech co-founder
by Startacus Admin
Hi, I am Neil McClure and I am the founder of a new social network for film fans, filmies. Its all about connecting film fans with people with similar tastes, helping them discover new films and making film selection much easier.
We are still in very early days of filmies. We are live testing a product at www.filmies.co.uk whilst continuing to build. We are hoping to launch in August 2014.
For the first 6 months of the idea, filmies was just me. I paid external agencies to design and build the initial site. But in January this year, I set about the process of finding a tech co-founder and bringing the build in-house. 3 months later I have identified an ideal co-founder and having just last week signed the contracts, the filmies headcount has now doubled to 2!
Below I have written a brief article of the experiences I had, and my top tips to anyone out there trying to find a co-founder.
The person is more important than the CV
The CV gets a potential co-founder a meeting with you. But meeting him / her is the REALLY important bit. You are giving away a % share of your business to a relative stranger. You are giving over many ideas that have existed only in your head for the past however long. And you’re going to work very closely with this person on something that means a hell of a lot to you. So you need to have a good personal match. The greatest CV with no personality fit will not be good for your start-up.
I brought three guys to interview. Between the three CVs there was little in it. Some areas stronger than others, but three strong contenders. But the co-founder I chose was a great guy, shared my passion for films, and was a hugely motivated and ambitious person. I wouldn’t have got that from just reading a CV.
With him I know the relationship won’t be sorcerer and apprentice; we will work well as a team. I based a lot of the decision on feeling. Nothing scientific. No formulas. It just felt right.
Get a product out there
It is much easier to attract people to something tangible that already exists, than just an idea in your head. Create something that a potential co-founder can look at, use, test, and get a feel for, to help them to understand where you are going and what you have done, and to get a gauge as to whether it may be something they’d want to be involved in.
Whether it is a testing site, prototype, designs, wireframes, get whatever you can to take it from concept to reality. That will expand exponentially the amount of interest you get, which can only be a great thing for your start-up.
Get another opinion
I have a friend who I bounce ideas off. He is not a filmies director or shareholder. He doesn’t really watch films. He doesn’t really do social networks. Which makes him sounds like the last person I would ask for an opinion.
But actually it is the exact opposite. He can critique ideas, interpret responses to questions, identify gaps, analyse opportunities, and above all, he can challenge. Really well. He reviewed all of the CVs I shortlisted and helped me select those to interview, he even attended a few of the interviews with me, which was incredibly useful.
When you are running a start-up (on top of a day job), it’s hard to ask the right questions and then answer them right. Talking to someone with fresh ideas and a clear perspective who is completely removed from the details can be hugely beneficial.
Now though, my second opinion can come from my tech co-founder. But I think I’ll still want a third opinion…
Be up-front and honest about what you both expect
There’s a lot to agree upon when bringing onboard a tech co-founder. Equity stakes, working hours, locations, expectations, when and where to meet etc etc. Both parties must be up front and honest from the very outset about their expectations. You have to be. Nothing else will work.
For filmies, both of us have full time jobs, so filmies is what we do in our spare time, so we have to be realistic with how quickly we can achieve things. As long as we are both honest with one another about that, we will be successful.
Think about the medium and long term
My focus at the start of this process was finding a tech co-founder to complete the immediate build phase of filmies and get us to launch i.e. the first 6 months. But as I went through the process I realised that actually (much) more important is thinking about the phase after that, and the phase after that.
Hopefully filmies will take off once we launch, and we will achieve our user base growth targets, at which point we will possibly start recruiting. If we do, filmies has in place someone who can build a high functioning and effective technology team around him. And its not me! We spend so long writing strategies and plans so we can scale our start-ups, and selecting the right people to join you is a hugely effective way of achieving that scale.
Thanks for reading. I hope someone somewhere finds use from my ramblings. If you’ve been through, or about to go through, recruiting a tech co-founder, give me a shout.
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