December 6, 2018

As a wannabe tech co-founder, where do I start?

Hi all,

Software developer with an itch to start my own thing for some side income. Not really sure where to start -- feeling a little light on ideas, and it's scary to go alone. Even with an idea, I can get into the code, but I'd be a bit lost on the marketing / SEO side of things.

Any pointers as far as:

  1. Where to find potential cofounders that complement my strengths and weaknesses?

  2. How to find people who also are willing to start slower and work on this part time? I've got a family and rely on my full-time gig. Health insurance and all that boring stuff :)

Any and all other pointers welcome :)

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    It sounds like you're not in a huge hurry which can be a big advantage. It can take some time to find the right idea, meet potential co-founders, etc. I think the other advice here is good for that.

    But in the meantime, one thing you can do is start a fake business. I did this myself. About a year before starting my first real business, it was clear that I was interested in entrepreneurship, but that I didn't have the required non-tech skills (SEO, etc.). So I took a side project that I was interested in personally and just pretended it was a business. In my case, it was a fantasy football website. I knew it wouldn't make for a good bootstrapped business, but I still treated it seriously. I came up with a logo and brand and made a landing page. I set up Google Analytics and Webmaster tools and did keyword research. I blogged and tried to build a list of newsletter subscribers. I tried to get my friends to use my site for their fantasy football leagues and encouraged them to get their friends using it. It didn't go super well (there was only one league on the site that I wasn't personally in) but I learned so much along the way.

    The reality is, the first time you try to start something like this, you won't know what you're doing and you'll mess all kinds of things up. Since you don't have an idea or co-founder yet, that gives you the luxury of focusing that experimentation phase on a practice business so that you'll be way more knowledgeable when it comes time to do the real thing.

    At the same time, you can try to identify a good idea for a real business, meet potential co-founders, etc. The more stuff of that type of stuff you do, the more "luck" you tend to experience, and I wouldn't be surprised if you find yourself lucky enough to stumble into a good idea and a good founding team right around the time you're starting to feel confident about your non-technical entrepreneurship skills.

    Note: I'm absolutely not suggesting that you should let this practice project delay you from starting the real thing. A practice project is better than nothing, but it certainly isn't better than working on a real business with real co-founders.

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      Thank you so much for this. Really good feedback in here!

  2. 2

    Hello from the other side.

    Talk to people and pitch your ideas. I have spoken to several such people I've met on Facebook/Reddit/PH. Yet to do that with someone from IH. This could be a good start. I'm most responsive on in case you'd just like to chat!

  3. 1

    @MJY TractionMate ( ) partners with developers working on side-project, solopreneurs and early stage founders with small teams, to bring in ideal customers for the startup projects.

    Let me know if you would like to talk further on this.

  4. 1

    Hey there, I wrote a Quora answer to someone who was non technical and was looking for a tech co-founder. I guess the steps I mentioned there are applicable to your scenario as well.

    In short, it explains to do your due diligence: find out what problem your solving and what value your idea provides. Then work that stuff out so others might see what you're getting at and join in on your quest.

    See the fully detailed answer here:

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    Hey, would love to connect. What’s the best way to reach you? I’m also have a full time job while doing some entrepreneurship gigs on the side. My background is in marketing/sales and data so I think we could make some cool projects :)

  6. 1

    These two resources below have been so helpful to me as I'm also a developer who had to learn marketing on my own to build my product. It's hard as a solo founder to learn everything but it can be done. In fact, I advise you to start by yourself first so you can really learn all the parts of a business before you find a cofounder, if you even do so.

    Read @julian's Growth Marketing Guide for understanding how to market.

    Perhaps simultaneously, also read Talking to Humans (PDF) to understand how to ask people for their problems. Here's really where you can get ideas.

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    1. Your personal network is the best — colleagues from work, friends' friends.

    Or sites like these (I personally haven't had luck on it though)

    1. I think goes back to #1, you know your colleagues and friends and so would know who can commit, who's just a 'talker', or who you really might want to work with

    Unless you have problems like me where all my friends still have their high paying jobs. So they usually flake out after 2 weeks of agreeing to work on a side project because they are too tired blah blah blah.

    That said though, I've been looking for a technical cofounder since my background is in UX : ) So if you are interested in chatting more, would love to pitch you my product that's beta right now : )

  8. 1

    Don't be afraid to suck (in terms of skill, not ethics). Also, don't do something with a really high bar to entry like a SaaS business or a multi-sided marketplace.

    Just make something that's a one-off sale with a single marketing channel, like a book, a Udemy course or a WP-plugin. (see: Startups for the rest of us "stairstep approach")

    What kind of software do you know? Depending on what it is, I might buy a book from you. I've spent about $400 in the past year on books, mostly from Manning and Prag Prog during discounts, but still I paid about $15-25 each. I also bought a few books directly from authors via Gumroad.

    I've also bought other people's video courses, partially because I sell video, too. I also pay people for software training via Codementor or offline in person.

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      Looks like the inline videos on your site are failing to load due to HTTPS cert being invalid. "Error code: MOZILLA_PKIX_ERROR_SELF_SIGNED_CERT"

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