One of the most frequently faced problems marketers and entrepreneurs in business face these days is the technical aspects of running an online business (or business heavily affected by online). And it totally makes sense, because now the nerds and their software are taking over the internet. Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, Pinterest, Dropbox… all these companies were started by nerds who can program and pivot quickly.
I get asked this a lot: “how can I find a technical co-founder (or at least a senior level) programmer without paying him an arm and a leg?”. That’s a loaded question, because I personally am technical (I did most of the programming for my projects, including the PAR program) and yet, at the same time i don’t do day to day programming.
To that, I say this: “imagine yourself in THEIR shoes.”
Now, suppose you have an idea for some brand new software as a service idea. You think it’s revolutionary. You think it’s gonna make bazillions of dollars every year. You think you’re gonna be the new Salesforce Mark Benioff. Problem? You have nothing.
And that’s EXACTLY why no nerds are joining you. You offer NOTHING on the table. No talent, no marketing skills, no sales skill, and no money. So if you are taking zero risk in making your idea happen, what makes you think that they’re gonna take any risk in making it happen when it’s not even their “baby”?
Here are some practical ideas
1) Get customers lined up
Imagine if you were sales savvy enough to line up customers who are willing to give you cash for your idea. That validates the idea more than “I have a gut hunch that this is what’s needed”. Sure you might have to hustle, cold call, knock on some doors but at least it shows that you did something.
(If you just had the reaction ‘what? cold call? hustle? knock on doors? pssssh…’ , then yeah, you know why you have no customers.)
Prove to them that you’re going to do your part with sweat and blood, then they’ll show you what’s up. If you bring time to the table, that shows way more committment than just a rich guy who plunks down couple hundred thousand dollars. Remember, cash don’t work. People work.
These days, it doesn’t take much money to do this. You can build some squeeze, do an autoresponders, and do a webinar. That alone can test your idea very quickly against live customers.
2) Have a proof of concept & start driving traffic.
This isn’t as strong as having customers, but this is a HUGE start.
For example, did you know Groupon (a multi-billion dollar public company now) started out as ghetto wordpress site?
All we did was we took a WordPress Blog and we skimmed it to say Groupon and then every day we would do a new post with the points embedded. It was totally ghetto. We would sell t-shirts on the first version of Groupon. We’d say in the right up, ‘This t-shirt will come in the color red, size large.
If you want a different color or size, email that to us.’ We didn’t have a form to add that stuff. We were just, it was so cobbled together. It was enough to prove the concept and show that it was something that people really liked. The actual coupon generation that we were doing was all FileMaker. We would run a script that would email the coupon PDF to people.
It got to the point where we’d sell 500 sushi coupons in a day and we’d send 500 PDFs to people with Apple Mail at the same time. Really the first, until July of the first year was just a scrambling to grab the tiger by the tail. It was trying to catch up and reasonable piece together a product.
Ghetto as hell. Not even automated. But once they proved that there was market, they raised a buttload of money (by the way, ain’t no smart investor gonna give you any money without traction) and hired engineers to do all this automation stuff.
Yeah, this means you have to understand online marketing & customer acquisition first.
3) Be persistent, but listen to feedbacks (from smart people)
Sometimes, your idea… SUCKS. It’s alright. Sometimes I have shitty ideas too. But the difference is between me and newbie entrepreneurs? I test them out.
For example, I saw an episode of Shark Tank where this girl comes out and says she’s going to innovate online dating by taking it offline with “anonymity” business cards.
I’m no Shark Tank groupy, but these guys are right. Her idea is STUPID. Taking something back 20-30 years is not innovation, but plain stupidity.
Imagine if you were in CD or DVD printing business in early 2000′s. You probably thought that you were a genius because disks were being phased out and large content files can only be distributed through these medium. Then boom.. internet speeds are like 10x’ing every year and even Netflix doesn’t do much volume in physical medium. If you closed your eyes and buried your head in the sand, telling yourself that your idea is STILL good.. are you still a genius?
If smart people are giving you objections, don’t just dismiss them as stupid. Take a hard look at your idea, but be flexible in your approach.
What about you?
Curious.. what other ideas or suggestions do you guys have for getting technical (or any) cofounder for your business idea? Write your thoughts in the comment box.
Why You Can’t Get a Technical Co-Founder