How to Find a Technical Co-Founder: 3 Real Experiences From Female Entrepreneurs
When you’ve got a great idea that’s calling out to be created, finding the right person to help you can make you feel a mixture of fear, doubt, worry, and so much more. But you can’t let that stop you from creating your startup. Your unique talents and ideas and meant to be shared, not hidden by doubts and insecurities.
To help you conquer your fears, we’re sharing the stories of three female entrepreneurs who have been there. You’ll find out how they met their co-founders and what their advice is on picking the right one. With inspiration from their real experiences of finding a technical co-founder you’ll be motivated to continue your search with confidence.
“Have trusted advisors help with the selection.”
Tania Boler started a women’s consumer tech company, called Chiaro, with her co-founder Alex Asseily to pioneer smarter technology for women. “I was lucky enough to pitch to Alex Asseily who started Jawbone straight after graduating from Stanford in Product Design.” Tania recalled. Their first product as a team is Elvie, an award-winning exercise tracker for your pelvic floor. She explained, “It’s wearable tech but used inside the body! As women do their pelvic floor exercises, they can track on the app how they are doing. More than one in three women have pelvic floor problems and it’s an important area of women’s health that’s hasn’t been innovated in for decades.”
Tania’s co-founder Alex gets pitched to all the time because of his status as one of the few real wearable tech experts. Tania described, “He saw that we were doing something different as we were solving a real problem on a grand scale. He came on board as an investor but started guiding product development based on his Jawbone experience. We were working together so much that we quickly decided to become co-founders.”
“Having an experienced person who knows how to bring quality products to market helped me avoid a lot of the common pitfalls, saving us time and money.” Tania shared, “He also has an incredible network in the U.S and U.K which has really helped with our product launch and ongoing development. But most importantly, he has become my trusted mentor and friend who always helps me see the bigger picture.” Tania counsels entrepreneurs to take their time looking for a technical co-founder. She said, “It is difficult for a non- technical person to differentiate good from great when it comes to technical skills. Make sure you have one or two trusted advisors to help with the selection. Finally, always do the airplane test – would I want to sit on a long haul flight next to this person? If the answer is no, don’t make them your co-founder!”
“Establish a relationship.”
Credit: Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press
Tammy Meyers is the Chief Operations Officer and Co-founder of QuestUpon, a company that creates 3-dimensional augmented reality, geocaching, scavenger hunts, and more. She described, “I’m the Chief Operations Officer and Co-founder of QuestUpon. I wear a lot of hats, as most startup founders do, covering everything from marketing, business development, finances and everything else in between!” Her co-founder search coincided with her relationship search and it was online that she found both.
Now partners in business and life, Tammy and her co-founder Miles Marziani build their company together. “Miles is a software architect and visionary.” Tammy added, “I have the utmost confidence in his tech inventions and his abilities to solve the many challenges that new technology brings. He has pioneered location-aware 3D augmented reality, and continues to invent and create new ways of doing things. We wouldn’t be able to grow if it wasn’t for his vision and technical abilities.”
While Tammy has the benefit of having a partner who supports her in and out of the office, finding a technical co-founder who can give you a confidence boost is an important thing to have. “Trust your instincts, and don’t rush into business together,” Tammy advises, “Establish a relationship and get to know as much as you can about your potential co-founder, as you’ll be spending a lot of time together, and it’s not all fun and games!” Discussing expectations and clearly laying out your strengths are great first steps to finding your match.
“Work on a smaller project before starting a business.”
Erin Richey and her co-founder were in the same circles, both interested in similar things before they connected. She said, “We attended a few of the same conferences without really meeting, but we really connected at an event that was one part barcamp and one part hackathon. Ben presented some open source code that he was working on for a community platform. His plans were similar to ideas that I had for one of my own projects, but I had struggled to implement some areas on my own. He offered to help me with some of the areas where I was running into trouble, and I offered help with his open source project. We started collaborating on the open source project in our free time, and we shared an enthusiasm and excitement around growing it into something larger in the future.”
The two co-founded, Known, a learning community platform used for higher education and professional development. Erin related, “Known started out as an open source social publishing platform, based on our own mutual interests. Once we became a company, we received a lot of early interest from professors and instructional designers, and their feedback – as well as the prototyping that we’ve done with students and educators – has evolved Known into the campus community platform that it is today.”
Erin’s background is in UX design and user research, while Ben has experience in developing media and community platforms. Erin added, “Our company wouldn’t exist without Ben. I’m not a developer, and there’s no way we would have been able to bootstrap for as long as we did and launch a product as quickly as we did without the thousands of hours of development time Ben has put in. In addition to that, Ben’s previous experience working in the education and social platform space helped us immensely with connections and supporters early on.”
Erin recommends entrepreneurs find a complementary technical co-founder. She advised, “You need to be able to make decisions and resolve conflicts together gracefully. Working together on a smaller project before starting a business is a great way to get to know the other person and determine how well you work together. We didn’t just collaborate over code. Before starting our business, Ben and I spent time hiking and discussing our views for the future. Putting in this legwork early on (literally, we went on lots of hikes) meant that we were on the same page when we formed the company.”
What help are you looking for from a technical co-founder? What are you doing to find one? Share with your fellow Geekgirls in the comments below.